Learn to Play Chess with Fritz & Chesster
Review by Old
A Chess Vacation
Learn to Play Chess is one of the more remarkable and commendable
"edutainment" titles I've ever experienced. My visiting
nine-year-old nephew and I have just completed more than a dozen
delightful hours with Fritz, Chesster and the other charming characters
of the Kingdom of King White.
The good King is bored. He and the Queen decide to take a little
trip, leaving the Kingdom in the hands of little Fritz and his friend
Bianca. Within hours of the parents' departure, while trying out
the comfortable throne, Fritz receives this letter: "A challenge
is given to King White. King Black would like to play!"
Well, no one has beaten King Black in years. And it's no coincidence
that this challenge is delivered when the parents are away! What
is Fritz to do? He's in charge, but he doesn't know how to play
chess. To the rescue comes a very colorful characterKing Kaleidoscope.
King K (as he's affectionately known) is my kind of guy, full of
little sayings like this:
In winter's cold or summer's heat,
It's always best when it's time to eat!
But roly-poly King K is also prepared to teach little Fritz (and
my nephew) the techniques of playing chess. Exploring the grounds
of the Kingdom reveals side games designed as instructions in the
basics of chess. These are fun in and of themselves, and include
such frolic as:
- Take Your PickHer Majesty shows the art of moving queens;
- Smash the ToiletsIn King Black's factory, you'll find
how bishops traverse the board;
- The Peasant Pawns of PleasantvilleVisiting this village
will reveal the movement secrets of pawns.
Three other entertaining games are available, giving guidance on
the movements of knights, rooks and the king.
I had to pull my nephew away from these games, directing him to
the Brain Building IntelliGym. Here, one puts it all together. You
can choose a Light, Middle or Heavyweight category and have a Chessometer
measure your readiness to move onultimately to face the evil
Finally, you gird yourself to enter the Arena! Here you can take
on King Black as many times as you would like. Or you can play more
friendly games against Chesster and King K, adjusting the difficulty
setting to be just a bit challenging but not too much so. In the
Arena, you can choose to play with traditional-looking pieces or
the creative characters of the Kingdom.
My nephew had had a superficial interest in chess, but he thought
of it as a dry game for old people. No longer! If I had not intended
this game as a gift for him, he certainly would have found a way
to relieve me of it anyway. He (and I) had a delightful time with
this creative and fun chess tutorial.
The "adventure" is set up with 800×600 graphics
and very fine voice acting. It ran smoothly on my XP rig, and it
has a broad range of system compatibility. As you will see from
the screenshots, the settings and colors are far from "dry"
and "eggheady." You progress in a fairly linear fashion
through the various subgames to the IntelliGym and finally to the
Arena. When leaving the program ("Are you Fritzed out already?"),
the game is automatically saved at the last point. Moreover, at
any point you can return to previously completed subgames to brush
up on piece movementsor just for fun! The chess engine used
may have some limits, since I was able to do quite well at the highest
level. But I've been playing for half a century! For children, though,
the engine and its range are perfect.
In my years of playing chess, I've seen "beginner" instructions
in many programs. However, for a preten-year-old, I've never
found a program as fun, encouraging and successful as this experience
with Fritz and Chesster. The manual says age eight and up; but I
would offer that a bright six-year-old could well benefit from this
"edutainment," as could an adult new to the game! As a
footnote, purchase of the game also includes a one-year membership
in www.PlayChess.com, a website with kid and adult rooms and game
I'm pleased to award Learn to Play Chess with Fritz and Chesster
our Gold Star. From the colorful packaging to the carefully
sequenced "adventure" itself, this is a "one of a
kind" product, clearly designed not only with love of the game,
but also love of children. Congratulations!
And remember, boys and girls, as King K likes to say:
I feel so happy, I feel so fine,
because it's almost dinner time!