Thursday, October 10, 2013

Chess House: Schoolhouse Review

One game that I never really learned to play was chess, and because of this, I never considered teaching it to Elliott until Chess House offered the opportunity to review their Starter Chess Learning Kit.  Then I thought about how chess could really challenge Elliott.  I am always looking for creative ways to "school" outside the box and encourage new interests.  This really fit the bill!

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The Starter Chess Learning Kit (currently priced at $39.95) includes the following:
* 20x20 vinyl roll-up chessboard
* solid plastic chess pieces
* Chess bag in black or green
* Elliott's Chess School DVD 1 - Pawn Level

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First of all, I have to say that my Elliott was excited to find out that his instructor had the same name!  As soon as the package arrived, he was diving in, ready to get started.  Since I don't remember anything about chess, we really did need to start at the beginning and this set was perfect for us.

The chess board is labeled, which is one of my favorite features.  Elliott has not yet covered grids or coordinates in his math program, but he already understands them, thanks to practicing with Chess House!

The DVD is taught by National Master Elliott Neff and includes the following sections:
  • Intro to Chess
  • Pawns
  • Rooks
  • Bishops
  • The Queen
  • The King
  • Knight
  • Castling
  • Pawn shields and when to break it
  • Development
After we started watching the DVD, I realized the booklet that came with it has tips and practice ideas for every section.  For example, after the "Intro to Chess" section, there's the suggestion for the players to race to place their pieces on the board correctly, or to see how many ways they can make a certain number of points with the various pieces.

Elliott practicing a "Pawn Game" after watching Section 2

I decided we would watch a section, then play through the practice activities, before moving to the next section.  This would give Elliott {and myself} the chance to learn how every piece works individually and slowly learn how they work together, and learn the strategy of the game.  

The DVD is high quality.  Elliott Neff is very clear and easy to understand.  He is also interesting and holds my 6 year old's attention!  The DVD says the series is designed for ages 4+ and it is obviously geared towards children, but it is appropriate for all ages.  I'm not the intended target audience, but I learned right along with the kids!  We've watched it on the TV and the laptop, depending on our needs, and the sections are short and concise so younger children do not lose interest, but detailed enough to cover strategy and interaction between pieces.

In fact, Elliott Neff is thorough enough that my own Elliott has been able to watch a section and relay the information back to me and begin teaching his 4 year old brother how to play.  My 4 year old doesn't have the attention span to play an entire game, but he does enjoy being "on a team" with me while he learns how the pieces move.  I love having the instructional video, because it is great for auditory and visual learners, who may not enjoy written instructions.

Elliott teaching Emory how to move Rooks

I also love that the vinyl mat makes the set easily portable, and there are separate areas in the bag for the black pieces, the white pieces and the DVD.  Even my 4 year old can put the set away neatly when we're finished.  It really is a great beginner set, because they can transport it easily and take it everywhere while they are excitedly learning the game.

I am really happy with this entire set.  I would definitely recommend it for beginners, a new chess club, or even as a travel set.  I am loving how much Elliott is learning from the game already.  We're practicing math, developing analytic skills and having fun!  Elliott is really interested in getting better, and he has already asked for the rest of the DVD series!

Chess House sells a variety of chess sets and educational materials for individuals and chess clubs.  For more information about the company or what they sell, check them out online.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Crew reviews to see how much everyone else loves this set too!

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  1. Very cool! I've got two little guys that are into Chess but my husband and I aren't very advanced at it. This might make the perfect Christmas gift!

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