Nearly 20 years ago, I wrote about a chess-teaching program aimed at children ages 8 and up. It used various arcade-like games to teach kids how chess pieces moved and captured. It was a new concept in learning chess for beginners.
The program originally appeared in 2003 and was sold on a CD-ROM under the title of “Learn to Play Chess with Fritz and Chesster.” Children’s Technology Review wrote about it when it first appeared, saying, “clever review of the chess pieces and moves,” and concluded with: “This is the best children’s chess program on the market.”
Chesster was a Cheshire rat who – as you may guess from the odd spelling of the name – was also a teacher of chess. His two students were Fritz, the son of King and Queen White, and Bianca, Fritz’s cousin.
The program was immensely popular. And kids who learned to play chess with Chesster now have children of their own – and some of those children are learning chess from Chesster.
Alas, Chesster is better at chess than he was with keeping up with changing computer times. Operating systems on computers advanced, but Fritz and Chesster didn’t keep up with the times. Parents lamented that their chess teacher of yesteryear wouldn’t work on their desktops. Or laptops. Or tablets.
That is starting to change. First, two versions are available for the Mac, iPhone and iPad from the Apple App Store. Chess: Fritz and Chesster Lite is a free version. The full-featured version is Chess game: Fritz and Chesster, which sells for $22.99.
And at the middle of this past week, a Kickstarter project started, with a goal of raising $6,100 by June 24. As of Friday, the project had raised just over $4,100.
Supporters of the project can pledge monetary support with no reward for about $13. The support will help finance Chesster and Fritz chessboards and chess sets.
For about $75, supporters get a choice of a chessboard game or a wall-mounted game, including 34 pieces (with an extra set of kings and queens for each side) in a gift box.
Other donation levels are available. For details, use this link to reach the Kickstarter website: www.tinyurl.com/ChessterFritz.
The Kickstarter site notes: “With Fritz & Chesster, chess becomes a fairytale as well as a board game. The game comes in a beautifully designed box, making it an ideal gift. Plus, you get access to the Fritz & Chesster Facebook group, in which new puzzles are constantly being published.”
The teaching app is a well-designed program that makes learning fun. It remains, fortunately, with the same backgrounds and characters as it appeared nearly 20 years ago. It wasn’t broken back then; they didn’t fix it now. In other words, it’s just as I remembered it when I encountered Chesster and Fritz all those years ago.
The character pieces used in that program are turned into real chess pieces in the collection of chess sets available through the Kickstarter program. (In addition to the regular board set and wall-mounted set, there is also a magnetic travel set being offered.)
Any real chess set will do, of course, when re-creating a real-time match from the app. It’s nice, however, to have the pieces in the app duplicated by the pieces on the board.
As I noted in a previous review of the Fritz and Chesster series, the app can be used to teach very young children the basics of chess – some of those children have been as young as 3.
But if youngsters need a little help, parents and grandparents will likely find that Chesster, and his buddy King Kaleidoscope, make it fun and interesting for them as well.
Lonnie Brown can be reached at [email protected].