Sunday, 9 August 2026

The new powerful dama in the origin of the draughts and modern chess game

The purpose of this blog is to facilitate you several books about the history of draughts. Please have a look on the menu for those books (in English). For example, you can also download the following book in Dutch of 1997, that has an introduction of 9 lenguages, among them the following text in English:


Until now the different scholars practically limited themselves to indicating  France  as  the  country of origin of  the  draughts game,  among  them the famous chess scholar Harold James  Ruthven Murray    is emphasized.  With respect to the new powerful dama in  the modern chess game that was developed around the end of the XV century, the situation is not much better, since the scholars of this game believe that France, as well as Italy, could be the native countries of  this  modality of the game,  in spite of the fact  that  the first chess book,  Luis Ramirez of Lucena, with such new modality dates from 1497 and is of Spanish origin .

In draughts  we see a similar situation,  since  the  first Spanish  books about the game  of draughts have a very high  level  and date from the XVI century,  while the first French book  comes from the XVII century and  the game described is a very elemental one.  Contrary to this evidence,  the scholars did not consider it  necessary to grant Spain the honour of being the  creative  country of the game of draughts and of thenew modality in the chess game  with the new dama.   How is it possible that the  different scholars never took into account the rich Spanish bibliography on both  games?   Was  it a linguistic  problem or were there  other existing circumstances that forbade this reasoning?  In the  case of  draughts,  this could be a reasonable  cause  for  the  Dutch scholars that did not master the Spanish language, but not  for  the English scholar Murray who knew several  languages,  among  them Arabic.   On the other hand,  regarding the chess game it  is difficult  to  accept  that none of  them  knew  the  Spanish language. Therefore  there had to be other motives  for them to deny that Spain could be the country of origin of the new powerful dama in chess. Whatever it may be, there can be several  motives, but happily in the last  years  we  have observed a trend of two outstanding scholars that began to modify  this point of view.

In  the case of the new powerful dama in the chess game in  Spain we rely on an outstanding chess  investigator,   Dr.  Ricardo Calvo,  who,  since  the  eighties defends Spain as being  the country of origin of the new powerful dama in the game of chess  . His   investigations  and discoveries of  ancient  written  chess manuscripts  from  the XV century make it possible to  assert  that this new property is of Spanish origin .

With  respect  to the draughts game we must not forget  to  mention Ir.  Gerard Bakker of Utrecht (Holland), who with an initial work in  1983  and another advanced one in 1987  praises  the  Spanish  origin of draughts from the alquerque and chess game.  Those were good starting points,  but still there were  remaining dark points in the solidity of this hypothesis.

This is, humbly speaking,  the purpose of this book,  to seek evidence and  to situate Spain in an outstanding place that it naturally deserves.  For  such  effect we chronologically treat  the  texts studied between 1283 and 1700, gathering more than 950 bibliographical references that can be more easily consulted by future scholars.

From 1986 we maintain the hypothesis  that the  origin of  the game of draughts is a Spanish one and to such effect we have sought answers and evidence for some 10 years.We started on the basis of the fact that the chess game reflects the royal situation of  a time.  So we can ask ourselves why the queen in the  modern chess game has more power than the king.  If we study the life of Spanish royalty in the XV century  we see that this question is not  so difficult  to answer.   There was, in 1469 a dama in Castille that was married to a future king of Aragon,  Fernando.   Some years later, in 1475, this dama, Isabel la Catóica, was crowned queen with greater effective power than her husband, Fernando. So much, so that when Spain in 1492 was released from the last  Moorish outpost in Granada, discovering America and enforcing one sole religion in its territory,  it was suddenly justified to use in  chess  a  new  queen with more power  than  her  "king”.  But, concerning the name "dama",  what is its origin? We know that the word  "domina" was already translated in the XIV century  by  the French  word "dame" in chess manuscripts and it is supposed  that in  the  XV  century,  due to the influence of the printed  books  of Jacobus  of Cessolis,  one began to use frequently in  Spain  the dama term for the queen  in chess.  But was it not also due to the idealization of the woman to dama in court poetry, where  the  supremacy  of the  dama  is  one  of  the characteristics of the frustrated love?
The new modality of the game in chess was given several  names abroad.  Thus,  we  see  contemptuous  terms as:   "alla rabiosa"  in  the Italian translation and of  "dame enragée”  in the French translation. In Spain we  see  a neutral term:  "Axedrez  de la dama".   Motive by  which we  also believe  that France as  well  as Italy cannot be the country of origin of  this  new  type of chess.  Other historians asked  themselves how it was possible that this  peculiarity of the game could  be introduced and maintained in all the European countries.This is not so difficult  to explain  if  we take into account the fact  that in 1492 Spain banished  some 250.000 Jews from its land,   who were distributed all  over  Europe  with  all  its  political   and economic influence.  Furthermore,  the  Spanish king Carlos V spent more  time away from Spain than within its boundaries in function of the defence  of  the  Spanish hegemony in Europe.

