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.

Friday, 16 March 2018

The History of Alquerque-12. Texts of the game. Volume III

The History of Alquerque-12.  Texts of the game. Volume III 

ISBN:   978-0-244-07274-2  515 pages

--- I dedicate this work to Mr. Joaquín Salmerón, Director of the Museum Siyasa of Cieza (Murcia) in Spain.

Thanks to his enthusiasm and generous help I could initiate the investigation of the Alquerque-12 game in Spain.


The reason to write three volumes about alquerque-12 was due to the fact that there are researchers who affirm that alquerque-12 was a very popular game in France. On the other hand they confirm that alquerque-12 is a draughts game played in the Roman times. In Volume I we have shown that the alquerque-12 board was not popular in France, but in Spain while in Volume II it becomes clear that the game was also very popular in Portugal and Italy.

In the case of Spain we observe that the game was played more in the northern provinces than in the southern ones, which invalidates the general opinion that the game had been brought to Spain by the Arabs.

Researchers are always referring to the fact that alquerque or Quirkat was being played throughout Egypt. In this sense we have to take into account that with regards to the alquerque games we have three man morris, six man morris, nine man morris, and twelve man morris.  Each game was played in a certain period.

Most historians and archaeologists were following Murray, and stated that alquerque-12 was native to Egypt in the 14th and 13th century B.C., because boards had been found carved into the blocks of stone that form the Luxor temple’s roof in Kurna, Egypt. However, alquerque-12 has nothing to do with this period. At first Friedrich Berger states that the drawings cannot be dated due to Coptic (Christian) crosses. Secondly the German archaeologist and Egyptologist Rainer Stadelmann came to a similar conclusion with good documentary evidence. Research of the Dutchman Wim Van Mourik and Dr. Stadelmann clearly proves that the drawing by Parker was not the correct one and was completely different from the drawing shown in Stadelmann's photo. For that reason we can state today that the Kurna temple had nothing to do with alquerque-12 and draughts.

Alquerque-12 in various countries always had to do with Christians and the church. It was probably played by the church authorities, European crusaders, Knight Templars, Knights of the Order of Santiago, and other soldiers. For that reason we hypothesise that the game was an invention of or related to the activities of the Catholic Church not earlier than the sixth century.

We have to be careful in considering all alquerque-12 drawings as board games. There are many vertical drawings of alquerque-12 that have nothing to do with the board game, since they could have been used for apotropaic and esoteric practices. In this respect one can take into account the Knights Templar and their carvings at the Donjon du Coudray, Chinon (France).

I thank Mr. Rob Jansen (Amsterdam) for his deep research of alquerque-12 documents and images for years. Without his collaboration this book could never have been written. I also send words of thanks to Dr. Ulrich Schädler (Switzerland) who generously gave me a lot of critical notes. The fact that I did not use them in this book has to do with adverse personal circumstances. I   thank Marisa Uberti (Italy) for her comments and images. Dr. Franco Pratesi (Italy) also gave me a lot of information about Italy.  The draughts icon researcher Wim van Mourik (Holland) kept me posted about his alquerque-12 researches. Dr. Jorge Nuno Silva (Portugal) was kind to facilitate me several images of alquerque-12 boards. The anthropologist and archaeologist Luis Lobato de Faria (Portugal) has found many alquerque-12 boards and drawings and kept me posted about them. I thank him very much for his efforts to bring so many boards to light!

More people have collaborated on the preparation of this book and it is not possible to mention all of them.  Thanks to all of you!

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

My young Years by the side of Harm Wiersma and Ton Sijbrands, Future World Champions

My young Years by the side of Harm Wiersma and Ton Sijbrands, Future World Champions 
Draughts is more difficult than Chess - 308 pages

ISBN:   978-0-244-66661-3            -       2018    Hard cover     Lulu Editors

At the end of 2017 a draughts player asked me to have translations of some of my Spanish books that deal with the history of draughts. In one book I describe my draughts career by the side of Sijbrands and Wiersma, and in another book of two volumes I describe the life of the draughts world champion Maurice Raichenbach. I decided to start with the first book and  add some information about my business life in Spain. With that schoolteachers become aware of the great benefit that draughts has on the mind of children and their future business possibilities.

