Learning how to play chess is a great brain workout. And lots of parents want their kids to learn basic chess skills to give those young brains a boost.
I have a confession.
I hate chess.
This may be a little surprising seeing as how much I love playing games with my kids.
But chess? Na-uh. So tedious.
My kids LOVE chess and I grudgingly acknowledge learning chess skills has many benefits.
My older son won't play chess with me because he "wants to be challenged." True, it's hard to play chess with someone who doesn't have a strategy (or even cares about having one).
My younger son wants to learn basic chess skills and likes to play chess, but he can't play with his brother because he is whalloped every time and I can't stand the resulting meltdown.
I have now acquired the two perfect chess games. The two games are Solitaire Chess and Laser Chess, both from ThinkFun.
(Note: I purchased Solitaire Chess for $1 at a tag sale–score! ThinkFun sent me Laser Chess to try out. I included affiliate links in this post.)
Solitaire Chess is (as the name implies) a single player logic puzzle. It will be enjoyed by chess players, chess learners and even kids who don't really know anything about chess!
How to Play:
The game (we should really call it a brainteaser) consists of 30 double-sided challenge mats that look like 4 x 4 chess boards, 10 chess pieces and a tray to keep it all together. Challenge maps come in 4 levels, ranging from beginner to expert.
The player choses a challenge map, places the chess pieces in the proper locations as indicated by the map and proceeds to move the chess pieces off the board, until only one piece left at the end.
The player must move the pieces according to normal chess movement rules. For example, bishops move diagonally, rooks move in straight lines, etc. Each move must result in a capture.
Why this game helps kids to learn basic chess skills:
- Solitaire Chess is challenging because the player must think through the entire puzzle sequence before he starts moving the pieces. The instruction booklet provides hints for each challenge map, which my 9 year old used for almost every puzzle but it didn't deter him from trying!
Children can practice typical chess moves without the added stress of competition.
- When thinking through sequences, the player must continue to re-evaluate the result of each move in order to determine a successful strategy to solve the puzzle.
ThinkFun recommends Solitaire Chess for ages 8 and up. Of course many children under 8 can already play chess, so use your judgement!
Solitaire Chess was a 2011 Toy of the Year, a Parent's Choice Gold Medal recipient, and received the Creative Child Magazine Preferred Choice Award.
The second game you will enjoy is Laser Chess. Laser Chess is a Mensa Select winner and won a National Parenting Product Award.
About Laser Chess :
Laser Chess is a two player game. Although the basic objective is similar to regular chess–protecting your king, while trying to take your opponent's king down–game play significantly diverges from regular chess. This makes it a win-win game, my kids like the game because it reminds them of chess and I like the game because it isn't too similar!
The basics of Laser Chess:
Each player has one laser piece and 12 game pieces, defenders, defenders, switches and a king. The board is initially set up according to one of five pre-sets. As players advance, they can invent their own pre-sets. During his or her turn, a player has the opportunity to make one of several types of moves, according to the movement rules. At the end of the turn, the player presses his laser token, which emits a beam. Any pieces are then removed from the board based on where the beam lands. The game ends when a laser hits a king.
Special precaution: This game uses a small laser beam and parents need to instruct kids not to stare into the beam. Please read the instruction manual that comes with the game.
Why play Laser Chess:
This chess alternative strengthens many of the same skills needed for standard chess. Players must use logical reasoning, planning and strategic thinking. As they work though possible moves and focus on how pieces are oriented towards each other and the laser token, they are engaging their visual perception skills. In addition, the novelty of the laser beam is very enticing!
Maybe I will even learn basic chess skills and learn to love chess.
Dare to dream.
But in the meantime I have two substitutes that I can enjoy!
More great games to try:
Cat Crimes (a single player logic game)
Code Master (learn coding skills offline)
Watermelon chess! (traditional abstract strategy game)