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I've been playing tournament chess for 20 years. Recently I started playing checkers (the American version).

In chess, tactics is about calculating the next few moves ahead. Strategy is the long-term kind of thinking, what to do when there is nothing to do tactically. I tried to apply these methods of thinking to checkers too.

After I read some books on checkers, I was pretty disappointed. While they all claim to teach strategy, all they contain are some openings and tactical positions. Nothing about strategy, positional guidelines or how to select your candidate moves. Only "if white moves here then red moves here" and so on.

The only strategical guideline I found was: "try to control the center", but again with a concrete game as an example. During a game, most of the time I have absolutely no clue who has the advantage, because I am missing a set of theoretical guidelines.

So, my question is: Is checkers "just" tactics, or is it more and I have overlooked something?

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    Checkers is a solved game. Two perfect players will always play to a draw. So in a sense there is one perfect strategy and it's just a test of tactical ability to see who makes a mistake first. (In tournaments it is normal to draw the opening moves out of a hat as mitigation.) – Affe Sep 9 '14 at 18:25
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    @Affe You switched context mid comment. A perfect player would never make a mistake. A human player couldn't know a perfect strategy. It makes no sense to say "there is one perfect strategy and it's just a test of tactical ability to see who makes a mistake first" – Rainbolt Sep 9 '14 at 21:09
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    I've voted to close this as primarily opinion based, as I think it's a question that's going to draw out opinion and discussion, and doesn't have an objectively correct answer. It's a fine question, but for a discussion site rather than here. – doppelgreener Sep 10 '14 at 1:54
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    @Affe i don't know if being solved matters. chess is certainly solvable (with a large enough computer). The optimal "tactic" is just to do whatever that hypothetical, very big computer says to do. – rrenaud Sep 10 '14 at 16:25
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Checkers is defintely not just tactics! While checkers is not in the same strategic league as chess, there are clear strategic concepts. For example, controlling the long diagonal is somewhat similar to the idea of controlling the centre in chess.

Another example is playing to open one side, for the purposes of crowning pieces. This is analogous to the idea of king-side or queen-side pawn storms in chess.

Even choosing whether to commit to an exchange or not is strategic, just as it is in chess. You are weighing up not only the material consequences of the exchange, but the positional consequences as well, both short and long term.

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  • So how do I evaluate any random checkers position on who has any advantage? In chess there are clear and easy rules for this. But for checkers? Should I make this a new question? – dwo Sep 10 '14 at 9:32
  • It's a new question, although it's rather hard to answer. If you asked the equivalent chess question, that would be hard to answer too. Feel free to ask though. – ire_and_curses Sep 10 '14 at 18:31
  • Well, your wikipedia link on chess strategy answers the question pretty good. – dwo Sep 10 '14 at 21:48
  • And if a good player could not answer this question, it would prove my point of the main question :-) – dwo Sep 10 '14 at 21:50
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    Regarding strategic depth chess vs. checkers: former world champion Marion Tinsley has been quoted by the principal scientist that solved the game: "Playing chess is like looking out over a limitless ocean; playing checkers is like looking into a bottomless well." – TemplateRex Sep 14 '14 at 16:51
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Here are some examples of strategy.

There are 8 different formations in checkers, including the dyke formation (a long line of pieces directed towards the opponent's double-corner) and the triangle formation which is primarily defensive.

The time factor has 20 facets. Here are just 2. First, the role of the opposition in the endgame, which is primarily used to win several classic endgames featuring level pieces and to draw several classic man-down endgames. Secondly, the role of development: unlike chess, in checkers it is generally a disadvantage to be ahead in development in the opening.

Your own double-corner generally needs to be protected, while your single-corner men are generally developed quickly because this area of the board is less vulnerable to attack.

The centre should be fought for, but not crowded with your own men as this often leads to a winning pincer movement by the opponent.

Your own king-row men should NOT be retained as a matter of general policy - this is a fallacy which reveals a total lack of understanding of the need to develop sound midgame formations.

And there is so very much more! In short, when an adult says they can't see anything in checkers, they are simply speaking the literal truth. However, it doesn't mean that there is nothing there to see!

Free program: KingsRow - world class program written by Dr Ed Gilbert. Free books to download - see The Checker Maven website which includes my own book Checkers for the Novice.

Finally, winning tactics - and there are 8 minor tactical devices and 20 major ones - arise from sound strategy. (Although there are rare occasions when a player does everything 'right' strategically and still gets blown apart: this is one of the great attractions of the game and prevents one playing by rote.

'Checkers is a splendid game, possibly the marvel of games of pure skill.' (Al Horowitz: The Personality of Chess)

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