There are not many biographies of draughts players and the books there are usually deal with the game. It is clear that I did not want to write them in Dutch, because there are many books about these players in the Netherlands and I cannot teach them anything. They know much more than I do. It is much more difficult to see Spanish texts about them and that was the reason why I wrote books in Spanish about Amadou Kandi, Woldouby, Maurice Raichenbach, Baba Sy, and others, because hopefully this way we can rescue future players in South America from obscurity.

This time I will write in English so that the international players can also learn about some of the initial draughts lives of Wiersma and Sijbrands that today can be considered as history.

After the short introduction to the history of draughts in chapter 1 here come some words about the other content of this book. I wrote (in Spanish) the biography of Maurice Raichenbach, for several reasons. Firstly because with the "Raichenbach coup" against young Sijbrands I could have become immortal in 1963, as Harm Wiersma said. Secondly Raichenbach made the same victorious continuation in his game against Herman de Jongh, as Harm Wiersma did in 1963 against me in the Brinta Youth Tournament when he was just 10 years old. On the other hand Raichenbach was noted for his corner game on the board, as I used to play in 1965. Finally Raichenbach played to win tempi, as I also used to do in 1965. All these events are explained in chapters 2-6 which describe my short draughts career. I think that knowing Raichenbach’s game is necessary, since it now belongs to the theory that we must master draughts when we play it.

Finally, I am attracted to Raichenbach, because this player left checkers to engage in successful business.

During my many trips to Africa and South America I saw the way of life of their inhabitants. Checkers for them is a means of getting out of isolation. In Holland we already have many African players who make a living by playing in different draughts clubs. Draughts does not serve only to earn money, but also to increase our intelligence by 25%.

I hope my books on checkers will be useful for the young people of certain countries to come out of their isolation. In this short work the reader will realize that three children prodigies (Ton Sijbrands, Harm Wiersma, and Andreas Kuijken), among whom I was lucky to be, began to make life impossible for Russian draughts players. In this way Holland gradually regained its hegemony in draughts between 1972 and 1984.

It is my desire that with my historical works about Woldouby,  Maurice Raichenbach, Baba Sy, other famous draughts players, and my short draughts career in Holland as expressed in this book readers become interested in the game of checkers, as was my case in the Netherlands. I met Baba Sy, visited many foreign countries, and witnessed other cultures to finally settle in Spain and believe me, I owe a lot to checkers.

The game of draughts deserves a more respectful place than it has and in this sense one should remember that draughts is more difficult than chess, as is explained in chapter 7 of this book.

Draughts players are very good at analyzing, tactics, strategy, intuition, fighting spirit, performance drive, thinking ahead, long-term planning, numeracy, patience, perseverance, creativity, concentration, logical thinking, imagination, and many other good qualities.  On the other hand draughts players are very creative. They are often able to discover a draw in a hopelessly standing position by means of threats or shots.  All of that is explained in chapter 8.

I left draughts in 1965, but I felt myself playing draughts with the creation of products in various companies. For me the new products were like new variants in checkers. Draughts awakened my desire to master several languages and gave me a very competitive spirit, since I always wanted to be the best in the world with my products. I was co-owner and founder of an important company in the world of citrus extracts and among my wise friends and partners were two rectors of the University of Murcia.

After the sale of this company in 1989 to a multinational I did the same job of competitive intelligence until 2012 (the year of my retirement) in other new companies, which nowadays are also on a high level in the world with their products. One of them was sold in 2015 to an Israeli multinational.Some of my business, draughts and history activities are explained in chapter 9.

Since this book will be read by international readers and the term “King” for the most powerful piece in the game can give confusion to other speaking countries, I have dedicated some pages to the origin of this new powerful piece on the board in 1495, such as explained in chapter 10. In Holland we have in the international draughts game a square on the board on which we place the “kroonschijf” (crown piece) and that is known in the English game as king-row piece. In chapter 11 I discuss its Spanish origin.

In chapter 12 there finally are some words about the Frenchman Dr. Diego Rodríguez (1940-2015) who gave me a lot of information by phone and sent me many photos of the draughts tournaments and players in the past. He was the ambassador of draughts in the Spanish-speaking world and a man of immense generosity.

I recommend this book to psycologists and all professionals who work with children as a source of knowledge and a challenge to think in new concepts.

