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Atari 2600
   Video Checkers       


by Atari
c 1980

Use your Joystick Controllers with this Atari (R) Game Program (TM).
Be sure the controllers are firmly plugged into the LEFT and RIGHT
CONTROLLER jacks at the rear of your ATARI Video Computer System (TM).
Hold the Joystick with the red button to your upper left toward the
television screen.

For one-player games, use the controller plugged into the LEFT
CONTROLLER jack. See Section 3 of your Video Computer System Owner's
Manual for further details.

NOTE: Always turn the console power off when inserting or removing a
Game Program. This will protect the electronic components and prolong
the life of your ATARI Video Computer System.

THE BASIC RULES OF CHECKERS: A condensed version of the "Basic Rules"
of the game is listed at the back of this instruction booklet.


The computer plays by the standard rules of checkers. The most
important rules are:
1. A player must jump when able.
2. A piece which jumps into the king row and is promoted to a king
cannot continue jumping on the same turn.
3. The game ends when one player cannot move. This could occur because
the player is blocked, or because the player has no pieces left.

The checkers are usually referred to as "black" and "white", regardless
of their actual colors. In ATARI VIDEO CHECKERS, the pieces are red
(or dark grey/black) and white. In the amateur games (level 1 through
4) the board has black and red squares. In the pro games (level 5
through 9) the official colors of green and buff are used. (See
diagrams on the next page.)

NOTE: These colors may vary on different television sets.

[Image of the red and black board with red and white checkers.]

[Image of the orange and lime-green board with red and white checkers.]



Use the game select switch to change the game and the game number
(displayed at the upper left corner of the screen as shown in the
diagram). If the game number is white, then the human player (or the
left player) controls the white pieces on the board. If the game
number is blue (or black on black-and-white television sets) then the
human is red (grey). The different game variations are explained in
the GAME VARIATIONS section of this instruction booklet.

[Image of the board. The game number is in the upper left corner. The
no. of players is in the upper right corner. The cursor is the "X" on
the screen.]

In Games 1-9, the computer plays regular checkers. The computer's
skill level increases as the game number increases. Game 10 is for two
players. The number of players for each game is displayed at the upper
right corner of the screen. (See the diagram on the previous page.)

Games 11-19 are losing or "giveaway" checkers. As in Games 1-9, the
skill level increases as the game number increases. The object of
giveaway checkers is to be the first player to be unable to move by
losing all of your pieces or by being blocked.

The game select switch may be used in the middle of a game and the
computer will continue to play using the new game difficulty level or
variation. When the computer is computing its next move, the game
select switch has no effect.


Use this switch to set up the checkers on the board for a new game, or
to reset a game at any time. If the computer starts the game (see left
and right difficulty switches), it will pick its first move at random.
To clear all pieces off the board, depress the game reset switch with
the left difficulty switch in the "a" position (set up mode). Use the
game reset switch at any time, even while the computer is computing its
next move.


Use the "b" position for normal game play. Use the "a" position to set
up the board. In the set up mode, use the left Joystick to place
pieces on the board wherever you want. Move the cursor to the square
in which you wish to place a piece. It does not matter if the square
is empty or occupied. Press the button on the Joystick and the pieces
of each color will flash in that square. When the piece you want is
flashing in the square, release the button. To continue game play
return the left difficulty switch to the "b" position.

The left difficulty switch is not "checked" while the computer is
working on the next move. This means that moving the switch when the
computer is computing a move has no immediate effect on the move.


In the "b" position, the left player in a two-player game, or a single
player in a one-player game is "black" and starts the game. In the "a"
position, the right player in a two-player game or the computer player
in a one-player game is "black" and starts.

Switching the right difficulty switch when it is your turn to play will
cause you to trade sides with the computer. The computer will take
over your pieces and make the next move.


In addition to its usual function of changing the television display
from color to black-and-white, this switch determines the board
numbering scheme to be used. The purpose of this latter function is to
allow the ATARI VIDEO CHECKERS game to play against the computer games
which use standard checkers numbering to enter and display moves. This
function also makes it possible to play out examples from checker

The squares are numbered from 1 to 32 (only the dark squares are
numbered), as shown in the diagram. The square numbers are shown at
the top, middle of the screen between the game number and the number of
players (see diagram). The first number is the starting square. The
second number is the destination square for the move. The two numbers
are separated by a dash.

