Chess Lite

January 15th, 2009  |  Published in games  |  1 Comment

51AWpz6OQdL._SS400_.jpgQuick Chess is a specially adapted teaching version of chess. We’re digging it around here.

I started playing checkers with Ben a few months ago after he saw me playing Big Bang Checkers on the iPhone. He likes playing against the computer, but it differs from me in that it is merciless and unforgiving, whereas I frequently forget myself and blunder into triple jumps.

It’s been pretty interesting watching Ben learn how to play. He got the mechanics quickly enough, especially kinging, which he loves to do above all else.

Initially he was very conservative with kings because he didn’t want to risk them. They’re special, right? So why push them out of the safety of the back row? I eventually convinced him that kings could be whirling juggernauts of destruction and he became more liberal with them.

I took advantage of his imitative urge by making it a point to think through each of my possible moves out loud. He picked up the habit, too, and he’s learned to play pretty decent defense, both anticipating the trouble a move could cause him from a move out and moving a piece behind an endangered piece to block a jump. Sometimes he gets stuck wanting to move a piece that would cause him a lot of trouble and has to be unstuck, and he doesn’t like to lose a piece so I haven’t had much luck teaching him about sacrificing to set up better moves, but it’s gratifying to watch him reason things out a move ahead.

I saw Quick Chess at a local Learning Palace, which we had gone to for a crystal-growing kit and picked it up as an impulse buy. For his age, checkers really is fine but I figured it couldn’t hurt to see how he’d do with chess, especially a version made for younger children.

The Quick Chess board is two-sided. The side for beginners eliminates the second rook, knight and bishop positions to make it 5×5 instead of the traditional 8×8. The other side is an 8×8 board.

The 5×5 board is half the innovation. The other half is the rule set, which introduces chess as a series of mini-games. The first variation uses only pawns, with the players trying to advance their pieces across the board. Kings, rooks, knights, bishops and queens come into play in later variations, one piece at a time.

The first few runs through the pawns game, it took Ben some adjustment to get over habits learned from checkers: Captures instead of jumps, captures aren’t mandatory, pawns capture differently from how they move, etc. He does need help remembering the differences between pieces, but it’s clear that it’s all sinking in. Each time we finish a variation, I show him the next piece he’s going to learn, demonstrating how it moves. The limited games introduce the pieces in ascending order of potency, so Ben gets pretty excited learning about the “powers” of the next piece down the line, and it helps reinforce the differences.

We’ll see how well it holds his attention long term, but in the week we’ve had the game he’s asked to play it more than he’s asked to play any other. I welcome it as an improvement over “Candyland.”

Responses

  1. gl. says:

    January 16th, 2009 at 3:04 pm (#)

    ben would probably kick my ass in checkers AND chess.

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