1    History of draughts    1
2    My brief career in draughts    10
2.1    Introduction    10
2.2    The draughts club in Midden-Beemster    10
2.3    The draughts club in Zaandam    10
2.3.1    My mentor Ed Holstvoogd    12
2.4    The child prodigy Tonnie Sijbrands    12
2.4.1    The child prodigy Andreas Kuijken    14
2.5    Sijbrands and Baba Sy    14
2.6    Sijbrands and Grandmaster Keller    14
2.6.1    The Youth Championship of North Holland 1962    16
2.6.2    The Youth Championship of Amsterdam 1962    17
2.6.3    The youth championship of North Holland 1963    18
2.6.4    The Dutch Youth Championship 1963    26    Piet Roozenburg    27
2.7    My mentor Ed Holstvoogd, in Yalta.    34
2.8    The senior championship of North Holland, 1963.    38
2.9    The great work of Keller    39
2.10    The Brinta Youth Tournament, 1963    42
2.10.1    The child prodigy Andreas Kuijken    50
2.11    The confession of Sijbrands    63
2.11.1    Prediction    63
3    The year 1964    65
3.1    Correspondence with Sijbrands    66
3.2    Harm Wiersma    67
3.3    The come back of Sijbrands    68
3.3.1    The Youth Championship of North Holland    68
3.3.2    The Youth Championship of Holland    70
3.3.3    The Hoogezand Youth Tournament    72
3.3.4    The Youth Tournament of Huizen    73    Ed Holstvoogd    73
3.3.5    The V.O.S. Tournament    74
3.3.6    The Amsterdam Tournament    74
3.4    Harm Wiersma again    76
3.5    The World Championship in Merano    78
4    The year 1965    83
4.1    Ed Holstvoogd    83
4.2    Harm Wiersma    87
4.3    Rudi Palmer    90
4.4    Ton Sijbrands    95
4.4.1    North Holland’s Youth Championship, 1965    95
4.4.2    The  National Senior Championship    96
4.5    The Third International Brinta Tournament    98
4.5.1    Ton Sijbrands    98
4.5.2    Ruud Palmer    104
4.6    The European Draughts Championship    105
4.6.1    Andreas Kuijken    105
4.7    The Turkstra Youth Tournament    107
4.8    The Turkstra Senior Tournament    110
4.8.1    Ton Sijbrands    110
4.9    The Senior Championship of  the North-Holland province    111
4.9.1    Ton Sijbrands, Ed Holstvoogd,  Govert Westerveld    111
5    The year 1966    119
5.1    Botter Tournament in Volendam    119
5.2    Ton Sijbrands    124
5.2.1    The simultaneous exhibition of Sijbrands in Purmerend    124
5.3    Harm Wiersma    135
6    Finally the child prodigies among the best    136
6.1    The year 1967    136
6.2    Harm Wiersma    138
7    Draughts is more dificult than Chess    143
7.1    Seeing Draughts    143
7.1.1    Dr. Max Euwe    143
7.1.2    Edgar Allan Poe    145
7.1.3    Dr. Marion Tinsley    147
7.1.4    Irving Cherney    148
7.1.5    François André Danica Philidor    148
7.1.6    Harry N. Pillsbury    149
7.1.7    Gerard Welling    149
7.1.8    H. Kramer    150
7.1.9    A Draughts writer    150
7.1.10    Albert Huisman    150
7.1.11    Hans Vermin    151
7.1.12    Anton Dusseldorf    152
7.1.13    Jack de Haas    152
7.1.14    Ron Heusdens    153
7.1.15    Palmans    154
7.1.16    Jannes van der Wal    154
7.1.17    Hendrik van der Zee    155
7.1.18    Alexei Tsjizjov    156
7.1.19    Eddy Budé    156
7.1.20    V. Cornetz    157
7.1.21    Harm Wiersma    157
7.2    Blind Draughts    157
7.2.1    Newell William Banks    158
7.2.2    Erno Prosman    159
7.2.3    Ton Sijbrands    160
7.3    Computers    161
7.3.1    Draughts on the 64-square board    161
7.3.2    Chess    162
7.3.3    Draughts on the 100-square board:    162
7.4    Mathematics    162
8    The great advantage of draughts    165
8.1    Acceptance of the rules    165
8.2    Acceptance of the result    165
8.3    Analysis    165
8.4    Attention    166
8.5    Self-criticism    166
8.6    Concentration    166
8.7    Creativity    166
8.8    Decision making    166
8.9    Emotional control    167
8.10    Empathy    167
8.11    Goal setting    167
8.12    Imagination    167
8.13    Increase reading ability    167
8.14    Initiative.    167
8.15    Mathematical logical reasoning    168
8.16    Memory    168
8.17    Numerical operation    168
8.18    Organization    168
8.19    Prevention of Alzheimer’s    168
8.20    Prevention of Parkinson’s    169
8.21    Responsibility    170
8.22    Self-esteem    170
8.23    Social skills    170
9    My way of playing draughts    171
9.1    In Business    171
9.2    In History    197
9.2.1    The history of the Moriscos (Morisks)    197
9.2.2    The history of draughts    204
9.2.3    The unknown authors of La Celestina    216    Intuition    220    Stylometry    222    Study of ancient Spanish words    222
10    The King    224
10.1    Isabella  I  of Castile as the    224
Virgin Mary on the chessboard    224
10.1.1    Notre Dame    225
10.1.2    Gesta Romanorum in England    227
10.1.3    Nubian queen    227
10.1.4    The queen replaced the vizier    228
10.1.5    The Virgin Mary in France    228
10.1.6    The Firzan to Alferza and Virgin Mary    230
10.1.7    Lucena and the Gesta Romanorum    231
10.1.8    Professor Petzold    232    Pope Pius II    232    Juan Ramírez de Lucena    233    Dr. Miguel Albert    235    Scachs d’amor    236    Isabella I of Castile    236
10.1.9    Virgin Mary and Isabella I of Castile    240
10.1.10    The Satiric School in Valencia    254
11    The king-row piece    258
11.1    Timoneda in 1547    258
11.2    Lucena in 1520    259
11.3    King in the beginning    261
12    Dr. Diego Rodríguez of France    265
13    Bibliography:    270