[Image of the playing screen. The square nos. are centered at the top
of the screen. The black squares are labeled from right to left,
bottom to top with the numbers 1-32.]

When the color/b-w switch is in the color position, the "black" pieces
start on squares 1-12. When the switch is in the b-w position, the
white pieces always start on squares 1-12. This makes it possible to
play computers or machines that always put their opponents on squares
1-12, regardless of color.

When playing against another computer game of checkers, you would start
by having one computer make a move. The person handling the other
computer would then manually enter the first move and then have his own
computer make its corresponding move.


The Joystick is used to move the cursor and/or the checkers around the
board. The cursor is a red or white "X" (dark grey or white on a
black-and-white television). The color of the cursor indicates whose
turn it is. The cursor can only be moved diagonally on the black

To move one of your checkers, push the red controller button when the
cursor is in the same square as the piece you wish to move. This
"picks up" the piece. Then move the checker to the square you wish to
occupy. To complete the move, push the controller button again. This
"drops" the piece. Before you have dropped the piece, the computer
will allow you to return it to the square it came from and move a
different piece. After you have made you move, the computer will make
its move. You can use the set up mode to take back moves or rearrange
the board while it is your move.

To make a jump, pick up the piece to be moved, as described. Then move
the piece over the piece being jumped to the next empty square and push
the controller button. For a multiple jump, continue jumping by moving
to the appropriate square and pushing the button again.

The computer will not allow you to pick up a piece which cannot make a
legal move or to move a piece to the wrong square. Instead it will
make a buzzing or "razzing" sound. If you must jump, the letters "JP"
for JUMP will flash at the top of the screen, as shown in the diagram.

[Image of the board. The jump signal is identified with the
corresponding jump being illustrated on the board.]

When the left difficulty switch is in the "a" position (set up mode_,
the left controller button is used to select the piece to be placed in
each square. First move the cursor to the desired square. Then hold
the controller button down or press it several times until the desired
piece appears.

Note that the computer will automatically convert a piece to a king
when it is placed in the appropriate king row.

(Information About the Computer)

As noted before, Games 1-9 are regular checkers; Game 10 is for two
players; and Games 11-19 are giveaway checkers in which the object is
to be the first player to lose all your pieces, or to be blocked and
unable to move.


The length of time the computer takes to move depends on the difficulty
level and the number of possible moves. The times given in the GAME
MATRIX are approximate. The actual time for a move varies, depending
on the current situation.

While the next move is being computed, the board will disappear from
the television screen and different colors will flash on the screen
(different shades of grey on black-and-white televisions). This is
done to speed up the computer since it takes time for the computer to
do the display. Also, the design of the ATARI Video Computer System
makes it difficult to do extensive computations and display the board
at the same time. When the computer completes its move, the board
reappears. The computer's move is indicated by a blinking "X" of the
computer's color and a blinking computer piece. The jumped pieces, if
any, will also blink. Your cursor will appear in your color. As soon
as you move your Joystick or press your controller button, the
computer's piece will stop blinking and the jumped pieces will


When computing its next move, the computer does what is called a "tree
search" using "alpha-beta" pruning. What this means is that the
computer picks a move, then picks a countermove by its opponent.
Depending on the difficulty level, the computer continues making moves
and countermoves. At some point, it evaluates the board to see how
many pieces each side has, and what sort of position the pieces are in.
The computer does this for various combinations of moves and picks the
move which will be most advantageous of itself, assuming that its
opponent will do the same. Alpha-beta pruning is a technique which is
used to reduce the number of moves which must be examined.

The game number determines how many "plies" deep the computer goes in
the tree (see GAME MATRIX). One "ply" is a move by one-player.
Technically, a "move" is considered to be two-ply (one move by each
player). For example, in Game 1 the computer only looks one ply deep.
However, if there is a jump, the computer keeps searching until there
are no further jumps, regardless of the game number.