The  new "powerful" dama of the chess game would have much to do with the invention of  draughts and with the use of this new piece.  To such effect  we have chronologically treated   in  this work the bibliographical texts, whose commentaries  are mostly translated into  Dutch.   The original texts are  basically Spanish,  though we have not forgotten to  mention the most notable foreign books in Latin, German, English, French, Italian and Dutch. 

The  first chapter deals with ancient Egyptian  games,  since they were considered erroneously  by some scholars  as precursors of the dama.  In the same chapter reference is made to the “Ludus Latrunculorum" game, that was taken  by  Thomas  Hyde  as antecedent of the  draughts-game. Below are   described  similar  games  to  the now  disappeared   "Ludus  Latrunculorum", some of   those  which still exist. Chapter  two  describes  a board game with squares (alternatively white and yellow?) the "Jaldeta", that was forbidden in  the XIII century and  was no longer practised around the end  of  the XV century. In  chapter  three we see ourselves in the Spain  of  the XV century, being able to observe the general influence of the Queen  "Isabel la Católica”. We discuss the  expulsion  of  the  Jews  and  the conversion of the Moors to the catholic religion.   It was between 1474 and 1492 when the new powerful dama was developed and this time it can be considered as a dormant stage.The  definitive beginning originated in 1492 when the queen was at the height of her reign :   1.   Conquest of  the Morish outpost “Granada”; 2. Discovery of America;   3.  Expulsion of the Jews;  4.  Loss of power of the nobility due to the administrative reforms.

In  chapter  4  the Latin  terms  "scruporum"  and  "calculorum" are examined.  In the subsequent chapters (5,  6,  7, 8,) Spanish words, which previously were designated to the draughts-game, such as  "marro",  "marro de punta",  "andarraya"  and  "alquerque" are studied in detail.   We demonstrate with  bibliographical proofs that "punta" does not  mean  field,  as Branch , Murray ,  Kruijswijk   and  Van der Stoep  claim,  rather "punta”  means diagonal.   Thus  the game "marro de punta" is  nothing more  than  a  game  with a diagonal direction. The denominations  "marro"  and "marro de punta" belong to the kingdom of  Aragon and those of  "andarraya" and  “alquerque" to the kingdom of Castille.

The  ancient word "trecha",  that years afterwards was  converted into " treta", is analyzed  in  chapter  9.   Apparently the  word  “castro" (castles game) had a certain link to draughts in Turkey and  Palestinian.  In chapter 10  this expression is studied in detail. In chapter 11  we extensively analyze the Latin term  "domina" and the word "dama". In the conclusion of  this  chapter different  modalities of draughts in different countries are described.  Also, in the following chapter the lost book of Antonio de Torquemada is examined.  In 13 a vast study on the book of Juan de Timoneda, printed in 1635, is discussed. According to our investigations some of  those texts could date from 1550.  It is quite possible that some of the positions of draughts that appear in this book will be similar to those which are described in the book of Torquemada.

