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Alquerque (also known as Quirkat) is a board game that is thought to have originated in the Middle East. It is considered to have been the parent of the game Draughts.

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It is among the oldest known board game, with evidence of boards existing from around 1400 BC, most notably several cut into the roof of the temple at Kurna[?], Egypt.

Despite this no mention occurs in literature until towards end of the 10th Century[?] when the author Abu al-Faraj Ali of Esfahan mentioned it in his 24 volume work Kitab-al Aghani[?] ("Book of Song").

However this work made no mention of the rules of the game, and we have to wait until the middle of the 13th Century[?] AD to find a set of rules in the Alfonso X manuscript belonging to the Libro de los juegos which he commissioned (the book contained translations of many Arabic games).

Spanish settlers[?] in New Mexico introduced a four-player variant of Alquerque to the Zuni Indians[?].


Alquerque Board
Figure 1: Empty board Figure 2: Starting position

"Alfonso" Rules

Before starting, the pieces (12 black and 12 white) are placed as shown in figure 2. The game is played in turns, with one player taking white and the other black.

  • A piece can move from its point to any adjacent point as long as that point is empty.

  • A piece can jump over an opposing piece and remove it from the game, if that opposing piece is adjacent and the point beyond it is empty.

  • Multiple capturing jumps are permitted, and indeed compulsory if possible.

  • If a capture is possible it must be made, or else the piece is forfeited (also known as being huffed).

The idea of the game is to eliminate the opponent's pieces.

"Bell" Rules

This set of rules was developed by RC Bell[?] in his book Board and Table Games of Many Civilizations[?], and were presented alongside an argument that the Alfonso rules wern't detailed enough to be able to play the game.

His rules are an extension to the Alfonso rules, they are that:

  • A piece cannot move backwards
  • No piece can return to a point where it has been before.
  • Once a piece has reached the final line it can only move while capturing opponent pieces.
  • The game has been won when either:
  1. The opponent has lost all of his pieces
  2. None of the opponents pieces are able to move.

Bell also includes a scoring system for rating games.

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