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Draughts and La Celestina’s creator Francesch Vicent (Lucena) in Ferrara with Lucrezia Borgia

Draughts and La Celestina’s creator Francesch Vicent (Lucena) in Ferrara with Lucrezia Borgia  -  316 pages
ISBN:   978-0-244-05324-6            -       2018

Writing about the medical student Lucena, the inventor of draughts  and first writer about modern chess was not easy and it took us many years to find out about his activity and what exactly was his name. Today we know much more about him thanks to much research and time spent on it. The explanation of why Diego de San Pedro and Juan de Flores could be pseudonyms of Lucena is fully described in one of our works . That was at the end of the 15th century in Castile. Around 1494 he was working in the printing department of Antonio Nebrija and thanks to him we see new words such as dama and andarraya  appear in the Latin dictionary. In this dictionary we find the new powerful dama in the new draughts (checkers) - and modern chess  as a result of the change of andarraya. The only thing we know is that this latest game was played on a checkered board like draughts. Probably the introduction of the powerful dama, based on Isabella I , changed this game completely to a game known in Valencia as Marro de punta around 1550.

Today most chess historians agree that the weak chess queen, named “dame” in France as from the XIV century, changed to a powerful chess queen in Spain in 1475. Around this year we also see a change of the weak bishop to a strong bishop, according to the chess poem Scachs d’amor . In order to strengthen our hypothesis of Isabella I of Castile (Isabel la Católica) we have written a book about the new bishop  and a book about Scachs d’amor in English.

Concentrating now on Virgin Mary in relationship with Isabella I of Castile  we observe that the Augustinian monastic Martin de Córdoba wrote in 1468 the work El Jardin de las donzellas. It was directed to Princess Isabel I of Castile with the intention to contribute to her education as future Queen. Cordoba was the first writer who draws equivalencies between Isabella I of Castile and Virgin Mary, which became one of her standard portrayals. Shorty thereafter we see the appearance of a new powerful chess queen.

As we know, Juan Ramírez de Lucena worked with the Pope Pius II for several years and perfectly knew the influence of Virgin Mary in many countries. Furthermore Petzold stated that probably around 1300 in England a collection of stories was compiled from the ancient Roman period under the name of "Gesta Romanorum". It narrates the legends about the origins of the game of chess. The chapter "the chess game" reads that the powerful King on the 64 fields of the chessboard could be considered as "our Lord Jesus Christ who is the King of all in heaven and on Earth". He could move to any place. "Finally he also takes with him the Queen, i.e. the religious mother of mercy, Virgin Maria .

