Map of Tonga in the South Pacific

Map of Tonga in the South Pacific

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Veimau or Tongan Checkers

Written by Jim.
One of Jim's counterparts from TIST and TIST students plays draughts under the mango tree.

Well, let us just say that Tongans play American Checkers or English Draughts differently than anywhere else in the world. (Although according to Wikipedia there is a similar variations played in Russia, and another in the southeastern United States.) I was first introduced to this game, while sitting under the mango tree at my school, by my students and co-workers. They were playing with a rustic homemade board and pebbles, big pebbles v. small pebbles, which sometimes caused confusion late in the game if a medium size pebble was involved. Actually, if you look you can find the game being played all over the Kingdom of Tonga. There are usually two games going at the market, each with its own crowd of men around, each taking a turn trying to win a game so he gains control of the board and plays the next game. I have only played one game in the market, and my opponent was, to say the least, most gracious, and surprised that a non-Tongan knew how to play. I digress. Games are played in every schoolyard, in the parks, at the bus depot, or just on the sidewalk. Grab a stone and scratch a board out, make two sets of checkers out of stones, bits of mango skin, pieces of glass, etc., and play. Serious players have a painted board and use bottle caps for checkers. 
Jim gets beat playing draughts at the market.
 Since I walk a lot in Tonga and there are always bottle caps on the ground, I started picking them up. Blue ones are easy (water bottles) but a second color was harder. I finally settled on red, more Coke drunk from bottles, besides red is easy to spot. I have now picked enough caps for more than 6 boards and still going. So how do Tongans play Draughts? Well let's see.

Standard 64 square  (8 x8) checkerboard, 12 checkers each side, checkers placed so the long diagonal of the squares used runs from lower left to upper right.

Checkers (pate) can only move forward (as in standard checkers), BUT can jump forwards and backwards. Jumps must always be taken. If you have a choice of more

than one jump or jumps, you take the one that you feel will provide you with the best advantage, not always the one that captures the most , but once a sequence is chosen you must take all of the jumps in that sequence.
Red's first move
A few moves later red jumps three

Ending up in this position, Blue now must take one of the two possible jumps.

Hey, but that's not all. If you are lucky, or skilled enough, to reach the back or king row, the real fun begins. Kings  (called flying kings in some variant games) can move backwards and forwards along the diagonal, as does a Bishop in Chess, but after jumping an opponent's pate (checker) you may change diagonals anywhere after the jump to jump another and another etc. I have seen as many as five (5) go down with one king's jumps.
Up the diagonal turn and down into the corner.

 Also, if you jump an opponent's checker to become a King you can proceed to continue to jump as many as you can.
There is another variation called Foaki were the object is not to end up with all your opponent's checkers gone, but where you manage to give away or lose all of your checkers. All of the above rules apply. I have run into two variations of this one:
      You must offer a checker if you can and
      You don't have to move into a jump but can try to setup for giving away as many                 
      checkers as you can.


  1. Wow, you're a checkers expert! I like the board with scratched out squares. Reminds me of etched printing plates.

  2. Is this Tongan draught or checkers on the internet so you can play other people. Please let me know. Thanks

  3. Hi I'm a Tongan live in Australia. Can anyone tell me if this Tongan Draught or checkers or veimau in Tongan are played or find a website on the Internet. Thanks.

  4. Is this Tongan draught or checkers on the internet so you can play other people. Please let me know. Thanks