Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Learn to Play Chess with Fritz & Chesster

Learn to Play Chess with Fritz & Chesster

Fall 2004 Software
Ages: 7 & Up
Publisher: Viva Media
Price: $29.99
Platform: windows
Every so often an edu-tainment program sneaks past the usual and jumps beyond the look-alikes to achieve the wonderfully unexpected. How Fritz and Chesster teach youngsters the honorable game of chess is just such an unexpected program. Charming, simply animated, and cleverly designed, this cartoonish masterpiece spins a tale that initiates beginners gradually, piecemeal, into the complex steps-ahead thinking chess demands.

The adventure storyline: Young Prince Fritz and his cousin Bianca are filling in for Fritz's parents, King and Queen White, who've left the castle on vacation. Taking advantage, the nasty Black King challenges Fritz to a chess duel. Fritz needs to bone up on the game's fundamentals on his way to the big match.

Unlike most chess tutorials that teach chess-board moves and strategy, this story-based instruction uses non-chess mini-arcade games and interactive tasks to prepare players. For instance, there's a fun little Sumo wrestler fight that actually shows strategic movement of the king piece, a Pacman-like game that teaches the moves of rooks, and a visit to Peasantville that gives insight into using pawns. The colorful character Kalaidoscope tags along and is moves ahead in explaining lessons and tactics.

At the "Intelligym," players get individualized lessons in the game itself as a Chessometer tests their readiness to go from light to medium to heavyweight brainiac bouts--and eventually take on the Black King. Practice games against friendly Chesster and helpful Kalaidoscope set the table for the big game!

Included with this software is a one-year subscription to, an online chess gaming site for chess players of all levels.

Don Oldenburg   ©2004 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

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