The new bishop in chess has been a great mystery from the XV century until now, because not only was the power of the Queen greatly introduced, but so was also the position of the church. Pedro Gonzalez de Mendoza was the partisan of Princess (later Queen) Isabella I of Castile and fought for her in the Battle of Zamora and Toro between 1475 and 1476. This warrior churchman had a prominent part in placing Princess Isabella on the throne and served her tirelessly in her efforts to suppress the disorderly nobles of Castile with the money of the church. Cardinal Pedro Gonzalez de Mendoza remains one of the most striking and picturesque figures of the XV-century, and was equally great as churchman, statesman and warrior. He was considered as “the third king of Spain” and Isabella’s best adviser .

It is known that the protonotary Juan Ramirez de Lucena was already in the Aragonese court around 1468 and that he was one of the advisers of the young prince Ferdinand II, the future husband of queen Isabella I of Castile. Virgin Mary’s influence was great in those years and the church extended it in Valencia to the chessboard. The man who had influence in the court to change the rules of the chess game was the protonotary Juan Ramírez de Lucena, follower of the pope Pius II.

He was a great admirer of Isabella I of Castile and his protector was the archbishop of Seville and great cardinal of Spain, Pedro Gonzalez de Mendoza. Due to his travelling abroad he was aware of the necessary chess manuscripts and chess positions that later resulted in a chess book printed by his son Lucena in 1495. The manuscript of “Scachs d’amor” was written in 1475, precisely in the year of pestilence in Valencia and when the influence of Queen Isabella I of Castile reached the peak of her power against her husband Ferdinand II of Aragon. And so we see appear Isabella I of Castile, as the Virgin Mary, on the chessboard.

Lucena, the son of Juan Ramírez de Lucena, was in charge of translating Historia de duobus amantibus (1444) from Eneas Silvio Piccolomini (Pope Pius II) in order to publish the Estoria muy verdadera de dos amantes, Euríalo franco y Lucrecia senesa in Salamanca in 1495. He could do so since his father was in the service of this Pope between 1560 and 1564 in Rome. His father’s protector in those years was the cardinal Próspero Colonna (1426-1463), who opened the door to our Lucena during his future book activities with Agnesina Montefeltro (married to Fabricio Colonna), her sister Gentile Montefeltro, and Agnesina’s daughter Vitoria Colonna who was married to the Marqies of Pescara, Fernando de Ávalos.

In 1495, through the print of the first chess book in the world in Valencia, Lucena let us know that his name was Francesch Vicent and he was born in Segorbe.  Two years later he adopted the name Lucena, son of the prothonotary Juan Ramírez de Lucena . He was an illegitimate son of the prothonotary who was at the court of prince Ferdinand in Valencia in 1468-1470. We can therefore stipulate Francesch Vicent’s date of birth to around 1469, thus a birthdate more or less equal to his great friend Juan del Encina, who was a law student in Salamanca.   Lucena mentions in his work Arte de Ajedrez con CL juegos de partido that he visited Rome, many places in Italy, and other places in France. Lucena’s chess book from 1497 is a proof that he indeed had visited Italy – Ferrera - because Lucena used the Civis Bononiae of the Estense library of Modena known as Tractatus partitorum Schachorum Tabularum et Merelorum Scriptus anno 1454.

Perez de Arriaga let us know that considering the Modena manuscript allows us to clarify that Lucena literally copied the game Mod 487 that there is to be seen. This party game and its solution is not found in any other known manuscript. This case alone would be sufficient to assert that Lucena disposed of a manuscript similar to that of Modena. Another clear case is the game Luc 12.

So far researchers have considered its origin in the game Picc 20, but it is also found in the manuscript of Modena Mod 374 from which it could have been copied by Lucena since it is not in any other manuscript of the Civis Bononiae Family . In other words Lucena had already established contacts with scholars in Ferrara before staying there in 1505.

It is clear that Lucena had acquired very good knowledge of chess thanks to his travels abroad. He must have been a very good chess player at the time, because we knew various manuscripts in relation to Lucena. Notwithstanding this he must also have been a strong admirer of the new powerful dama piece in chess, seeing the fact that he discussed draughts in his manuscript and gave it the name Ludus Dominarum.