The Spanish draughts books between 1547 and 1996 and the first European draughts books are discussed in  chapter 14,  as well as the Spanish game books of the period of 1283-1700. At the beginning of the XIX century, Jose Paluzie y Lucena established the first Spanish  bibliographical study of chess . 

In  this modest text we do something similar with draughts.  To the existing  bibliographical  lists in other history  books  about draughts we can add a draughts  book  of  1792   found by  Prof. Dr.  Juan  Torres Fontes  and a manuscript of the year 1690 we found  in an Andalusian library . Until now  a complete relationship among all  the Spanish books, referred   to  the games  in  the period  1283-1700,   had not been established. Thus   our investigations could fill that vacuum.   In chapter 15  hypothesis of other draughts scholars are submitted to discussion and  furthermore a point of  view  is offered on the development  of  the game of alquerque of 12 up to our  current draughts. Much  evidence  exists  to assert that Valencia  could  be  the kingdom of origin of  draughts,  similar to the powerful dama in the chess game, according to the opinion  of  the  chess scholar Dr. Ricardo Calvo. Finally, the Spanish    bibliophile    of   Spanish  draughts   books, Victor Cantalapiedra Martin, expounds in Spanish language,  his  knowledge of the said books in  chapter 16.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Draughts is more difficult than chess

What is more difficult, draughts or chess?

One can argue endlessly about this question according to the ex-world champion Dr. Max Euwe. The chessboard has 64 squares, the checkerboard only 50 in the international game of 100 squares. Players use 40 pieces in draughts (checkers) and only 32 in chess. In a full position on the checkerboard there are usually three or four reasonable possible moves, on the chessboard the number of free moves can be even greater. It is a question of the theoretical liberty of choice, as the possibilities in chess are very broad and can reach up to 20 or 30 moves, but it is the question of the practical choice that is somewhat wider in chess than in checkers.

Conversely, one must generally calculate more deeply in a draughts game, partly because capture is compulsory. However, even if nothing special is going on, the top player will see five or more moves ahead, while the chess player can limit in a quiet position to only two or three moves.
 Max Euwe, 1926

The blind game, even simultaneously blind game, is already highly advanced in chess. The record is nearly 50 boards! Marc Lang set a new world blindfold record playing 46 games at once in 2011. The blind game in draughts (100-square board) is still only in the first phase, therefore checkers players say that draughts is more difficult. One could go on in a similar manner. 

Dr. Max Euwe once had a conversation in New York with a world checkers champion Dr. Marion Tinsley. That's checkers on a checkerboard - a slightly simpler form of our international draughts game  (on a 100-square board). He confided in me: "If I want a quiet game with not too much effort, I will play chess. With checkers I must already be very careful at the third or fourth move that I do not do anything wrong, I have to calculate deeply, because one mistake can have fatal consequences. However, when I play chess, I can get away with making a less good move in the opening. I can correct  the disadvantage later.”

The first move done by Max Euwe during the match of World Championship
Draughts (1936) between Maurice Raichenbach (left) and Jan Hendrik Vos (right)

Conclusion: Checkers (64-square board) is harder than chess. One can certainly say the same about draughts on 100 squares, because this game is more complicated than checkers.  Chess is played with different pieces, has more variety. It's harder to learn and combining demands richer imagination. Conversely checkers is strictly logical and can be scientifically explained . The well-known poet and writer Edgar Allan Poe wrote the following in one of his works on chess and checkers:

