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Article:    Chess for Kids!

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Chess is an age-old game that has withstood the test of time--it's a fantastic "thinking" game. Despite its image as a brainy pastime, children as young as 6 or 7 are usually able to learn the basics of the game.

In my children's elementary school, chess is a regular part of the math curriculum. Why? As children play, they actively use logic and problem-solving skills. And, they learn to develop strategies because it is necessary to plan ahead. This is excellent "training" for any young mind, and it's a valuable cross-curricular skill. In order to succeed at chess, children need to learn patience and concentration. They need to analyze, judge, and draw on memory. Although chess is largely a game of logic, there is quite a bit of room for creative thinking in any particular game.

There's nothing like a "real", hands-on chess experience with a human opponent. The subtleties of competition in a face-to-face match can't be found in a chess software program. However, chess software affords children some technologically-unique opportunities:

  1. With chess software, children can learn basic strategies of the game. 
  2. Unlimited practice opportunities are available with chess software.
  3. Children can learn chess basics and chess strategies independently.
  4. When a real-life opponent isn't available, a computer opponent will certainly do.
  5. Chess software suits children who learn best through independent play and study. These children can bring what they've learned into "real-life" chess play, and this is a confidence booster. 


Which software programs are appropriate for children?


coverFor kids who are already interested in chess, Chessmaster 10th Edition is a great choice. This is a software that will grow with a child's budding chess skills. 

Kids can start out in the self-contained Kids Room where they'll find thorough tutorials and plenty of opportunities to play against computer opponents with wide-ranging abilities. 

This program is a little on the dry side, so it is best for children who already possess an interest in the game. It's a great buy for children who are serious about chess. Although the retail price is a little higher than many programs, this game features enormous content (play opportunities, strategies, mini-puzzles, tutorials, psychology, etc.) and a wealth of options and customizations. Chessmaster 9000 was included in our Best Software of 2002 list. For those with an eye on their pocketbook, although this 10th edition sports more appealing graphics and a new "Chessmaster Academy", Chessmaster 9000 remains an excellent choice as well. Consider also Fritz 8 Deluxe, but remember it's not for beginners.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Chessmaster 10th Edition or Chessmaster 9000 CD-ROM (paid links)]


coverBut if you're looking for a chess program that encourages an interest in the game, there's a software title that might just do the trick--and teach children a few valuable tricks once they've been won over! Learn to Play Chess with Fritz and Chesster (see our full review) by Viva Media uses animation and a story line to capture children's interest in the game. 

When Fritz's parents go on vacation, he gets to be "king for a day"--that is until an evil King challenges Fritz to a duel. Children get to explore the castle and grounds with Fritz and his cousin Bianca, and take part in arcade-style games that teach them chess basics and strategies. There's an "Intelligym", which is a training ground for children to practice their skills. The goal is to learn all you can before the big "duel" with King Black. This is a nice, step-by-step program that features some quite creative games that help kids build thinking skills. Very recommended!

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Learn to Play Chess with Fritz and Chesster (paid link) ]


Learn to Play Chess with Fritz & Chesster 2: Chess in the Black Castle

This sequel to the popular and excellent Learn to Play Chess with Fritz and Chesster is not just a continuation of the first title. It's appropriate for beginning chess players and more advanced players alike. This educational software game is fun, featuring 21 arcade-style mini games that reinforce chess concepts introduced in the story line. Kids need to rescue Chesster from King Black's Castle. Players learn chess concepts--from basic to advanced--through the game's intelligible and engaging format. Such chess concepts as pinning, delivering check, protecting, openings, and more, are introduced and reinforced through tutorials that feel more like games. Kids also learn chess notation, and a bonus one-year free subscription to is included. We will have a full review of this title shortly. 

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Learn to Play Chess with Fritz and Chesster 2: Chess in the Black Castle (paid link) at]



coverOf course, kids don't have to go digital to learn how to play the game. A nice introductory chess book set, called The Kids' Book of Chess and The Kids' Chess Set, is available, and it's just right for beginners. Unless they are strong readers, kids will need some help from their parents, but the comparisons of chess pieces to their medieval counterparts is very effective, the illustrations and instructions are clear, and the set includes a beginner chess set with which kids can practice their new skills.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: The Kids' Book of Chess/Book and Kids'... (paid link) ]

May 2003/Updated August 2004/December 2004/October 2005


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