International (100-square) draughts – strategy basics

Would you like to play International (Polish) Draughts better? If so, I think you already know the rules of the game. But maybe you want to win or just better understand mechanics of this beautiful game.

I decided to write a series of articles about  International Draughts for people like you. For those, who want to better know Draughts strategies and tactics.

Let’s start with absolute basics. You need to know the rules of the game, and then you need to learn some basic strategy rules that come from the experience of other players. These strategy rules are not sacred and sometimes you have to break them. But to break the rules you have to know them first! You need to understand from where this rules come from.

And the first rule is…

Exchanges are inevitable

Look at the initial setting in game of Draughts. The two fighting armies are separated by only two rows of empty squares. Remember that in game of Draughts captures are mandatory so first exchanges come quickly and you can’t do much to avoid them.

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Many beginners try to protect their checkers at all costs (checkers are also called “men” or “stones”). But in draughts you just have to exchange many pieces. It is not a loss when you lose one piece, but you can be sure you will capture one enemy piece in the next move. What’s more, you should plan exchanges to gain better positions.

Real lose occurs when your piece is captured and you can not
revenge this capture immediately. But… even such situation can work in your favor if you know how to sacrifice pieces for better position.

OK, but what “better position” means? Well, there are next few rules you should know.

Stone in the center is stronger

Many beginners quickly place their stones on the edge of the board because they think it makes them safe. The problem is that edge stone controls only 1 field, while stone in the middle of the board controls 2 fields.

Look at the image below. Two Black stones can control only two fields, while two White stones can move more freely and they control 4 fields together.

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But placing stones in the middle doesn’t means they shouldn’t be protected. You must support them with other checkers.

Keep your “soldiers” together

It’s good to not break your checkers into two or more separate groups. Picture below shows example split of black stones.

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All checkers should “work” together as one group. It’s easier to keep an eye on this if you divide the board into three parts. There are fields in the center, but also two flanks. Sometime right flank is called short flank and left is called long flank.

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Always watch if your opponent gains dominance in the center or on flanks. If he has more pieces in particular area, you can reduce his dominance  by moving there or by exchanging pieces.

On the picture below, thanks to the red lines, you can easily see White’s dominance in the center.

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Avoid “laggards” and “grapes”

Sometimes it happens that some stones lag behind others. Such stones are called laggards. It’s not good to have laggards because they do not support others. Their contribution to game is reduced.

You can see two laggards on the picture below.

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Stones which run out to far and to fast are similar problem. They lose strategic importance without support. These stones are sometimes called “hanging stones” or “grapes”.

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The general rule is to keep checkers together because they are stronger as a group. And it’s best when stones are formed in a strong formation hard to destroy.

Golden stone

Strong formations are often built on the so-called “Golden stone“. It is a man standing in the middle on the back row.

Golden stones of White and Black are shown on the image below.

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Golden stone provide a good basis for strong positions so you should not move it at the beginning of the game and you should keep it as long as possible on the back row. If you move it to early, you lose important defensive asset. This stone controls important squares and can support strong formations built on lines indicated below.

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Strong formations

In draughts there are some formations or shapes worth keeping. Sometimes they are built on golden stone, but not always.

The strongest formation is a square made of nine stones (it looks more like diamond for me).

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If it’s not not possible to complete or keep square, you can use a formation of 5 stones from a middle of a full square. It’s quite strong.

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When it comes to edge stones, it’s good to form them in a shape of gate (also known as full gate).  The picture below shows three gates (one black) and red line shows a basic shape.

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Sometimes it’s hard to set a full gate, but you can use a half gate. It may be really useful and it looks like this.

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Another strong formation is called pincers.

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Those rules and shapes are not enough to win with good Draughts player. But you can  raise your playing level if you watch your position and see those patterns during game. Using these formations for effective attack is a bit different story, but I will write about it soon.

Next lesson:

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