One of the chess manuscripts written by Lucena is known as Göttingen and only bears the name of Lucena, and it is clear from the texts that it was addressed to a prince: Dominatio vestra, Serenissime princeps, Magnifice domine. The letter of the manuscript is similar to the letter of another chess manuscript known as Les Éches amoreux which was copied and illustrated on behalf of Luisa de Saboya (1476-1547) between 1500 and 1515 with about 30 games. Another one is the Paris/Place chess manuscript that includes chess problems taken in their entirety from Arte de Ajedrez (1497), in this case 28 games.

He published Repetición de amores and Arte de Ajedrez in Salamanca in 1497 in the name of Lucena. In 1499 and 1502 he published his father’s book Vita Beata in Burgos, where he also published the first work La Celestina in 1499 or 1500. This was a beautiful copy of Calisto y Melibea and Lucena himself was the proofreader of this work, because we see the medical terms of the physicians Eras and Crato. Lucena could do so, because he was a medical student and the author of the first act (and the following 5 acts). Since thereafter these physicians were changed to Crato and Galieno it is clear that the editions from 1500 (Toledo), 1501 (Seville), Zaragoza (1507) were proofread by others, such as Alonso de Proaza and probably Fernando de Rojas.

One of the future characteristics of Lucena would be that he always edited very beautiful books and if possible, with beautiful images. On the other hand if we observe an author criticizing the works and languages of other proofreaders, we should take into account that this author’s name could be a pseudonym of Lucena. This is the case of, for example, the proofreader Francisco Delicado, but also the author of La Celestina printed by Antonio Blado in 1520. This edition showed the year 1502, and complained severely about other printers. It was Lucena’s habit to complain about printers who changed words and texts in his books.

In the meantime Lucena’s friend Juan del Encina became friends with Cesar Borgia and could introduce himself to the Papal court in Rome. In 1503 Lucena had to help his father by writing a protest letter to king Ferdinand in Zaragoza for him, because the brother of his father was put in prison in Zaragoza without taking into account that the prothonotary and his brothers and sisters were exempt from Zaragoza’s jurisdiction and that of any other inquisitor. His father probably died around 1504, because in 1505 we see that Francesch Vicent (Lucena) adapted the name Francesco and became the chess teacher of Lucrezia Borgia. In those years an anonymous author dedicated a poem to Lucrezia that was published in 1522 in the book Arnalte y Lucenda. Again this is going in the direction of Lucena, because as we know, the books of Diego de San Pedro were introduced by Lucena in Ferrara.  Lucena did not waste his time in Ferrara and took charge of two chess manuscripts - one in Modena and another in Perugia, which were copies of his Valencian chess book from 1495. In these two chess manuscripts we see the first diagram of a draughts game of twelve pawns for each player, as must have been the case in the book of 1495 Ludus Dominarum. This draughts game is the alquerque-12, popular in Spain , Portugal , and Italy, placed on a chessboard with obligatory capture. Francesch Vicent had time to get to know the professor of Greek and Latin Caelius Calcagninus in Ferrara, who learned from him and years later wrote about alquerque-12 . 

Thereafter there is no more information about draughts in Spain and Italy and we have to wait until 1547 when according to the Spanish scholars Antonio de Torquemada wrote a draughts book. Although Garzon  and we ourselves  have written about the fact that Antonio de Torquemada never could have written this book, scholars continue believing in Torquemada. The real situation is different, because the author of the draughtsbook from 1547 was Juan de Timoneda. In spite of the fact that there is no more information about draughts we continue stating the life of Lucena in Spain and Italy, because one day documents related to Lucena and draughts may appear in future. The humanist influence of Lucena in Ferrara is noted in Baldassare Castiglione’s Courtier book. Did Castiglione  not say in his book: "Spagnoli Guardate i, i quali maestri che siano della par Cortegiania?"

Without Lucena Castiglione could never have written his book. The Courtier's book was dedicated to Alfonso Ariosto (1475-1525) of Ferrara, a cousin of Ludovico Ariosto, since he had given the idea to Castiglione. Logically speaking, it was Alfonso Ariosto who was in contact with Francesch Vicent (Lucena) in Ferrara.

