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If you are interested in learning how to play checkers or chess, it’s important to learn the differences between the two board games. This article will discuss the key differences between checkers and chess allowing you to understand the games further.

checkers and chess games
checkers and chess games

Key takeaways

  • Both checkers and chess use a board with 64 squares.
  • The game pieces used are different for both games.
  • The objectives of the games are different.
  • In both checkers and chess, pieces can be promoted to a new role.
  • The game pieces in both games are moved in different directions.
  • The strategy used to play the games are different.

Differences Between Checkers And Chess

At first glance, checkers and chess seem like very similar games. The boards are almost the same, and sometimes the two games are sold together in one combo package.

However, these two games are quite different and have completely different rules, goals, and gameplay.


The game of chess dates back to the 600s AD. It originated in India, where it was known as chaturanga.

Checkers dates back to 3,000 BC. An ancient form of the game was discovered by archeologists in what is now Iraq. Another form of the game, dating to 1,400 BC, was discovered in Egypt.


Both checkers and chess are played on boards with 64 squares in an eight-by-eight grid. Light and dark squares alternate along the board. One board can be used for both games.

 classic checkers board game
classic checkers board game

However, in chess, both the light and dark squares are used for play. In checkers, only the dark squares are used.

3d illustration of chess board on dark background
3d illustration of chess board on dark background

Game Pieces

In checkers, the pieces are small and circular. There are light and dark pieces, and each player gets 12 pieces. Each piece is identical.

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checkers pieces red and black
checkers pieces

In chess, there are 16 pieces per side. Not all of the pieces are the same. The pieces in a chess game include pawns, rooks, knights, bishops, kings, and queens.

There are eight pawns, two knights, two rooks, two bishops, one queen, and one king per side.

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The pieces in a chess game are carved to represent an artistic interpretation of their value. The king, for example, has a crown at the top, while the knights feature a horse’s head.

Although there are certain standard appearances for chess pieces, many chess sets use different artistic styles for each piece. Some sets are also designed to mimic famous stories or characters.

Complete set of all sixteen chess pieces
Complete set of all sixteen chess pieces


In chess, the objective is to trap your opponent’s king. Players can win by achieving a checkmate or completely taking the other player’s king.

In checkers, the objective is to take as many of the other player’s pieces as possible. A player ‘jumps’ the other player’s pieces to take them. The person who has the last piece on the board wins the game.

Piece Promotion

Once a player has gotten a checker piece across the board, the piece can be promoted to a king. This is usually done by placing another checker on top of the original checker.

Playing checkers, making a king
Playing checkers, making a king

In chess, pawns can also be promoted once they’ve crossed the board. Pawns can be promoted after reaching the 8th rank on the board, and they can be made either a knight, bishop, rook, or queen.

Piece Movement

In checkers, pieces can only move diagonally using the dark squares on the board. The player with the black or darker colored pieces gets to go first.

When the game begins, checker pieces can only be moved forward, toward the player’s opponent. Once they have been crowned king, the king pieces can be moved back and forth across the board.

In chess, the player with the light-colored pieces goes first, and each piece must be moved in a particular way.

Pawns can move two squares forward on their first move but otherwise can only move one square forward. Pawns can only capture pieces that are diagonally in front of them.

Knights must move two squares in any direction, then complete their move by moving one square to the side at a right angle. Knights can also jump over other pieces.

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Bishops can only move diagonally, but they can move any number of squares, as long as no other pieces are in the way.

Rooks can move either vertically or horizontally. They can move as far as the player wants, as long as there are no other pieces in the way.

The queen is generally considered the most powerful piece on the board. The queen can move in any direction, including forward, backward, to the side, or diagonally, as long as the move is in a straight line and there are no other pieces in the way.

The king is the most valuable piece on a chess board, as losing the king loses you the game. The king can move in any direction, like the queen, but it can only move one space at a time.

Generally, kings are left at the back or in a corner where they’ll be safe.

Game Play and Strategy

Checkers requires some skill and strategy to play, and winning depends on thinking out each move and deciding what moves will be the most helpful.

However, because the moves you can make are limited, and because almost all of the pieces move in the same way, checkers is not as complex as chess and therefore requires less critical thinking.

Chess is a much more complicated game than checkers. Because each piece moves differently, there are hundreds of options for single moves or lengthier combination moves.

Chess requires a high amount of strategy, and players must think out each move, and the moves their opponent might take after, to come up with a strategy for winning.

There are thousands of options for moving pieces, tricking your opponent, and attempting to win the game.

Chess is often thought of as a competitive sport because of how much skill and brain power it takes to play.

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