Francis McNally wins the 2019 East of Scotland


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Know the Board

Know the Board


Competitors in all sports and games like to feel comfortable with where they are playing. In team sports, home matches are welcomed and travelling away strains nerves. For individuals in a variety of sports, surrounding conditions are paramount. Hitting a ball can be challenging, and if it is moving, variations of speed and bounce add to the task. Confidence can happily go up or worryingly go down.


    Draughts is not immune from these requirements. This traditional game has brought pleasure to generations of people, but for anyone who wants to win, a sound knowledge is an extra weapon in the armoury.


    A novice up against a seasoned opponent will soon tumble into traps, because the game bristles with snares for the unwary. More than that, the novice must learn the terrain, for the draughtboard is a dangerous place.


    Draughts and chess occupy the same board of 64 squares, 32 dark and 32 light. While chess uses all 64 squares, draughts operates on the 32 dark squares alone, and these create an unusual arrangement. Let's set the board for action. The dark square at the single corner must always be placed on the player's left and the double corner on the right. Now it is seen that the edges of the  board are not straight. The rows of playing squares touch the edge or are inset alternately. This affects the diagonals that join the corners. There is a double line from the bottom right-hand corner to the top left-hand corner, which creates a double corner at each of these corners. From the bottom left corner to the top right corner there is a diagonal of single squares.


    It is essential to understand the lay-out, because it determines what can be done and what cannot. Particular relevance comes in the end game, when kings are in opposition. The double corner diagonal is a safety zone. Many a game has been saved by staying on it. Venture off, and land in danger areas which lead to the single corners. A king exposed here against an advancing enemy has no escape unless it has a move in hand to regain the double corner line. One king against two will flee to the double corner for refuge but can always be dug out, although how to do this frequently baffles the novice. One king against another single king can always gain a draw by sticking to the double corner diagonals. The first king occupying a double corner will simply shuttle from side to side to block the second king. It pays to know such things.


    Copyright Chris Reekie 2012.

Know the Board