Rules of Thumb for Checker Play

Rules of Thumb

Basic, General Rules to

Help Checker Play

By Phil Simborg



MOST IMPORTANT RULE OF ALL:  How does the checker play support my strategy for winning the game or match?  What is the BIG PICTURE at this score. 


1.  Memorize Opening Moves

Many are set (3-1, 6-1, 4-2 etc.)

Many change with score (3-2, 4-3 etc.)




2.  It’s Always a Race

Learn to count pips

Consider the count on every checker play or cube decision

Learn Trice Formula and adjustments (Keith Count)


3.  Play Hierarchy for Early Game

Can I hit?

Can I make a point?

Can I safety checkers?


4.  Duplication

Duplicate hits

Duplicate entries and hits

Duplicate point makers and hits

Give him the jokers (but not unnecessarily)


5.  Make Primes

Make points together if possible

If you can’t make a 6 prime, make a 5

Tend to slot the back of your prime to increase it

If your opponent is not at the edge of your prime, tend to slot the back of your prime


6.  Hitting is fun!

If you can hit 2 checkers, all the better

Think about the switch to hit

Hit to gain in the race when you have a choice

Taking no risk is often the greatest risk of all

When blitzing, all points are equal

When your opponent’s blot is at the edge of your prime, it’s an invitation to hit

Use the tempo-hit off the ace point when alternatives look worse


7.  The 5 Point is Golden

Making your 5 is almost always right

Making his 5 is often right too



8.  Keep Checkers in Play

Don’t stack checkers

Don’t throw checkers to the ace

Keep checkers where they will do the most good for you

Try to keep checkers “connected”—within 6 pips of each other

When you hold your opponent’s bar point, be quicker to give up your mid point

It is often right to leave a shot on your opponent’s side of the board if the alternative is to crash your home board

In the early game, if you are forced to choose between leaving a blot on your opponent’s bar point or leaving one on your own bar point, it is usually better to play to your opponent’s bar point.

Giving up one point to make a lower point is often not right if you leave a direct shot in order to do it.  (Making the 5 point may well be an exception, making the 4 point if the 5 is made is often an exception, and pointing on your opponent may be an exception).



9. Offense/Offense, Defense/Defense

If you are on the offensive, take the more offensive play

If you are on the defense, take the more defensive play


10.  The cube affects plays

Make plays that you think will stop the cube

Make plays that you think will let you give the cube


11.  The 4-point is the Race Point

Pip counting and race generally start at the 4 point

Checker play adjustment and cube decisions revolve around the 4 point


12.  8 Point Key in Early Game

The strength of opponent’s 8 point tells you when to split or not split

The strength of your 8 point is also key

Split early if you are on gammon-save


13. Inner Board Key to Hitting

If you have more inner board points than opponent, hitting is favored

Once you make your ace point, hitting is higher priority

Blitzing is fun, but don’t stop once you start

Prime a point, hit a blot

“The game is here” will help you decide where to play your checkers


14.  Simborg’s Law

Put yourself in your opponents shoes;

Ask yourself what you hope your opponent will not do;

Do it.


15.  MCV

Make all checker play decisions based on MCV

Make all cube decisions based on MCV

Always know your overall game plan

Always know your opponent’s overall game plan

Make your moves support your game plan and/or block his





16.    General Approach


Your first consideration is the game plan, then find the move that best supports it

Avoid back games

Keep it pretty


Know the basic strategy before each game.

“The game is here” makes you focus on the right area of the board

Offense/offense, defense/defense is an overall guide to checker play

“Good” is the enemy of “best”—don’t just make a good move when you see it…keep looking

Take risks early  (“Sometimes the greatest risk of all is to take no risk.”)

Take bigger risks at DMP

FORGET THE DICE and forget about luck;  FORGET ABOUT WINNING AND LOSING--all that matters is how well you play every move and every cube decision.  If you do that, the winning will take care of itself!