Reviewed by Vivacity

  • Advanced Chess School
  • Chess School for Beginners
  • Chess Tactics for Beginners
  • Dinosaur Chess
  • Gary’s Adventures in Chess Country
  • Opening Instructor

  • G a r y ’ s   A d v e n t u r e s   i n   C h e s s   C o u n t r y
    Author: Igor Sukhin
    Publisher: Mongoose Press
    Language: English

    Many children love to play chess; yet as parents and coaches would admit, teaching children rules of the game could be challenging. A good teacher is always looking for ways to spice up the education process.

    The author of “Gary’s Adventures…” uses an attention-grabbing story to make learning the geometry of a chess board and the chess rules an entertaining experience. Wide variety of puzzles inserted in each chapter add mind stretching element to the entertainment. Each chapter of the book is devoted to features of a single piece where multiple quizzes and puzzles reinforce learning, and make it fun. Each chapter has a large amount of learning material and it would be advisable for an instructor to break the material of each chapter into two lessons.

    In addition, the book contains double attack and checkmate puzzles. Although basic examples of such puzzles compliment the material of the book, puzzles that require two and three move solutions are too advanced for students who just learned how to move the pieces. Instead of having advanced puzzles, this book would benefit by including chapters thorough explaining basic mates: with two rooks, with a queen, and with one rook.

    Overall “Gary’s adventures …” is fun to read; children will enjoy answering multiple questions and solving puzzles along with Gary and his friends. The book will especially appeal to young children; its great value is an entertaining manner of explaining dry rules of chess and empowering children to do what they like the most – play!

    D i n o s a u r   C h e s s
  • Pentium III or equivalent
  • 128 MB
  • screen resolution 1024 x 768 or higher
  • Windows 98/2000/NT/ME/XP/2003
  • CD-ROM drive

    No additional software is required
    Language: English

    The program was produced by Universis Technology Ltd. and is being distributed by Convekta.

    Dinosaur Chess is an entertaining chess program that will keep the attention of children while teaching them the basics of chess. The program contains four modes: LEARN, PLAY, PROGRESS and DINO FIGHT.

    Most of the educational material is contained within the LEARN mode. The LEARN mode assumes absolutely zero preexisting knowledge of the game and builds the student's knowledge from the ground up. The mode consists of 11 lessons that teach the basics of how the pieces move, capture, etc. The combination of video and audio instructions makes it easy for young students to follow the lessons. At the end of each lesson a student has to complete a few exercises to demonstrate an understanding of the material. However, the limited number of exercises makes it difficult for a student to master the concepts. Adding more exercises certainly would enhance the value of the program. Aside from their chess content, the lessons have visual and audio effects that will keep kids interested.

    The PLAY mode allows student to play a game of chess against a dinosaur. The strength of the dinosaur is adjusted so that it can be beaten, but still present a challenge to the absolute beginner. Little explosions that accompany captures are another feature that younger students will surely enjoy. It would be great if the program had the option to limit the pieces in play to only those which the student has already mastered.

    The DINO FIGHT option allows students to take a break in between lessons. In this mode students are able to choose a dinosaur to battle in a simple fight. While simple enough for any child to play, this option is important for keeping children from being overwhelmed by the information learned in the lessons.

    The PROGRESS PAGE is a basic display of number of lessons learned, pieces captured, dinosaurs defeated, etc.; very easy to understand by a youngster.

    Dinosaur Chess is the first program offered by Convekta that is geared toward younger students. The program strikes a balance between entertainment and education and will keep children interested in chess. If combined with other teaching tools the program could be an excellent aid to teaching young students the basics of chess.

    To order the software, click here

    C h e s s   S c h o o l   f o r   B e g i n n e r s
  • IBM-compatible PC
  • 32 Mb RAM
  • Hard Disk 50 Mb, of free disk space
  • Windows 95/98/2000/NT/ME/XP/2003
  • CD-ROM drive

    No additional software is required
    Language: English

    This interactive course is intended for beginners, both, children and adults. Through 700, step-by-step examples, the user of this program may learn to master chess rules, solve practical examples, and test acquired knowledge by answering test questions. The program is divided into three main sections: 1) Chess Rules; 2) Development of Intellectual abilities; and 3) Playing. The material presented here was written by Grandmaster Yury Razuvaev.

    The first section explains the rules of the game and basic checkmates. It is always a challenge for beginners to find an opponent to practice how to move pieces and how to give a check mate in one. The software will fill this void.

    The second section focuses on such themes as Concentration, Attention, Imagination, Logic, Cunning and Creativity. The names of the sub-chapters (“Cunning”…) are somewhat vague. The section focuses on visualization exercises, with the goal of improving one’s ability to calculate at the board without moving the pieces. However, it seems that some of the exercises may be too advanced for a beginner.

    Finally, the third section allows students to play instructive positions against the built-in playing program. The many exercises drill students in a variety of settings like pawn or knight games, checkmate with two rooks, etc. Such exercises provide a good foundation and prepare students well for real games.

    The Chess Rules Section offers three modes: Study, Practice and Test. While other Sections offer: Practice and Test modes. Thus, a student may study instructions and examples, practice and, finally, take a test to assure that the material has been mastered before moving onto the next chapter.

    The program could be enhanced by the addition of child-friendly features, such as having an animated character read the text; it would help younger children read through the material and will allow them work independently with the software. Also, I did not like having multiple choice questions on the Practice Mode; it provides the temptation for students to guess. Working under the guidance of an experienced coach will minimize the above deficiencies. At the same time the program has a lot of very useful material, in addition to earlier mentioned exercises with individual pieces and check mate in one puzzles, exercises on winning the material or winning with an extra material (ex. king and queen vs. king a bishop) are extremely helpful on the first stages of development. I also liked exercises in the LOGIC section. The program’s interface allows users to view the statistical results of their practices and tests. The software keeps track of results from every test position under a student name; it also allows for monitoring multiple users. Coaches can use the program to train and track the progress of their students.

