Hundred squares draughts in The Netherlands


 In 1617, a publisher from Amsterdam released a book on on board games in the ancient classics, i.e. board games played by the Greek and the Romans. It was written in Latin under the title "Palamedes; sive de tabula lusoria, alea et variis ludis". The name of the author was Daniël Souterius, the latinizing of Daniël de Souter. Souter (Londen [Great Britain] 1571 ˗ Haarlem [Holland] 1634) descended from a Flemish family but worked in several countries as a clergyman.

 Like everybody in his time, he believed that the games from his time were already played by the Greek and the Romans thousands of years ago. One of these ancient board games was draughts. In chapter 20 part I he described the ancient game of draughts under the heading Dame, Belgis dammen. He said: Atque hic ludus nihil, aut parum distabat à nostro, quem vocamus Dominarum ioco, qui ramen triginta tantum calculis luditur: quindecim albis, et quindecim rubeis". Translation: "And this game differed only a little from ours, that we call the game of dames, but our game is played with not more than 30 pieces, 15 white and 15 dark red ones".

 When Souter wrote his book, he lived in the Dutch province Noord-Holland. At what kind of board draughts was played in Holland in his time? Souter: "At a board divided in squares of a different colour". In Latin: "Tabula (...) lusoria quadraturis discoloribus alternatim positis distincta est". He did not tell how many squares the board counted. But draughts with 2x15 pieces at a board with 64 squares like left below is boring, for the opening is always the same. Therefore the board should have had 100 squares, like right below.




 If in the early 17th century draughts was generally known, we may take it for granted that the Dutch played this game earlier, in all likelihood already in the 16ht century. For there was a development in the second half of the 16th century, when notaries began to distinguish between a draughts board and a chess board: draughts players had made the transfer to the larger board. From that day on the notary had to distinguish between a draughts board with its 100 squares and a draughts board with its 64 squares.

 The engraving left below was made by the Frenchman Charles David (1600-1636). The board counts 100 squares. As far as we know draughts at 100 squares was unknown in France in David's time, and therefore we may assume he had seen it in The Nethelands.

 It is a naughty plate, for in the arts the ape is the symbol of foolishness. The French name for draughts is jeu de dames, which could be translated as women's game. A woman, wearing Dutch clothes, playing a game with an ape is far from chaste, is David's message. The artist did not like 100 squares draughts, that is clear. 




 Top right we see a page from the "Dictionnaire complet François et Hollandois" (1710), written by Pierre Marin, a Frenchman escaped from his native country and took up his residence in Amsterdam. He wrote there several French-Dutch and Dutch-French dictionaries.

 At page 277 is room for four entries.

 In the first entry Marin deals with the French noun dame, a word meaning 'unpromoted piece in draughts and tables'. The second entry gives the sense of the French interjection dame, 'gosh!', 'good gracious!'. In the third entry we find the sense of the French verb damer: 'to promote a singleton to king by putting a second singleton on top of it', with the French expression damer le pion à quelqu'un, 'steal a march on someone', based on draughts.

 In the fourth entry Marin asks his readers: "Sçavez vous damer à la Polonoise? Kend gy op zyn Pools dammen?": "Are you able to play Polish draughts?"

 Damer also meant 'to promote a pawn in chess'. Marin did not give this sense: in The Netherlands in the early 18th century chess was an unknown game.


 Hundred squares boards from the 16th century have all got lost. The oldest one we know is from 1696, see below.



 Above left the draughts board from the Westfries Museum in Hoorn. Right a board for morris (merels).

 Morris is played with 2x9 pieces. You can take a piece of your opponent by making a mill, i.e. three pieces in a row.

 The man who made it painted the year on his board: 1696. A Dutch lab that ascertains the age of objects of art affirmed the authenticity of the board.

From the northern regions of The Netherlands dozens of board of this type are kept.