The computer becomes progressively more intelligent as the difficulty
level is increased. At level 1 (Game 1), the computer does no
positional checking. It simply counts the number of pieces on the
board, giving extra weight to kings. At level 4 and above, all of the
positional checking is brought into play, including king row
protection, and center and double corner control.


Here are some important points to remember when playing:

1. Try to control the center of the board.

2. Protect your king by keeping pieces in squares 1 & 3 or 30 & 32, as
shown in the diagram.

[Image of the board. There are red pieces in squares 1 and 3. There
are white pieces in squares 30 and 32.]

3. Try to obtain the first king and then make good use of it.

4. Set up series of jumps that leave you one or two men ahead (called
2-for-1 shots, 3-for-2 shots, etc.).

5. When you are ahead, trade down, since two kings can win against one.
When you are behind, avoid even trades.


1. The checkerboard is composed of 64 squares, alternately light and
dark, arranged in a square array of 8 rows and 8 columns.

2. The official checkerboard of the American Checker Federation (ACF),
consists of green and buff colors for the dark and light squares.

3. The checkerboard is set up to play so that a green (or black) corner
square is to the left of each player. These squares are called the
"single corners". The green square to the far right and the green
square diagonally upward to the right of it (for each player) are
called the "double corners." (See diagram.)

[Image of the board. The double corners are at the top left corner and
bottom right corner. The single corners are at the top right corner
and bottom left corner.]

4. At the beginning of the game, each player has 12 pieces. The pieces
are set up on squares 1 through 12, and squares 21 through 32.

5. Players take turns making a move with their pieces.

6. Pieces are moved on the green (black) squares only. An ordinary
move would be from one green square to another vacant green square.
This must be carried out in a forward direction only, and to a
diagonally adjacent square. Such a move may only be made one square at
a time, diagonally forward, left or right.

7. A capturing move or a jump is the transfer of a piece from one green
square over another green square (diagonally forward), occupied by a
piece (or king) of the opposite color. The destination square in the
capturing move must be vacant. The captured or jumped piece is removed
from the board.

8. When a player is presented with the opportunity to jump, he must
jump. If he refuses to jump he forfeits the game. When there are two
or more ways to jump, a player may select any jump; he is not required
to take the jump capturing the most pieces.

9. A multiple capture or jump must be made when the opportunity is
available. (See diagram.) Any jump which creates a multiple jump
opportunity must be completed; there is no option to stop during any
part of the jumps.

10. Upon reaching the farthest forward row of the board by either an
ordinary move or a capture, a piece becomes a "king."

11. The ordinary move of the king includes the power to move backward.
A king may move diagonally forward or backward, left or right, one
vacant square at a time.

12. The capturing move of a king includes the power of backward
captures. The other rules regarding how kings carry out captures or
jumps are identical to those of the piece, except that a king is not
required to pause at the king row, but may jump in and out on the same

13. The game is won by the player who can make the last move. That is,
no move is available to his opponent either because the opponent has
no more pieces or kings, or because all of the opponent's pieces or
kings are blocked and unable to move.

14. A game is drawn when both players agree to terminate play with a
drawn ("tie") result.

When one player proposes a drawn game, and the other does not
agree, the first player may request a "40-move" count. The count
starts with the attacking player's first move after the request and
the counts only the moves of the attacking side. the attacking side
must demonstrate a strengthened position (in these 40 moves) to the
satisfaction of an impartial third person, or concede the draw.

The 40-move count is restarted any time when:

1. The player claiming the draw concedes that there has been some
strengthening of the attacker's position.

2. Any uncrowned piece of either side makes any advance towards the
king row, or -

3. Any capture is made.

After the 40-move count is completed showing a strengthened
position, the attacker must still complete the win. Other 40-move
counts may still be requested later by the player claiming the draw.

15. When the same position (identical as to move, pieces, kings, and
colors) occurs two or more times, a "see-saw draw may be beginning.
It is customary for the side desiring the draw to point out these
repeated positions and suggest a draw. The other side is then
expected to start a new attack or concede the draw.

NOTE: These rules were taken from the ARTICLES of the official rules of
CHECKERS, written by the American Checker Federation.

American Checker Federation
3475 Belmont Avenue
Baton Rouge, LA 70808

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Copyright Video Game Connection, 2006. All rights reserved.
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