Edgar Allen Poe

The faculty of resolution is possibly much invigorated by mathematical study, and especially by that highest branch of it which, unjustly, and merely on account of its retrograde operations, has been called, as if par excellence, analysis. Yet to calculate is not in itself to analyse. A chess player, for example, does the one without effort at the other. It follows that the game of chess, in its effects upon mental character, is greatly misunderstood. I am not now writing a treatise, but simply prefacing a somewhat peculiar narrative by observations very much at random; [page 117:] I will, therefore, take occasion to assert that the higher powers of the reflective intellect are more decidedly and more usefully tasked by the unostentatious game of draughts than by all the elaborate frivolity of chess. In this latter, where the pieces have different and bizarre motions, with various and variable values, what is only complex is mistaken (a not unusual error) for what is profound. The attention is here called powerfully into play. If it flag for an instant, an oversight is committed, resulting in injury or defeat. The possible moves being not only manifold but involute, the chances of such oversights are multiplied; and in nine cases out of ten it is the more concentrative rather than the more acute player who conquers. In draughts, on the contrary, where the moves are unique and have but little variation, the probabilities of inadvertence are diminished, and the mere attention being left comparatively unemployed, what advantages are obtained by either party are obtained by superior acumen. To be less abstract — Let us suppose a game of draughts where the pieces are reduced to four kings, and where, of course, no oversight is to be expected. It is obvious that here the victory can be decided (the players being at all equal) only by some recherché movement, the result of some strong exertion of the intellect. Deprived of ordinary resources, the analyst throws himself into the spirit of his opponent, identifies himself therewith, and not unfrequently sees thus, at a glance, the sole methods (sometimes indeed absurdly simple ones) by which he may seduce into error or hurry into miscalculation.
                                                                                                                  Dr. Marion Tinsley
World Champion Checkers 1975-1991
Dr. Marion F. Tinsley, the greatest checkers player ever, said it this way:"Chess is like looking across an ocean. Checkers is like looking down a well." In neither case can a solution be seen - in most cases. Dr. Tinsley was on the Ohio State Chess Team, as a young man, but chose checkers as the game he could most likely become a grandmaster at.

Irving Chernev, a chess grandmaster, had the opposite opinion. In 1982 he wrote a book about his first love - checkers, The Complete Encyclopedia of Checkers. In it he stated that he did not think he could accomplish the status of a grandmaster with checkers, as he’d thought he could with chess.

  Irving Cherney

François André Danica Philidor (1726-1795) was the best chess and draughts player of his time. And after his death it was Alexandre Louis Deschapelles (1780-1847) in France. Some of the best chess and draughts champions took part in the Salta tournaments played in Paris (1900) and Monte Carlo (1901). The chess champions were slightly better than the draughts champions . There are some ideas on draughts, which were represented by chess experts. British chess champion Joseph H. Blackburne (1841-1924) gave the following explanation:

François André Danica Philidor

Checkers is a less attractive game, infinitely less, but much more scientific. Look, a less good move in draughts is irreparable and has immediate drastic consequences. However, with chess one can still return and change the position of the pieces and possibly even win.

The American chess champion Harry N. Pillsbury (1872-1906) once said: "Chess is what one sees; checkers (64-square board) is what we know. " There is enough in the game to keep one man busy in a long life. International chess master and writer Israel A. Horowitz (1907-1973) wrote in his book: "The personality of chess":

"Checkers is a wonderful game, perhaps a miracle game of pure skill. One only needs a minute to learn the rules of the game and an eternity to become proficient at the game."

Draughts is harder than chess

According to Gerard Welling, an international chess master, the visualization in checkers is much harder than in chess. Not only are the pieces uniform, but also in stroke exchanges the position can completely change in only a few moves.  This is not the case in chess. If this experience is shared by other experts, this means that blind draughts games require more imagination than blind chess games.
 Gerard Welling

This is more or less what the famous chess master H. Kramer once said:

"Because of its diversity in pieces and rules the chess game lends itself excellently to blind games. Precisely this variety of pieces gives clues to the human memory.”

This immediately explains the fact that the draughts game lends itself to the blind game much less: the pieces are all equal and with this uniformity it is much harder for the memory to find points of support. 

With respect to blind checkers or draughts games we are of course talking here about draughts on a board of 100 squares. With a board of 64 squares, or a chessboard, everything is nonetheless different. Newell William Banks (1887-1977) proved that in 1947. He established a speed blind game at 62 checkerboards in the Convention Hall in Detroit (Michigan) by winning 61 parties in a period of 4 hours and he only allowed one draw.

William Newell Banks

How do Banks’s thoughts about chess compare to checkers? In one of Banks’s remarks in the Chess Omnibus magazine he declared that draughts (checkers) is 80% memory and 20% intuition, while in chess it is the opposite.

