Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Chess House Review

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It had been years since I had played chess, and frankly, I never was very good at it. Sure, I knew how all the pieces moved, but I was never very good when it came to strategy. I hadn't learned how to play chess until I was in high school and always saw it as a game to teach the children when they got older. In fact, hubby had told the girls he would teach them some time in the future. I didn't realize that time would be so soon, but suddenly the opportunity came up with The Schoolhouse Review Crew to check out the Starter Chess Learning Kit from Chess House. At first I figured this would be available for older children, but I was thrilled to see it was recommended for children ages 6-12. Tabitha and Amelia were going to be learning chess earlier than I had anticipated.

The chess kit is all enclosed in this cool bag that comes with the removable shoulder strap packaged separately. We had the choice of green, black or "surprise." When we opened our "surprise" we were greeted with this really cool camo design bag.

The pieces, vinyl board and DVD with instruction workbook are all neatly arranged in their own compartment. I love this bag for ease of storage. When we are done playing, the pieces go away and we don't have to worry about losing them. 

The girls were excited to get started. In fact they wanted to get all the pieces out and start playing a game right away. Mommy explained to them we had to watch the DVD and learn how to play first. 

And how did we go about learning to play? That is what I would like to share with you. I have already mentioned that we received a full chess set with a vinyl mat and the DVD. The DVD we received is the first level in the series, Elliott's Chess School, developed by National Master Elliott Neff.  There are currently 4 levels:
  1. Pawn-Beginner (this is the one we received)
  2. Knight- Basics
  3. Bishop- Developing Player
  4. Rook- Intermediate Player
According to the workbook there are future plans for a Queen Level (Strategic Development) and a King Level (Advanced). 

Along with our Pawn Level DVD we received an Activities Workbook. 

The DVD is divided into 10 topics:
  1. Intro to Chess
  2. Pawns
  3. Rooks
  4. Bishops
  5. Queen
  6. King
  7. Knights
  8. Castling
  9. Pawn Shields
  10. Development
Each topic has a page devoted to it in the workbook with 2 or 3 games to play to help reinforce, or as the workbook calls it "cement," what Elliott is teaching on the DVD. Elliott starts out by teaching the names for all the pieces in addition to how much they are worth and how the squares on a chess board are named in the section titled "Intro to Chess." Already this mom learned something, because I never knew the pieces were worth points! The next 6 topics are focused on learning how each piece moves, along with the best strategies for each piece. He then goes a little deeper in the final 3 topics (castling, pawn shields, and development).

We only watched one section at a time and while the DVD was fresh in the girls' minds (and mommy's) we headed to the dining room table to work on the included activities. The first activity the girls were to master was setting up the board. This has turned into a friendly competition that the girls participate in every time we get out the chess set. They make sure the board is facing the right way and then I time them as they correctly set up the board. 

They have been getting faster at setting up the board each time. 

The girls were quite excited to learn how each piece moved across the board and how it captured the opponent's pieces. We started out by learning how the Pawn moves and then we played the Pawn Game where the goal is to be the first player to reach the other side with one pawn. 

We continued by learning new pieces on the following days with a bit of review if needed.  Each new piece got to play a game against the pawns. One player would play the white piece, the one we were learning about in that lesson. The other player played the black pawns, set up as you see below.  The goal is for the white piece to capture all of the black pawns. The only time the black pawns can move is if they can capture the white piece. I let the girls take as long as they needed to capture the black pawns, but it is suggested that more advanced players could figure out how to do it with the shortest number of moves possible.

They enjoyed playing the different games for each piece. 

I love that they get to practice each chess piece's move and strategy before moving on to the next topic. This is so different than the way I learned to play by being taught the moves each piece makes in one sitting and being completely overwhelmed. With the addition of the games the girls were still able to play with the set even though they didn't know how all the different pieces moved.  The hubby and I also liked that the Knight wasn't taught until last as it is more difficult to remember how it moves.

The girls are now able to play a game of chess...

though they are still struggling with strategy and really "seeing" the board. 

I think this is a wonderful way for a beginner to learn how to play chess. On the DVD, Elliott sits right there facing the viewer, talking directly to them. The viewer gets to see him describing the action and then he asks questions to get the viewer to think about the best moves that can be made. The children loved that he tried to trick us into capturing our own piece.  His instructions are very clear, though I think some went over the girls' heads. I do plan on having the girls re-watch each topic again, but for now, they are happy they can play chess. I was also thrilled that I was able to think about my moves more, and actually held my own in a game against my hubby. 

You can purchase the set seen below at the Chess House Website for $39.95, which is a savings of $10 off the retail price. 

Don't forget to check out what other Crew members thought of this great product.

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  1. JDaniel was just asking me about learning to play chess. I will have to learn how to play before I can teach him how to.

  2. How fun! My older two boys loved playing Chess. I think they still do. ;)

  3. this looks great, my boys would love this!

  4. Our son loves playing chess, I love that this one is portable.


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