Chinese checkers may not seem like a game that has a lot of strategy involved, but there are several Chinese checkers opening moves that can be played. Sure, it's not as complex as checkers or chess, but there is a strategy for success.
History of Chinese Checkers
Chinese checkers is not a game from Asia. In fact, it is based on a German game called Stern-Halma, which was played on a square board rather than a star-shaped board.
It was first played in the United States, where it got its exotic-sounding name, in the late 1800s and has been a popular game for children and adults ever since.
Again despite the name, the game does not and never has involved checkers, but instead is played with marbles that fit into indentations in the board. The object is usually to get all your marbles into formation on the opposite side of the board, but the "capture" variation works similar to chess or checkers in that when you hop over another player's marble you take that piece off the board.
Chinese Checkers Opening Moves
You wouldn't think there would be that many ways to start a game of Chinese checkers, but in fact there are 14 possible Chinese checkers opening moves, since any of the first row of marbles could be moved into an adjacent hole and any of the second row could hop over the first row into an adjacent hole.
Despite all the possible variations, most people who have much experience playing Chinese checkers use only one for two moves, commonly referred to as the sidewinder and the cross caterpillar. You'll know you're either playing someone without a lot of experience or someone who wants to give you a false sense of security if you see an opening other than one of these two (or really four).
The sidewinder opening involves moving one of the two marbles on the edge of the front row diagonally out from their current position, while cross caterpillar involves moving one of those same two marbles diagonally in toward the center line of the board.
Both of these are fine opening moves, as they set you up for a route across the board. The opening move that brings pieces closer to the center line is more common among the most experienced players.
Tips for Playing Chinese Checkers
Now that you know some Chinese checkers opening moves, you can go on to play the rest of the game. There are a few basic rules that people who are following a strategy try to abide by.
First, aim for the center line. When you're working through the middle of the board you will find it easier and faster to get your pieces where they want to go.
Always look at the whole board before you make your move. Don't strand one of your pieces at the back of your section of the board because you got in too much of a hurry to get your first pieces in position.
Once you start filling in your goal area, work from the sides in. This seems to make it a little easier to feed the pieces in than if you worked, say, from back to front.
Finally, remember that just because you can keep jumping over marbles doesn't mean you should always go as far as you can travel. Sometimes more of an advantage can be gained by blocking an opponent than by filling in your goal area. Again, it's all about thinking strategically.
Chinese checkers is a lot of fun and involves slightly different strategies depending on the number of players and what your objective is. But once you understand the basic opening moves and techniques for success, you'll become a champion Chinese checkers player in no time.