My daughter was singing with her choir, so my son already had a couple of hours to lose in Denver. We went to the Denver Public Library and of course my 6 year old wanted to go to the Children’s Library. We left.

When we walked in, he was excited and his face lit up. He saw a game of giant checkers. Each piece was roughly the size of one of his hands. I wanted to play. Now, I hadn’t played checkers with him before, but I remembered that my grandfather taught me to play checkers at that age. So I tried.

I didn’t just tell him the rules and play. I was six years old and I didn’t have that kind of patience. I told him that the first two games were just practice games. We played together while I explained the rules to him. He agreed to this plan and was happy that the first two games didn’t “count.”

What color do you want to be? “My grandfather told me that smoke comes before fire, son, so black goes first.” He liked that little mnemonic and I listened to him repeat it for days. Naturally, he wanted to be black.

Move a piece a square. You can only go diagonally. I moved a piece diagonally to show it to him. Then I moved a piece horizontally and vertically and said “you can’t move horizontally or vertically, only diagonally, and your pieces are always in the black squares.”

We moved a few pieces and then I told him that the object of the game was to capture the other guy’s pieces and have the last remaining pieces on the board. He became a little more interested. I showed him how to recognize a jump and how to take a piece.

We played a bit and I set up a double jump for him. Before his turn, I told him how a double and triple jump could be done and asked if there was any such place on the board. He found the double jump and took it.

I finally got a piece on the other side and asked him to crown my new king. Then I showed him how a king could come and go. He was excited about that show and decided to get some kings.

Finally, I explained to him that once he removed his finger from the piece, his movement was final. So if we weren’t sure of a move, you needed to keep your finger on your checker.

That was the essence of the ground rules. Then we played our first real game that “counted”. I hadn’t talked a bit about strategy to him yet, but he started saying things like “well I can’t move here because you’ll jump me” and “if I get a lot of kings, I should be able to win.”

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