In 1947 Banks gave his opinion in Banks's Blindfold Checker Masterpieces. After 50 years of checkers and 45 years of chess and careful consideration of both games he came to the following conclusions:

The end game in draughts (checkers) is more subtle than chess, because while the movements are limited, the timing is nonetheless deep. The overwhelming beauty of chess lies in the opening and middle game.  These two characteristics are, in my view, undoubtedly better reflected in chess than in draughts (checkers).

Anyway, that's the opinion of the checker game played on 64 squares and bears no relation to the 100-square game, in which combinations play a very important role and which is much more difficult. The same can be said about the Canadian draughts game on 144 squares.

So coming back to the 100-square game we can ask again: what is more difficult: chess or draughts? You're tempted to say chess. The pieces are 'all else', there are complex rules with pat, castling, and en passant capture. A draughts writer of the Woerdense newspaper writes:

My grandmother wanted to play a game of checkers with me, but to play chess she did not venture: she found it too difficult.

Draughts and chess players are not always friends. Chess players find draughts a weak game and conversely draughts players often find chess players arrogant. They are "smarties". However, chess and draughts players mostly agree to one thing - that blind draughts games are harder than blind chess games.  Just because the pieces are so much alike it is more difficult to play from memory a draughts position than a chess position. Therefore chess players look in awe at the performance of ex world champion (1972) Ton Sijbrands, one of the best draughts players in Holland. Several years ago he played 28 blindfold games simultaneously and lost only 3. He needed 42 (!) hours for that. A feat that cannot be praised enough and therefore was a world record  in 2009.

Erno Prosman

Sijbrands lost his world record in 2012 to Erno Prosman. This player then played thirty parties, won seventeen, drew eight times, and lost five parties, with which he obtained a score of exactly seventy percent. Ton Sijbrands became world record holder again at blind simultaneous draughts on Sunday December 21, 2014. The 65-year-old former world champion played 32 games in almost two days, of which he won fourteen and eighteen ended in a draw. He so came to a score of 72 percent. Most professional draughts players can reproduce the moves of their parties played and positions in their games and those of other players, but nothing more. What Sijbrands had performed is boundless and an ambitious work of a genius. 

 Ton Sijbrands, 2014

What is more difficult, checkers or chess? For grandmasters there is no difference. Both have to rely (calculate) equally deeply in these two board games. However, for beginners chess is more difficult because the number of possible moves is about 30 to 10. The layman has three times more chance to commit blunders in chess. What is the big difference? In draughts capture is compulsory, and this is not the case in chess. 

There have been several chess tournaments where chess players played draughts and draughts players played chess. They showed that the draughts players were always superior. Also with triathlons draughts players have generally much better scores than chess players.

What then makes draughts different from chess? It is often said that chess is a much more complicated game. But appearances are deceptive. Checkers has simple rules, but the possibilities are, as in chess, huge. At every turn there are an average of nine possible moves, so the number of possibilities quickly adds up!

At the board games forward calculation and assessment of future possibilities play a major role and one game can be more difficult than the others, but if someone says that chess is harder than checkers or vice versa, this is obviously a subjective judgment according to Prof. Dr. Euwe.

According to Prof. Euwe from 1972 such an opinion on these board games, however, is of little relevance. The number of possibilities is in fact of an order of magnitude which makes it unlikely that we will have seen all possibilities on the board within the foreseeable, or at least the most reasonable future. The number of options for chess is 10 to the power of 120, thus a 1 with 120 zeros. Generally this number is just called to make it clear that not even a PC with its high computational speed can deplete chess by systematically examining all the possibilities.

  Max Euwe, 1972

For draughts on a 100-square board the potential is 10 to the power of 60, for checkers 10 to the power of 18. For the game "go" this seems to be unknown, but it is certainly greater than for any other games. Incidentally, the computer could reach at best the beginning of a solution  in checkers.

