89 of 93 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Great for kids who've got the chess bug, 6 Sept. 2006
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars
I run chess clubs at primary schools, and have seen numerous players progress on to County, National and even International standard.
One thing they all have in common is that they either play chess with someone at home ... or play on Chessmaster (or sometimes both). There's nothing more pleasing to my ears than a child saying something like "Oh, I've already done skewers on Chessmaster", when you introduce the concept to a group - then being able to do all the puzzles you give them as well! The teaching material in the 'learn' section is excellent and the puzzle positions are well thought out.
In contrast, the puzzles in the 'fun' section seem to be randomly generated and often unhelpful. In many cases the move it's looking for (e.g. when the objective is 'find a pin') isn't the best move as there's a free queen or a forced checkmate available. I would leave these well alone. (NB: These are the puzzles in the Fun->Puzzles menu option, not those incorporated into the Fun->Learn basics section, which are good.)
Another observation some have made is that it makes some very odd moves when you play against it on its lower levels (though, to be fair, the kinds of things a complete beginner making random moves might come up with). I think that this isn't a problem if the child is already picking up how to play good moves from the Chessmaster lessons or from knowledgable players at a well-run chess club, but it would be very difficult for a child to pick up how to play well from playing against the low levels on Chessmaster alone.
My tips would be to use the 2D->Expert chess set settings most of the time, and to play as much as possible with the good sections outlined above (i.e. playing using the 'Play' mode, doing the 'Learn' section and doing the Fun->Learn basics section). I like how it's self-directed, i.e. kids can choose what they want to do each particular time they play with it.