I remember playing chess with my brother when we were kids, but we never really had a clear understanding of the game and there was quite a bit of "make up your own rules as you went along." My oldest two boys a year or so ago had a small chess set and I could see them playing just the way we used to. I really wanted to them to learn to play correctly, and was very excited when we had an opportunity to review the Starter Chess Learning Kit from Chess House.
The Starter Chess Learning Set ($39.95) includes:
Elliot's Chess School DVD 1 Pawn Level
34 piece chess set with vinyl mat (each colo came with an extra queen)
Zip up Storage Bag
The Starter Chess Set is geared for children ages 6-12, but anyone who is interested in learning to play chess can benefit from this set. I had intended to use it with my 9 and 11 year old boys, but my 6 and 8 year old boys watched the DVDs and have been learning about chess too.
The first thing that really impressed us, was the case everything came in. It is very handy to be able to store everything, including the DVD in one place. It makes it easy to take your chess set on the go as well.
The second thing we noticed was the quality of the pieces. The pieces are plastic, but they have a good feel to them and they are a good size. My boys were so excited to get started!
I let them play one game and then we put in the DVD. The DVD is 49 minutes long. It is broken up into 10 different topics:
Intro to Chess
Each topic is around 5 minutes long on the DVD. The Pawn DVD assumes no prior knowledge of chess and starts off the board, the names of the squares, the names of the pieces, how many of each piece each side gets, how many points they are worth, and where they go on the board. Each topic on the different pieces discusses how the piece moves, how they capture, and any special moves that piece may have. It also discusses strategy for using each piece. In the castling topic, Elliot discusses what castling is, how to castle, the rules of castling, and the strategy of when and why to castle. In the Pawn Shields topic, we learn what a pawn shield is and when to break it. The Development topic teaches about bringing your whole team into the game and in what order you should bring them out.
Also included with the DVD is an activity booklet with different activities to complete after viewing each topic on the DVD. Although you could watch the DVD in one sitting, we chose to watch one section at a time and then practice with the corresponding activities. I think that helped to cement the topic being learned better than watching it all at once and trying to put too many things into practice all at the same time.
I think the DVDs are great! I like that each topic is short and to the point, but contains all the necessary information. Elliot is a very interesting teacher and his love for chess shows through on the DVDs. The boys have learned a lot about the game of chess that they never knew before because even though they had played the game before, there was no strategy or thought behind how they moved their pieces. After we had gone through the whole DVD and did some of the practice exercises, Alex (9) was amazed that he was winning against Nick (11.) He had never beaten him at chess before. He thought that not just the DVD but the better chess set helped make the difference. We have had many chess matches over the last couple of weeks and my teen age daughter even joined in. I am glad they had this opportunity to learn more about the game of chess and look forward to my little boys playing against each other as well.
If there is one negative thing about this set, it would be the very potent vinyl odor that comes from the chess board. I love that the board is so easy to roll up and store, I just wish the smell of it wasn't so strong. This hasn't bothered the boys at all, but I am more sensitive to smells than they are. I am hoping in time it will start to fade away.
There are 6 different levels in Elliot's Chess School: Pawn, Knight, Bishop, Rook, Queen, Advanced, and each DVD builds on the one before and increases in skill level. To see those DVDs and the many other DVDs Chess House has to offer click here. There are also a variety of different chess sets and other chess items available for purchase.
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