    Chess School for Beginners is a great aid for coaches and chess club facilitators. When coupled with the direction of a coach, the program is a good tool to introduce students to the game and prepare them for their first real games.

    To order the software, click here

    O p e n i n g   I n s t r u c t o r
  • IBM-compatible PC
  • 64 Mb RAM
  • Hard Disk 200 Mb, of free disk space
  • Windows 2000/NT/ME/XP/2003
  • CD-ROM drive

    No additional software is required
    Language: English

    An excerpt from the program’s manual: “The program features a theoretical review of all the chess openings, which are illustrated by instructive games of the chess players in XIX and XX centuries. This compact opening manual contains a detailed classification, which makes it useful to players of any level. Each opening variation is supplied with evaluations and characteristics of the key moves. The theoretic material is illustrated by classic games with detailed annotations that demonstrate the principal ideas and plans of each variation for White and Black. The material presented here was selected by the ICCF Grandmaster Kalinichenko.

    There are several aspects to learning an opening. One is the consultation of existing theory on the best variations in a particular position; another is the examination of the games of top-level players; and while the best variations and model games are invaluable, the addition of text explanations to key positions is what helps an average chess player understand the ideas behind the moves. The “Opening Instructor” is meant to convey the key ideas of a specific opening, rather than present detailed theoretical recommendations for all of the openings. Jovan Petronic, FIDE senior chess coach, wrote: “Tackling Opening Theory is almost always a pioneering task. I can’t agree that “Opening Instructor” is the perfect opening manual, as I don’t believe such can ever be written. Theory develops too fast, yet some opening conclusions can be made and this CD aims exactly for these.”

    In my youth, I was often disappointed when studying opening books. A book would provide a 10-15 moves variation and state that white’s/black’s position is better; yet I would like to see the rest of the game to better understand how one could turn the advantage into a victory. Obvious space limitation prevented authors from publishing complete games. There is no doubt that CDs, having none of the spatial limitations of conventional books, are far superior in incorporating lots of material. This CD has 336 informational texts and annotated games which cover many openings.

    The program’s interface offers extensive options, allowing the user to analyze, print, add, delete, test, search, etc. The program even allows playing specific positions against the built-in engine. Opening Instructor is for players rated between 1200-2000 and coaches who are looking for a broad introduction to a variety of openings and the ideas behind these openings, without getting lost in too many details.

    To order the software, click here

    C h e s s   T a c t i c s   f o r   B e g i n n e r s
    As the name of the software suggests, this program is intended for players rated under 900. There are five chapters organized by difficulty level; each chapter consists of multiple practice examples and a test with a total of over 1300 exercises. Help, if needed, is given in progressive increments. After an adequate practice, students may take a test to assure that the material has been mastered before moving onto the next chapter. As with other Convekta products, users can view the statistical results of their practices and tests as well as check their rating based on their results. The software keeps track of results from every test position under a student name.

    The program will not only serve well for individuals but for coaches as well. As the program allows for monitoring multiple users, coaches can use the program to train and track the progress of their students.

    The software covers various tactics from checkmates in one and two moves using each piece to basic combinations for winning a piece and other topics. There are plenty of examples and exercises to practice each of the themes. The software is an excellent tool to hone tactical skills.

    To order the software, click here

    A d v a n c e d   C h e s s   S c h o o l
    The software includes two programs:
    (A) Theory – Essential Chess Knowledge
    (B) Playing Instructive Examples

    ‘Theory – Essential Chess Knowledge’ consists of fifty five lessons divided into five chapters:
  • Utilizing a Decisive Material Advantage
  • The Three Stages of a Chess game
  • Basic Pawn Endings
  • The Fundamentals of Chess Tactics
  • Utilizing a Material or Positional Advantage

    The first chapter explains how to deliver basic checkmates. Then, the second chapter focuses on each of the three stages of the game; it explains the basic rules of the opening, what to do after an opening is over and provides some guidelines to follow during endgame. The remaining three chapters provide materials about endgame, tactics and how to convert a positional advantage into a win.

    Each Chapter offers three Modes
  • Study
  • Practice
  • Test

    Thus, a student may study instructions and examples, practice and, finally, take a test to assure that the material has been mastered before moving onto the next chapter.
    The Chess tutorial in Study Mode provides thorough explanation of the topics yet the examples which follow the tutorial could benefit from more comments; such commentary would reinforce points made during the instructional part of lessons and would make the program more effective. Also, having an animated character to read the text would facilitate reading tutorial materials by younger children and will allow them to work independently with the software.

    The second program (or part of the program) in the package is ‘Playing Instructive Examples.’ This program allows a student to play carefully selected positions against a computer. ‘Playing Instructive Examples’ is a very helpful feature, when students select a wrong continuation the program will reveal the correct plan. However, if student chooses an adequate but less efficient method, the program will allow player to proceed without pointing out the better option. Nevertheless, the ‘Playing Instructive Examples’ serves as an integral part of learning process by providing a real experience in mastering concepts learned in the ‘Theory – Essential Chess Knowledge’ part.

    Users can view the statistical results of their practice and tests as well as check their rating based on the results of tests.

    In conclusion, the software covers various topics from basic checkmates to more advanced strategies like pawn structure and utilizing an advantage in time and space. There are a plenty of examples and exercises to practice each of the themes. The software would be a good aid to chess club facilitators, coaches, and players.

    To order the software, click here