'Contact Draughts' derives from the method of capture of Fanorona, the national game of Madagascar.
|Looking at the Fanorona board, it's hard to miss the Alquerque board. Like Checkers, the game has been solved.|
However, the same game with a left-right initial position, instead of top-bottom, has not been solved.
Not much of its history is clear. Wiki reiterates a legendary story about King Ralambo (1575-1610) implying that the game was played during his reign.
The 'Online Guide to Traditional Games' gives the time of invention as being around 1680, but does not elaborate.
So history is a mystery, but someone obviously had the idea to capture with the first move in Alquerque, not with a jump, because there isn't one available on the first move, but by contact. Such an idea doesn't turn into a game by itself, so experiments with the new method of capture must have taken place, eventually solidifying in the rules and variations that currently exist. There are smaller variants, but we'll concentrate on the 9x5 version called Fanoron Tsivy and the most commonly used rules.
Fanorona is played along the lines and on the intersections. A line represents the way along which a stone can move during the game. There are strong and weak points. On a weak point it is only possible to move a stone horizontally and vertically, while on a strong point it also is possible to move stones diagonally. A stone may only move from one point to an adjacent one, but in a multiple capture it can do so several times.
Each player has 22 stones shown in the initial position. White moves first after which players take turns to move one man.
Fanorona is a rollercoaster ride towards the endgame, the strategy being to end up in a favorable endgame. The nice thing about the game is that this is as much a positional matter as it is a material matter. Of course one shouldn't get behind too much in material terms, but some endgames are a win for the minority player. Extensive knowledge of endgames that might occur as the outcome of certain openings, has always been the main ingredient of Fanorona strategy and the trademark of strong players.
- Capture is compulsory: if a player can make a capture he must do so. If not, then he must make a 'paika', a non-capturing move. A paika is the move of a man to an adjacent vacant point.
- A single capturing move may consists of multiple movements of one single stone. Each of these movements is to an adjacent vacant point. Though capture is compulsory, the player may stop after any number of captures, regardless of whether there are further captures available or not.
- During a multiple capture, the capturing man may not revisit a point that was visited before during the same capture, including the point where it started its move.
- Capturing stones of the opponent can be done in two different ways, either by approach or by withdrawal.
- If a man moves to an adjacent point, and the next point on that line of movement is occupied by an opponent's man, then this man and all like colored men in an unbroken straight line behind it on the same line, are therewith captured and immediately removed from the board (that is: before any further captures are made in the same turn). This is called capture by approach.
- If a man moves to an adjacent point, and the point on the other side of its starting point on that line of movement is occupied by an opponent's man, then this man and all like colored men in an unbroken straight line behind it on the same line, are therewith captured and immediately removed from the board (that is: before any further captures are made in the same turn). This is called capture by withdrawal.
- If a move is an approach and a withdrawal at the same time, the player must choose which one to use.
- A withdrawal may not be followed by an approach on the same line of movement.