Russia Culture Games Draughts


Like chess, draughts belongs to the category of “military” games. Games similar to draughts were reputedly played in the days of the early Egyptian pharaohs and are mentioned in the works of the Greek writer Homer. Traditional draughts are closely related to such board games as Indian pachisi, Japanese go and French tric-trac.

The history of Russian draughts (shashki) dates from the time of Vladimir Monomachus, although the game may have appeared even earlier. Among the different versions of Russian draughts were “corners” (ugolki), “give-away” (poddavki) and “towers” (bashni). Peter the Great enjoyed playing the game, which in his time was called tablier.

In 1803, Russian historian Nikolai Karamzin published one of the earliest Russian articles on draughts in Vestnik Yevropy (European Bulletin). The first Russian book on draughts – A Guide to a Thorough Knowledge of the Game of Draughts – was written by Russian chess master Alexander Petrov in 1827 (much later than similar publications on chess).

Draughts spread throughout the entire world, leading to different versions in various countries, such as dama in Turkey and checkers in America. In Russia, draughts was played according to the traditional rules, using twelve white and twelve black counters on a board divided into sixty-four squares.

The relative simplicity of the game meant that draughts soon became more popular than chess in Russia, especially among the common people. But the game still offered many fascinating and ingenious combinations, and fans of the sport included Gavrila Derzhavin and Alexander Suvorov, Alexander Pushkin and Nikolai Gogol, Vissarion Belinsky and Nikolai Chernyshevsky, Leo Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov, Leonid Andreyev and Vladimir Mayakovsky.

Draughts was particularly popular in Russia at the turn of the century. Brothers Vasily and Alexander Shoshin published the Draughts Newspaper. Pavlo Bodyansky from Kiev published the Draughts magazine and sponsored several national tournaments.

Besides traditional Russian draughts, international (10 x 10) draughts became popular in the twentieth century. On the other hand, such other versions of the game as diagonal and eighty-square draughts have not enjoyed any recent popularity in Russia.

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