Saturday, April 17, 2010


Lucas comes up to me the other day and he says:

"Papai, I wanna play RealCheckers."

RealCheckers is the kind of word that gets invented when suddenly there is a need for it- for instance, there was no term 'acoustic guitar' until there were electric guitars. So RealCheckers is named such, at least by my son, to differentiate from Virtual Checkers.

I guess it's not really so strange that Lucas first learned to play checkers on a computer- there's probably been millions more hands of Solitaire played onscreen than with a deck of cards since Microsoft stuck it into Windows. It was a little weird to be playing checkers on two adjacent computer screens, the 'game' being hosted in some unknown location somewhere online. This being kinda weird, and the game being kinda buggy, I suggested we play Real Checkers one day.

I didn't realize just how much this idea would appeal to him. He started bugging me constantly to play RealCheckers. Only problem- we didn't have a game of checkers. Checkers, which is called Damas (ladies) here in Brazil, is a popular game, and there's even a square near here where people play and other people watch. The boards are stenciled onto benches, and caps from plastic soda bottles are used for pieces.

I looked around the mall for a cheapo game but the only one I found cost more than I was willing to spend, so I decided to go the improvised route as well. I have a panel I use for drawing and crafts projects so I measured out and drew a checkerboard on it. Not having a large quantity of bottle caps lying around, I finally realized I had the perfect substitute- spray paint caps. Not only did I have ample quantities in both black and white, but I even had different shapes in both colors that could be swapped out for kings, or damas as the case may be.

Then we played RealCheckers. Lucas is just getting to the age where he can grasp the rules, although they need fairly consistent reinforcement and his desire to win the game often overcomes his willingness to follow the rules. It had been so long since I'd played that I actually had to look up the rules online, and some of them I don't think I'd ever known.

Lucas is fascinated with the game. When I wouldn't play with him anymore the other day he got his mother to play, and they had a grand old time. The next morning, we played again, and things were going fine for the most part. I must confess I was getting a little frustrated telling him he couldn't jump this way or that way or move twice in a row. Evani came in and decided to help him play. That's when I got my real surprise.

Evani didn't know how to play at all. She was letting normal pieces jump backwards, and her damas had superpowers, sliding the length of the board to capture pieces, much like a queen in chess.

I was shocked. Scandalized. Horrified! "No no no," I said, and Evani explained that that was how she'd been playing Lucas the day before. I went as far as to ask her when the last time was that she'd played checkers, remembering some of the dubious rules we used to employ in our own games back in my distant youth. "Jump your own man" comes to mind.

I put my foot down and said that we were not going to play that way, we were going to play by the proper American rules that I had so recently gotten a firm grasp on.

Not being a totally self-righteous know-it-all, I decided to check online, once again, to see if the rules for damas differs from checkers. Whoops, I mean RealCheckers. Sure enough, they do. Not only are there rules for damas, but there's a Portuguese version and a Brazilian version. There's also an Italian, English, Russian, and Turkish version. This all according to Wikipedia, from their Portuguese language page on the subject. And those crazy rules that Evani was using? They were all in there.

Further research brought me to an article titled Draughts, which states (and I quote):
Draughts or checkers (American English) is a group of abstract strategy board games between two players which involve diagonal moves of uniform pieces and mandatory captures by jumping over the enemy's pieces.
Who knew? A whole group of games! I hadn't even realized that captures were mandatory until I started playing Lucas on the computer.

Okay, I was wrong. I told Evani that I'd looked up the rules and she was right. Of course, she already knew this. Then I thought about poor Lucas playing one kind of checkers with his dad, and another with his mom. I quickly realized it wasn't going to happen. Not worth it, at least not until he's older. And considering that the American version (or should I say 'United-Statesian'? ) is positively stodgy in comparison to this hyper-dynamic Brazilian uber-checkers I realized quickly which set of rules we would be using from now on.

Now I essentially have to learn to play all over again. Since normal pieces can jump backwards and kings (damas) can zoom across the board at will, the dynamic is completely different. When I suddenly realized the possibilities these rules presented, games that looked only half finished were suddenly practically terminated by a one-piece romp across the board. Sigh. I'll get used to it. Or maybe Lucas will get bored with the game and I won't have to.

I decided since checkers was such a hit that maybe I should teach him a card game too, so I taught him 'Go Fish.' He loves it, but again it's not the game I grew up with. I taught him to play 'open hand' Go Fish, with our cards face up on the table. This was intended to be temporary, just for him to get the hang of it. Now it's the only way he wants to play. I'm pretty sure showing your cards is not in the Brazilian rules.


Fabio Bossard said...

First of all, your board and pieces turned out really nice. And second, wow, I learned something new today. I didn't know there was a different way of playing checkers other than the one I learned (the Brazilian way), since I always thought it was a dull game.I never imagine there were variations. I've always preferred chess over checkers.

markuza said...

Thanks Fabio- you may have noticed the colors changed on the board in the two photos- having all these big fancy graffiti-style markers, I went over it a second time. And if you think Brazilian checkers is bad, you should try the American version- or not. As for chess, I am the worst chess player who ever lived, so I tend to avoid it when possible.

Fabio Bossard said...

Yes,I did notice. They are both cool! Did Lucas help you out? The process of making the board and finding the pieces makes the whole game more interesting afterwards.

markuza said...

Thanks- yes, Lucas did help.

Anonymous said...


Seems as if there is never a dull moment at your house!