At the sound of the word draughts people unfortunately still conjure up a household, garden, or kitchen game. However, the reality is different. It seems like a simple game, but the more one looks into it, the more one finds out that the game on the 100 squares is very complex.

 Wim Huisman  – Piet Roozenburg, 1954

Albert Huisman, the son of the legendary blind draughts player Wim Huisman, and public servant who works in a university library, says that draughts is harder than chess:

"If you get a wrong move in chess, you can easily restore it. In checkers one cannot withdraw a forward-mounted piece."

According to Hans Vermin we often hear that chess should be more complicated and it should come by the rules, which are more extensive in chess than in draughts. Vermin then says, precisely in order to prove that draughts is a more difficult game, that in the draughts game pieces are the same and therefore appear to have similar functions. That is not so. Depending on the position on the board each piece has a particular function or more functions which can be different in another position. This is unlike chess, where one knows in advance what the function of a particular piece is and what they are worth opposing. One does not know this in draughts and that is what makes it so difficult . 

Anton Dusseldorf considers draughts harder and said in 1999:

"You can force your opponent to make a specific move much more, because he is obliged to capture."

It is often thought that chess is harder than checkers. Nothing is less true. The very simplicity of the game makes draughts so difficult. A chess player must calculate various possibilities at once before he moves. Draughts players are forced to think ahead. We know from Ton Sijbrands that he thought forward 35 moves during a party. While his board was full of pieces, he came calculating to a position in which he had three stones and his opponent only two. Because it would finish in a draw, he decided to make a different move . 

Is blind chess not more difficult than blind draughts? Players who have studied and played both games do not say no, because although the number of pieces in chess is higher, they have clear distinguishing marks which help memory, an element missing from draughts . To the question whether draughts is harder than chess or bridge master Jack de Haas once extensively responded:

"Checkers is at least as difficult as chess and the combinations in checkers, thanks to the compulsory capture and the capture of the majority of the pieces, are brighter and deeper than in chess ."

 Jack de Haas, 1912

Mr. Matla's  opinion of the difficulty factors in checkers and chess was as follows:

"Checkers is to me harder than chess, because all the pieces play the same role and the same value, allowing more possible combinations. The course of a game of chess is easier to remember, because the pieces do different work and are not equivalent. In addition, the number of squares on a chessboard is significantly lower. There are cases of good draughts players who made formidable achievements in the world of chess after a short time, including a former champion of the Netherlands who now plays on the second board for his chess club in competitive matches."

Ron Heusdens considers draughts the most difficult of all mind games . Heusdens's view is very clear:

"In fact, I do not know how to play draughts. Sometimes I see an open square and think 'I can move a piece to that place too’, and then I move it to that square.”

 Rob Heusdens
Foto: Nieuwsblad van het Noorden, 2 April 1999

These are the words of Ron Heusdens, eightfold mind sport triathlon champion of the Netherlands. A tournament, in which he incidentally usually scores with bridge, Heusdens considers more as a game of skill than a mind game. Chess is a lot more difficult, nevertheless his extremely intuitive way of playing sometimes brings him good results. However, according to his judgement draughts is too difficult for him. He enjoys drawing nice figures peeping into holes, nothing more than that, but if he is forced to calculate deeply and concretely, he prefers to back out .

Palmans considers draughts harder than chess .

"It has been scientifically proven. A computer can beat the best chess player, but cannot handle the draughts board of 100 squares (a chessboard has 64 squares)."

The world champion of draughts on the 100 squares Jannes van der Wal left it in the middle :

"It depends on who is your opponent. You could say that chess is easier. You just need to conquer the enemy king. With draughts you have to capture all the pieces."

Van der Wal would know, because he also played chess in those years and caused a stir in Groningen by starting in the open grandmaster group with a convincing victory against the Swedish master Rolf Akesson.

Jannes van der Wal
Foto: Nieuwsblad van het Noorden, 4 Juli 2008

According to Hendrik van der Zee and Andries Bakker it is a myth that chess is harder than draughts .

"If you compare Timman with the best draughts players, then he is a mediocre chess player."

