Game of the Month: Alquerques

by Dagonell the Juggler

Alquerques is mentioned in the Arabic manuscript _Kitab-al Aghani_, which dates back to 976 A.D. There it was called "Quirkat". When the Moors invaded Spain they brought "El quirkat" with them. Alfonso X of Spain (1251 - 1282 A.D) mentions it in a letter by its Spanish name of "Alquerques". The game of Checkers is actually a varient of Alquerques. It resulted from an attempt to play Alquerques on an empty chessboard. Checkers is mentioned in _Chronique_ by Philip Mouskat, a Southern French manuscript which dates to 1243 A.D.

The game board is illustrated above. If you find the board difficult to draw from memory, you're not alone. In the temple of Kurna in Egypt, which was built around 1400 B.C., archeologists found a variety of gameboards cut into spare roofing tiles. One of these was an unfinished Alquerques board. It was probably abandoned because the maker had made a mistake in placing a diagonal line.

To draw the board from memory, either draw a grid of four boxes by four boxes and then draw a large `X' and a diamond throughout, or remember that each quarter of the gameboard is an `X' and a `+' within a box.

The starting position is shown above. Each player has twelve pieces. Only the center position has no piece on it at the start of a game. White moves first. Pieces move along the lines from intersection to intersection. Captures are made by jumping a piece over an opponent's piece to an empty position behind it. All captures are mandatory. Jumps may be in any direction including backwards. Multiple jumps by the same piece during a single turn are not only permitted, but compulsory. If a player does not make a capture when one is possible, or makes a short multiple capture when a longer series of jumps exists, then his opponent may "huff" the piece by pointing out the potential capture and then removing the piece which should have moved from the board. The opponent then takes his turn as normally. If two possible captures are of equal length, a player may play either one, but not both. The game ends when one side has been completely eliminated.