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  A view from ACF Player's Representative Richard Beckwith : 2010-01-11

Harmonizing the Rules of Checkers


In 2008, the World Checkers & Draughts Federation (WCDF) spearheaded an effort to produce a harmonized set of checker rules. These rules, posted within the "Classroom" menu on this site, came together via the work of an international committee chaired by Hugh Devlin. These rules were implemented and used for the Beijing and Isle of Wight qualifiers. Hugh prepared a 10-page document in December of 2009 explaining the need for harmonization of checker rules and how the process was conducted. Given limited space, I will only present excerpts here, with Part II to come in my next column. (I can send Hugh's full document by e-mail upon request to me at beckwith24@msn.com). Lastly, I note these efforts pertain only to the basic rules of the game, not how tournaments are scored, number of rounds, etc. Rich Beckwith
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The WCDF undertook a complete revision of the rules of checkers during 2008 in order to harmonise the rules for all WCDF events held worldwide. After this was completed I made a proposal earlier this year that affiliated organisations to the WCDF should consider the adoption of these rules for use in their own events.

The "modern" rules for playing the game of checkers was first standardised by Andrew Anderson (World Champion) as published in his book "Anderson's Guide to the Game of Draughts" (1848). Prior to that there were many local variations of the game depending on where it was being played. For example, players would alternate making the first move of the game without exchanging the color of their pieces (Red would move first in their first game, then White would move first in their second game) or some would play on the dark colored squares while others would play on the light colored squares, etc. Anderson's "Standard Laws" give clear direction on how the game should be played henceforth. His revised rules were reprinted in all the major publications that followed, of which the most famous was probably "Lee's Guide to the Game of Draughts" (1893).

In the absence of any official World governing body for the game, many national organisations undertook revisions of the rules of the game in isolation of others. The legacy that we have been left with is a game that is played using different sets of rules depending on where it is being played around the world. These changes have been made to a point where we can now say with some justification, that we have once again reached the same position that Andrew Anderson found himself in over 160 years ago.

Personally, I have spent many hours attending pre-event meetings for national tournaments, International team matches, and World Championship matches, discussing what rules were being used for that particular event. Additionally I have seen events disrupted by arguments that have arisen out of this uncertainty, with meetings called to discuss the issues raised and subsequent rounds being delayed, not to mention the generation of ill-feelings that have arisen between the contestants. I believe that most of this is both unnecessary and avoidable. There are currently many drivers for change in our game.

The establishment of the World Checkers Draughts Federation (WCDF) in 2003 by agreement between all the major checker organisations has amongst its aims to co-ordinate activities, unite checker organisations, and to bring about the standardisation of the rules of Checkers.

It is no longer acceptable that a World Championship Match (or qualification tournament) being held between the same players, and for the same title, should be contested under different rules depending on where it is being played.

During the past century this difference in rules was not seen as a major issue because there were often two British players, or two American players contesting a World Championship Match between themselves and free from outside influence. Today we have World Championship challengers from places like South Africa, New Zealand, West Indies, Asia, and Europe, not to mention national tournaments and international team matches being contested in countries that are relatively new to competitive checkers like Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Denmark, and Israel. It is now clear that the rules of checkers are a global issue that needs to be resolved.

We now have players attracted to our game from other highly regulated games such as Chess, and other forms of draughts like "Russian 64", and "International" (10x10). They have a long history of universal regulations laid down by their game's respective World governing bodies (FIDE & FMJD) and many of those I've spoken to cannot understand the piecemeal manner in which our game is played, thus lowering the esteem in which it is viewed.

Attempts to have our game recognised as a "Mind Sport" and thus recognised within the status of a "sporting framework" brings with it the need to comply with International Sports Regulations, standards, and norms, as laid down by global sporting organisations such as IMSA, GAISF, and IOC. These bodies demand the same standard of regulation for each game throughout the World. Failure to accept and engage in this process could make us ineligible to proceed, e.g. all organisations participating at the 1st WMSG (Beijing) had to comply with the International drugs screening regulations for sport (as recognised by the IOC) or be ineligible to participate.

To be continued....

Read more articles from your ACF Players Representative in the Rep's Corner Archive.

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