In competitions between mind sportsmen the draughts player came out as the best.

Jannes van der Wal and Ton Sijbrands are deserving chess players. Draughts players are more inventive and play less (according to the theory).

The ten-fold world champion of draughts on the 100 squares Alexei Tsjizjov says that chess is easier than draughts. Eddy Budé is on par with Tsjizjov and considers draughts more difficult than chess. A draughts player can see fifteen moves ahead. Timman is doing only four moves ahead.

Aleksej Tsjizjov World Champion Draughts, 1988
Photo: Rob Kroes, Original at Nationaal Archief with id ad6e6eea-d0b4-102d-bcf8-003048976d84

A statement of V. Cornetz:

"At the risk that I will hit on the nerve of many chess players I say that chess is more difficult to learn than draughts, but draughts is actually much harder than chess."

With regards to the computer programs for checkers, chess, and draughts on a 100 -square board we see the following development:

Checkers on the 64-square board
Jonathan Schaeffer of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Alberta spent 18 years on a project using dozens of computers running continuously. In 2007 Schaeffer published his results. His program, Chinook, plays perfect checkers and cannot be beaten. If its opponent plays equally well, the game will end in a draw. So, game over! Checkers is a fair game and the game will always end in a draw if both players make optimal moves at each step of the game .

In May 1997 an IBM supercomputer known as Deep Blue beat then chess world champion Garry Kasparov, who had once bragged that he would never lose to a machine. The computer beat Kasparov by 3½-2½ in a famous six-game match after the first match in 1996 was won by Kasparov (4-2). In 2006 the chess program Deep Fritz beat world champion Vladimir Kramnik by 4-2.

Draughts on the 100-square board:
From April 9 to 14 2012 a Man-Machine battle in international draughts took place in Heerhugowaard, Holland, as a side event to the Dutch National championship in international draughts. A match with triple world champion Alexander Schwarzman, from Russia on one side of the board and Maximus , a computer draughts program from The Netherlands on the other side. Schwarzman won the match with 7-5 (one win and five draws). Still now there is no program that can beat the world champion of draughts on a 100-square board.

Whatever it may be, the debate of whether draughts or chess is more difficult will always remain.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Research in Spain

Years ago,  I  looked around in the Ricote Valley for alquerque-12 drawings.  The Ricote Valley has always been a chance for me to relax, unwind and escape the stress of everyday life.   The pressures of commuting and family obligations mean many of us live life in a constant hurry resorting to fast food  before collapsing in front of the television in the evening. However, for my research I feel the need to escape and get away from it all at times. The Ricote Valley has become a  part of my life where I have the freedom to slow down, get away from technology overload and take real pleasure from the basics of life.   

However, during years I was not successful with my research in the Ricote Valley. This situation that lasted several years changed suddenly when I met the archaeologist Joaquín Salmeron, director of the Museum Siyasa at Cieza of the province of Murcia in Spain. Cieza is located only 5 km from the Ricote Valley.

                                         Joaquín Salmerón Juan and Govert Westerveld
                                                           Ruralmur Prize in 2014

With great enthusiasm Mr. Salmeron showed my proudly the different Alquerque boards they had found in the moorish settlement known as Siyasa of the XIII century. Among them quickly found two Alquerque-12 drawings. That day I felt myself the luckiest man of Spain because suddenly all my research efforts were rewarded with the desired results.  

 Alquerque-12 on a plaster stone at Syasa (Cieza)

Photo:  Courtesy of © José Antonio Hellín Martínez


                                                         Alquerque-12, (partially) on a plaster stone at Syasa (Cieza)  
                                                                Photo:  Courtesy of © José Antonio Hellín Martínez


         Alquerque-12 found on a stone in the old Musulman town Syasa Photo: Photo: Courtesy of © Juan Buitrago

The Alquerque-12 game is the precursor of the draughts or checker game that is called in Spanish the "Juego de las Damas". I  have already studied for many years the history of the draughts game that I considered being a Spanish invention around 1495, precisely in the town of Valencia.