Baldassare Castiglione wrote his work between 1504 and 1506 when he was in the service of the Duke of Urbino Guidobaldo of Montefeltro who was married to Isabel Gonzaga. Elizabeth Gonzaga had a brother Francisco who was married to Isabella d'Este. In the court of Urbino we find Pietro Bembo, Lucrezia Borgia’s platonic lover, between 1506 and 1512. Then we have Emilia Pio, the widow of Antonio de Montefeltro. Furthermore Federico Fregoso, Ottaviano Fregoso, and Constance Fregoso, sons of Gentile da Montefeltro (Gentile Feltria of Campo Fregoso). She was the widow of Agostino Fregoso and financed the Italian version of La Celestina. 

The chess contacts between Federico Fregoso with Francesch (Lucena) resulted in Federico instructing Marco Girolama Vida to write a chess poem. And as stated before, we see that his mother Gentile da Montefeltro financed Lucena’s work La Celestina. After some years in Ferrara Lucena started a new life in Rome under a pseudonym. It was not easy to find out what one, but it appeared to be Ludovico Vicentino degli Arrighi. Strangely enough, nobody knew about his life before 1508, and as we see, in his pseudonym he used the letters “Vicent” that had a connection with chess and his first name disclosed the first name of Lucena: Ludovico . This new research resulted in a book  that was published some time ago and in another new book .  Around 1510 Lucena, now using the pseudonym Ludovico Vicentingo degli Arrighi, was a bookseller in Rome. Pietro Bembo (1470-1547) who was in Urbino in 1506 moved to Rome in 1512 where he was appointed Secretary to Pope Leo X. That was good news for Arrighi, who had started working in the Papal Chancery under Bembo’s supervision  as papal scribe and type designer. Researchers cannot understand how Arrighi, an unknown youth from the provinces, could attain this important position in the papal Curia and enter a network that allowed him to publish for some of the most powerful people in Rome.

It is clear that Lucena’s father must have been a very important person in Rome, thus opening the doors with ease to our Lucena. In 1510 a ten-year privilege was granted to Ludovico di Varthema and his heirs for his Itinerario which was printed by Stephano Guillereti in collaboration with Hercole Nani at the expense of Lodovico de Henricis da Corneto Vicentino. Researchers think that Lodovico de Henricis da Corneto Vicentino  was the same person as Ludovico Vicentino degli Arrighi. The book was printed on 6 December 1510 in Rome and dedicated to Agnesina Feltria, sister of Gentile Feltria and mother of Vittoria Colonnna. It should be observed that Fernando de Rojas had this book in his collection. Bernardino López de Carvajal y Sande (146-1523) had a translation made into Latin in 1511. The translation from Latin into Spanish was made by Cristóbal de Arcos in 1523. A Latin chess manuscript known as the Göttingen (1505-1515) only bears the name of Lucena and from the texts it clearly appears that it was addressed to a prince: Dominatio vestra, Serenissime princeps, Magnifice domine.

In 1511 appeared a chess manuscript of Joannes Chachi  and in 1512 the chess book of Pedro Damiano  in Rome. Both works have a connection to Francesch Vicent (Lucena) and it is clear that the names of the authors are simply pseudonyms of Francesch Vicent (Lucena), who did not like to disclose his real name. Some years later - in 1517 - appeared the book Propalladia and thanks to recent research we could confirm that texts in the book have a connection to Juan del Encina and Lucena, as we suspected years ago . However, we could not confirm that Juan Ramírez de Lucena was the ancient author of La Celestina, because our latest research showed this to be Lucena. Since the foreword to Propalladia was written by Lucena, it is logical to suppose that this work was edited by Lucena. This book was in the possession of Fernando de Rojas, because Lucena and Fernando de Rojas kept close contact. In 1518 Lucena (Luis de Lucena) was back in Rome and had again printed the chess book of Pedro Damiano. On its front page there are two chess players - one of them should be Lucena and the other was probably Juan del Encina. Antonio Blado printed the chess book of Pedro Damiano in 1524 and was involved in the tricky printing of La Celestina (Tragicomedia) in 1520, which bears the year 1502 and was destined for Antonio de Salamanca who was an editor in Rome. Between 1520 and 1530 Lucena was in France, because we see his activities and influence on other highly positioned people due to the appearance of French editions of Cárcel de amor and La Celestina.

On the other hand there is a chess manuscript of those years signed by Lucena. Since 1991 this manuscript has been in the possession of the New York bibliophile David DeLucia  and NEBEA  thinks that the date of the manuscript was around 1530.

