Thursday, October 10, 2013

Review: Chess House (game, bag, and DVD lessons)

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Over the last month we had the opportunity to review the Starter Chess Learning Kit from Chess House. My son, Tyler, loves chess, but the rest of us have a lot to learn. Tyler was the one who got the video out right away and after watching it straight through, began challenging everyone to a game. But the real appreciation I have for this product came when the rest of us got the opportunity to use it.

The package we received consisted of:

  • An all-purpose classic chess set, including two spare queens. Regulation sized pieces: 3 3/4" King. 
  • A very durable 20"x 20" board that rolls up neatly into the case. (made in the USA, odor free)
  • A water resistant cloth carrying case with zipper pouches for the pieces and the DVD. Our case was green/camoflage. 24" x 8" x 3"
  • A sweet surprise, a Chesshouse chocolate bar (not sure if everyone gets these, but it was yummy!)
  • DVD of Elliott's Chess School #1 PAWN Level

It retails for $49.99, but is currently on sale for $39.99. Chess is enjoyable for all ages, but I think the DVD and game are best suited for 7 and up. My kids are 6 to 12, and everyone enjoyed watching the lessons on the DVD, even my youngest.

The DVD, Elliott's Chess School #1 PAWN Level, is 53 minutes long, broken into 10 lessons. The first lesson is an introduction to chess, while the following lessons are devoted one to each game piece, starting with pawns, and moving up. He explains the point value of each piece, which is something I hadn't previously known. I also didn't know the proper orientation of the chess board and the meaning of the term: "rank and file", at least as it applied to chess!
The material taught in this series has been developed and taught by National Master Elliot Neff for over 17 years, producing multiple state and national individual and team chess champions... Elliott recognized the great lessons for life that the study of chess provides - 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. 
-Pawn Level DVD 

In each lesson, Elliott explains:

  1. how each piece moves, 
  2. and how it captures, 
  3. and most importantly, the strategy for using that piece. 

Following those are three more lessons: a lesson explaining the "Castling" move, one explaining a pawn shield, and one showing a good game development. The lessons are 3-10 minutes in length and can be watched one at a time, or like us, straight through. . . over and over and over!

We really liked the video, in the material it covered, as well as in the way Elliot conveyed it. He spoke clearly and concisely, and yet didn't move too quickly through it. His love for the game is evident, and contagious.

The board is made of some kind of vinyl, and backed with a fabric material so it won't skid on the table. It is flexible, so needs a firm surface to sit on, but it's not thin or flimsy. Made in the USA, I felt this was a very quality set. The pieces are of equal weight and quality. I expect this one won't be wearing out, even with as much use as we are giving it!

How we used this:

Tyler watched the video first, not a good thing for the rest of us. When he was younger, a college student taught him chess and he's been beating us at it ever since. He even loves reading books about chess strategy!

To even the score, Emma watched the video and then played Tyler again... she had him Checkmated in 5 minutes. He had broken his pawn shield and she finally recognized the opportunity! They played again, and the game was much more well matched, going on for almost an hour. I was so excited. I also watched the lessons and learned a lot.

This month has been like a month long chess tournament, and we've taken the bag everywhere. We even took it camping with us! Daddy rarely has time for board games, but in the camper on the first rainy night... he and Tyler had an intense match up!

A parent could even take this from after-school activity to school assignment by adding the Workbook that matches the video.

Bottom Line:

I feel that we benefited from this starter set in a big way. I'm already pondering how we could pick up the other videos in the series. The information there helped the very beginner players (like my 6 year old and me) play with a better confidence of how the the game works and develops. It has taken chess from the bottom of the board game box, to a regular family activity. We loved the way the information was presented, and the excitement it brought into our home. The game itself, as well as the carrying bag, are of very nice quality and make it easy to take this anywhere... and we do!

Here's a sample of the video lesson:

Be sure to read all the other reviews of this Game and Lessons by visiting the Crew Blog, click the link below:


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*Prices and links are accurate at the time this is published, and are subject to change

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