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"Once upon a time there was a small country, ruled by a very wise king, King White." And so begins the entirely reasonable storyline behind the fascinatingly addictive, Learn to Play Chess with Fritz & Chesster. Unlike some other chess programs which have been known to bore all but the most dedicated, this program managed to hook our testers, both young and old.
Young Fritz has been asked to stand-in for the King, while he is off on vacation. Sure enough, that's when the somewhat evil King Black challanges the acting King to a duel -- a chess duel. Fritz accepts the challenge, and sets off on the journey to King Black's castle. Along the way, he encounters an old friend, King Kaleidoscope, who offers to help train the young man for his duel.
This training consists of six games which indirectly teach the move concepts for all of the chess pieces. For example, a sumo wrestler game teaches the concept of opposition, wherein a wrestler can slowly force an opposing wrestler off the board -- much as a king can force an opposing king into a corner. Each player's moves are similarly taught by creative and logical analogies.
After this basic training is completed, the young King progresses through three levels of actual chess training, using each of the pieces in separate activities. This is an actual teaching program, not just a set of drills. Move strategies and tactics are explained, demonstrated, and then offered up in a series of practice situations. Success must be demonstrated before the player can move on.
After demonstrating adequate proficiency, the user moves on to the 'Duel Simulator' where the user gets to select which players s/he'd like to practice with, and the program responds by positioning them on a board in a competitive posture. The player's goal is to then attempt to achieve victory.
Finally, with an adequate track record in the simulator, King Fritz is allowed to take on the Black King in a chess duel.
"Wow! This really helped my game!" according to our 13 year-old, junior high school chess club reviewer. Our parent reviewers felt the same way. The instructional methodology is fun, somewhat addictive, and perfectly matched to the material. There is little doubt that a begining to early chess player -- of any age -- will find this a great introduction to the game.
Our young reviewers liked this program, even after expressing limited interest in trying it. Why? Because it breaks the game down into smaller, more understandable pieces, and gives lots of instruction in non-chess activities that later carry over into the game. Is this enough to hook someone with absolutely no interest in the game of chess? No... but it's close!
The program installed easily and quickly on our Windows test machine, but did require that we restart the computer before playing the first time. Program navigation is relatively intuitive, although at times all of our testers reported some random pointing and clicking to try and find what they were supposed to do or find next.
Learn to Play Chess with Fritz & Chesster is a fun and effective program to teach the basics of chess for learners of all ages.
PC: Win 95/98/ME/XP, Pentium II 233 MHz or faster cpu, 32 MB RAM, 800x600 color display, 16X or faster CD-ROM, 16-bit SoundBlaster compatible sound card, .return to top of page
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