The game of checkers or draughts is about a thousand years old. It hails
from southern France, from the Langue d'Oc, the most advanced civilization in
Western Europe at the time, till it was destroyed in the Albigensian Crusades
200 years later. It is, in a way, a combination of some of the rules of the
older game Alquerque and
the already well-known and widespread chess board.
In most languages (English is a notable exception), the game has a name
derived from the queen in chess: dames, dame, damas, dammen, for the core idea
is that a stone that reaches the opposite end of the board is converted into
the equivalent of a queen in chess. Back when checkers was concieved, the queen
was a very weak piece, still called fers (vizier). It could only move one square
diagonally. In the English-speaking world, crowned pieces (kings) in checkers
still move this way. In the rest of the world, they can move any distance,
though only diagonally.
Another important local rule variation is the size of the board. In the
English-speaking world and in Germany (where it was
never very popular) it is played on a standard chess board. In most of the
rest of the world it is played on a 10×10 board. This variant is also known
as international checkers. It is especially popular in the
Netherlands and Russia, where it is taken as
serious as Othello in Japan.