As already indicated, Federico Fregoso was the son of Gentile Feltria, the noblewoman who funded Francesch Vicent (Lucena’s) La Celestina. Federico took many years to complete the chess poem and we see that Francesch Vicent (Ludovico Vicentino) published it at the papal court years later in 1527 in gratitude for his friendship. Lucena, who had the advantage of being at the papal curia as scribe, survived the sack in Rome. Ludovico Vicentino degli Arrighi (Lucena) had to escape Rome and went to Venice in 1528, where he started to work. However, he was not sure about his life and therefore our mysterious author adopted another pseudonym - Francisco Delicado - and continued working in his field in his new residence. There he reunited with old friends and was soon back in the highest cultural sphere. Francisco Delicado stayed in Venice for four years - from 1530 till 1534.

Lucena went to Spain in 1535 according to Beltrán de Herrera . Surely to help in one way or another his familiar Diego de Castillo who was put imprisoned by the inquisitors. We see that Lucena was again involved in several books in Spain, because books were his life.   There he worked under other pseudonyms which will be explained in forthcoming books.  In 1543 Lucena was in Brussels and apparently returned to Rome in 1549 where he was well placed, so as to become a doctor of Claudio Tolomei and even then the chief physician of Pope Julius III. Lucena never stopped travelling and was in Rome again from 1533 with interruptions to his continual stay in Spain. Tolomei considered Lucena to be an expert in Vitruvius and that may be the reason why Lucena could compose Il Commentario al Libro IX di Vitruvi .  In this respect we must be aware that Lucena could have known Bernardo Bembo, who was also involved with the Vitruvius. The contact must have been established through his son Pietro Bembo, Lucena’s friend from the time in Ferrara.

That Luis de Lucena was fully aware of the situation of Vitruvio becomes clear when we take into account that Ludovico Vicentino degli Arrighi (Luis de Lucena’s nickname) worked with Fabio Calvo and  Raphael Sanzio da Urbino in earlier years and printed Antiquae urbis Romae cum regionibus simulachrum in 1527. We should also bear in mind that Luis de Lucena (under the nickname of Ludovico Vicentino) knew Claudio Tolomei. Ludovico Vicentino degli Arrighi (Lucena) printed the work De le lettere nuovamente aggiunte libro di Adriano Franci da Siena intitolato Il Polito in 1525 for Adriano Franci. However, Adriano Franci is wrongly attributed as the author of the work, because its real author was Claudio Tolomei, a friend of Adriano Franci.

Although there is some reason to believe that Lucena must have known the printer Juan de Timoneda in Valencia, it is possible that there was an earlier contact between them in Tolosa when Lucena wrote his Latin medical work in 1523. Whatever it be, there is a draughts book printed in 1635 that bears Juan de Timoneda  as its author. We always thought that this was the lost draughts book of Antonio de Torquemada from 1547 who never could have written this book. Our hypothesis  was confirmed in 2010 by the best Spanish chess historian José Antonio Garzon Roger . In this book the reader will find our analysis of the ancient texts that figure in Timoneda’s book and which we think to be from around 1518. On the other hand we include the texts of the whole book which we have in our possession and does not exist in any Spanish library. The first analysis by JGAAP showed that Lucena had  a hand in the texts of this draughts book. We do not know if Lucena was the proofreader of this book, but considering his age it is possible that he looked for a quieter life. He found it in Venice and Rome, where he was held in high esteem.

Lucena’s latest nickname that we could detect was that of Alonso Núñez de Reinoso in Venice. The final word about Lucena has still not been pronounced. One thing is clear  - that he remains a mysterious unknown and fascinating person to whom Spain is greatly indebted for his many discoveries in draughts, chess, and literature.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

The Origin of the Checkers and Modern Chess Game. Volume II

The Origin of the Checkers and Modern Chess Game. Volume II - 300 pages
ISBN:   978-0-244-04257-8            -       2017

I shall briefly describe the second volume of the first part of this book, whose chapters I have tried to write in a simple style.

The  ancient word "trecha",  that years afterwards was  converted into " treta", is analyzed  in  chapter  9 of Volume II.   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 of Volume II  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 of Volume II,  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 of Volume II  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 of Volume II.

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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.