Growing up, I watched my dad play chess often. My uncle would come over on Sundays and they'd watch the football game and then play chess. I have memories of them sitting at the table, intently playing a game I didn't understand. Oh, I'd play on that board sometimes too. Only my playing was more childish pretend play. Instead of rooks and pawns, they were simply girls and boys, and instead of being on opposite teams, they were friends. The big pressed leather board and metal pieces sat out in the living room permanently. The set saw regular use.
I did learn to play by the rules eventually, but never really took to the game. While on vacation last year, our resort had a life-sized chess game. It was on that trip that Jake, our oldest, fell in love with the game at 6 years of age. He couldn't get enough of it. He played with his dad. He played with my dad. He played on the iPad. He did not, however, play with me. Nope, not unless I could make the kings and queens get together for tea and crumpets while the babies (obviously the bald-headed pawns) played at their feet. Kidding. Sort of. We didn't even own a real set and his obsession with the game wore off over the course of the year. So, when we had the opportunity to review a real, hold-it-in-your-hands starter chess learning kit from Chess House, I knew his love of the game would be rekindled.
- Elliot's Chess School DVD1 Pawn Level
- vinyl chess board, 20" x 20", 2 1/4" squares
- solid plastic pieces with regulation size king
- chess bag to hold all 32 pieces, board, and DVD
To say that his love was rekindled is an understatement. He was ecstatic when the box came. I was surprised how big and strong the board is. The odor-free vinyl works perfectly as a mat and then rolls back up to fit in the bag. The plastic pieces are heavy enough to stand firmly, but light enough for kids to use. Our carrying bag is a green camo (also comes in black, green, navy, tan camo), so that is even more exciting. Jake took the set with him when he went hunting a few weeks ago. The bag makes it easy to transport the set while keeping the pieces separated.
He immediately set up the board. He played with his little sister. He played with his little brother. He played by himself. And eventually . . . he played with me! I have to admit, I even enjoyed it. (Shh, don't tell!) I actually played 3 games with him that first day alone. It all started because he was showing the 3-year-old no mercy. I had to intercede and help out . . . and it sucked me in.
After playing about 10 games that day, we watched the DVD. The Pawn Level is the first of 6 training DVDs. It introduces chess essential fundamentals in a clear, accurate, and enjoyable way. Elliot is very experienced, easy to understand, and enjoyable to watch. (Did I really just say a chess DVD was enjoyable?) The 49-minute video is broken into sections:
- Intro to Chess (board, names of pieces, values)
- The Queen
- The King
- Pawn shields and when to break it
Even though it's designed so that you can watch the topics one at a time if you so choose, we sat and watched the entire thing all the way through. Elliot's passion of the game is contagious. I found myself wanting to watch the other levels in the series. Not only is his desire to teach kids and adults alike the foundations of chess, he wants to teach "lessons that must be learned if one is to become successful in life, such as the value of perseverance through adversity and the priceless experience of achievement after putting in consistent effort."
We have loved using this set. Ever since learning about castling from the DVD, Jake uses the move as much as possible. (I hadn't even heard of it before watching!) He takes the bag with him all over the house and has played in every room. I wasn't sure at first what I'd think about a roll-up board, but it is perfect. I like that chess is helping the kids learn sportsmanship, to strategize, think ahead, and focus. It's even made me appreciate and enjoy the game. We've watched the video multiple times and played the game even more.
The set and DVD are good for all ages and can be purchased for $39.99. Chess House offers some pretty cool sets like a giant set, pirates, Civil War, Tang Dynasty, and more! I would love to order one of these, but I'm sure I would revert back to my pretend play days and make the pirates sail a ship on the open seas. If you're looking to order a new set and get overwhelmed by all the great choices, they offer a free chess sets guide to ensure that you make the best choice to meet your needs.
If you're looking for a new set, to better understand the game, or just want to be able to win against any opponent, Chess House can meet your need.
If you'd like to research some more, you can read additional reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.