My husband is a pretty big fans of chess, and while I am not a player I am a firm believer in the power of chess to teach thinking skills. Much to the chagrin of his parents, my husband spent most of his fourth grade year in public school playing chess in the classroom. His teacher set up each student with a board and would play simultaneous games with each of them! The he would pair them up and have them play each other, all the while teaching concepts of the game. My husband remembers this year quite fondly and he still learned everything he needed to know!
We have bought many, many chess books and chess sets over the years in the hopes of passing that same game knowledge to our kids. Unfortunately, I don’t have the same knowledge set as my husband, but I am the one with the time to teach. The Chess House Starter Chess Learning Kit ($39.95) arrived in a huge box, and I had not told my kids that it was coming. They were excited and entranced by the box. What was inside?
The Starter Chess Learning Kit includes an oversized playing board in a flexible plastic fabric, oversized playing pieces perfect for smaller children and adults alike, a kid-friendly DVD covering the first ten lessons from Chess House and a large bag. Our bag was in Camo fabric, which caused my 12-year-old to exclaim “Sweet!”
Let’s talk about these items in reverse order. First, the bag. This bag is very large and roomy, made from a sturdy fabric. It has a pocket for each color of chess pieces and a pocket for the DVD. It zips shut with a strong zipper and has a double handle for carrying.
The DVD we received is called Elliott’s Chess School Pawn Level and is part of the level 1 series. This dvd covers the point values of each piece, the strategy of each piece, the Pawn Shield strategy, the four most important squares on the board, the BEST strategy for starting a game, and practice positions. Total Running Time is 49 minutes. The video is taught by National chess master Elliott Neff and is appropriate for ages four and up.
The chess pieces and fabric board are a good quality and were super easy to fit back into the bag. Even my four-year-old twins can put this set away without help.
Yes, I did say ages four and up. The first thing my boys did after they oohed and ahed over the chess set and pieces was sit down to watch the dvd together. All four boys (ages four to twelve) gathered around the computer together and watched the first lesson. They all four found it engaging and interesting. When the first lesson concluded, my oldest son immediately involved my seven-year-old in a game of chess. My oldest son acted as the teacher and they went through each concept covered in the lesson first to review and then played a game of chess. My oldest would pause the game every little bit to explain something to my seven-year-old, going over a concept from the video. It was quite precious to watch and very effective. They both got excited about chess again!
We like to use the dvd lessons as “brain breaks” once or twice a week to break up our other lessons and add some excitement to the day.
My Bottom Line: We enjoyed the lessons on the dvd and want to purchase more of the series. This is the first chess curriculum we have stuck with for an extended period of time and I consider it to be quite effective. We may even be using this video series to form a chess team at our local coop if we can get enough interest.