Customer Reviews: Learn to Play Chess with Fritz and Chesster 2: Chess in the Black Castle [Old Version]
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on January 3, 2005
Original Fritz and Chester (F&C), that was released less than two years ago, was a revolutionary program because it managed to combined introduction of chess rules and some very basic principles with exceptional graphics that kept children, including my 5 year old, glued to the screen and eager to play (and learn). The program was really high quality and proved to be very attractive for kids as young as 3. You can find my extensive review of the original F&C here on Amazon. Also, it is strongly recommended in my book "Chess Exam and Training Guide: Rate Yourself and Learn how to improve."

When I heard that the second installment of the program was released, I was very eager to get it to see if the makers were able to beat their original. Well, the answer is "Yes!" and the comment is "Wow!" The best thing about the F&C that it is a sequential product with minimal rehash of the real basic material (rules) that was introduced in the F&C 1. You get the same high quality graphics, new games, which are very simple, yet hilarious and with some clever underlying coaching. For example, who in the right mind would have thought of trying to split the piece of pie to feed two pigs, all on the tennis court? Yet, the way it is done, not only it is funny, but also it will eventually help the child to learn the idea of double attack on diagonal. Another funny game is the shooting the cannon-man, will develop easy understanding of the pin and skewer.

Besides the games there are plenty of training modules, each teaching some of the basic tactical and strategic principles in a very simple and entertaining way.

Could this game be better? Of course, among the things that I found questionable are long dialogs that can't be interrupted and some unnecessary technical inflexibility. Some of the training modules are somewhat dubious, but... I am sure these issues will be addressed in the future. Until the F&C 3 is on the market this program is the best that is available for children who know basic rules and ready to learn some introductory level of strategy and tactics. For a complete beginner, I would recommend to start with F&C 1. For adults eager to improve, I would suggest products by Convekta, also available on Amazon.

Also, to address concern's of prior reviewers:

To be able to switch the chess pieces from cartoon characters to regular format - There should be a picture/button just outside of the chessboard, near square "a4". Clicking on it switches the look of chess pieces.

Also, in some instances the dialogs / songs / music can be interrupted by double-clicking on left mouse button.

Best of luck!

Have you taken your "Chess Exam" yet?
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on January 6, 2006
My kids (6 and 8) are learning so much from Fritz and Chesster 2!! In fact, my 6 year old daughter started winning a few games at their local chess club after graduating to this game (from Fritz and Chesster 1).

Today I decided to play with them (since they don't like to play against each other - they're still working on that "good sportsmanship" thing), and I let them team up against me. I was viewing this as an opportunity to help them think ahead, predict moves, and protect their pieces.

However, I was the one who learned!! They surprised me again and again by reciting strategies (move your bishops and knights out, save your Queen for the real battle, don't move your pawns willy nilly, break your oponnent's wall, etc...) they had learned from this game.

They also knew the relative value of the pieces, but could see advantages to making uneven swaps sometimes. For example, they shocked me by sacrificing a bishop for a pawn in order to open a hole in my wall, which they later exploited to checkmate my king. This was a strategy that even 1 month ago would have been unthinkable to them.

Anyway, I defer to other more experienced chess players and computer users who have made specific comments about graphics, dialogue, and strategies. I am sure that at some point, my kids will move beyond this game and what it has to offer.

But for now I couldn't be happier with the Chesster and Fritz games! My kids absolutely love playing the computer games and are really learning to play chess - and not just "computer chess", but chess that lets them beat other kids at chess club - not to mention me.

I think I'm going to go demand a rematch :)
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on January 31, 2005
Even Better

I bought the first title Learn to Play Chess with Fritz and Chesster about a year ago for my son and he liked it a lot. He likes it so much that I got curious and started playing it myself. This software really taught me how to play chess so easily and in such a fun way. I did not play chess when I bought it but I do now!

When I saw on Amazon that there is a sequel available I ordered it right away and I have to say: It is even better than the first one.

If you know the basic rules of chess you will learn so much with this program so easily. There are 21 games within the game that teach you everything you need to know in order to play chess better. You learn about opening strategies, forks and skewers, pinning, castling, deflection, square rules, and, and, and...

The story is a lot of fun and makes you go through the games and learn because you really want to help free Chesster from the evil King Black (he is really evil).

Like in the first title the training mode comes with ten levels of difficulty from very easy to very difficult. But this version comes with a really nice coach function giving hints and tips while you play. Also, you can now reverse the board so that you can play with black at any time.

I also really like the graphics and the whole atmosphere the game provides. It really makes chess a game you want to play.

This program should get 6 and not just 5 stars.
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on January 20, 2007
My four-year-old son loved the first Fritz and Chesster so much I just had to get the second. I would have gotten the third installment as well, but it appears to require a DVD-Rom and more up-to-date software than he has on his computer (I suggest you always review those details before buying). Like the first, this second installment has the same quirky and artistic sensibility and lots of amusing details that keep me as interested in it as he is.

The first one seemed a lot more "British" than this one. Just one example: in the first installment, the pawns are often depicted as English villagers with low-brow accents. In this installment they are more often Texas ranchers... There were also numerous Britishisms in the first installment that were tough to understand for a child. This one is thankfully free of them. I suppose the American audience proved more lucrative than the original designers had expected....

I think the suggested age is more 6-or-above (they really should be able to read, I suppose), but with a little help even a younger child (such as my son) can get into most of the exercises and spend time with it. There are several more advanced features in this one than in the first installment. Here the focus is on basic tactics, openings, and endgame situations. So a child should really have made it through the first one before getting this. He absolutely has to know all the rules, for instance -- the second installment is not going to teach them. The first also has some wonderful exercises with just pawns or kings on the board, for instance, that have much to teach. And some fun games like a maze with a monster chasing you (to teach the rook moves) or a cannon that fires diagonally (to teach the bishop). Some of the games here (which resemble early video games, like space invaders) are a little too advanced for a four-year-old's manual dexterity....perhaps for a six-year-old's as well. But there are many things he can get into nonetheless, especially if you take the time to explain things and get them started.

Overall, I'd say that if you want to give a child an introduction to the game, nothing beats the first Fritz and Chesster. Other chess teaching video games are much darker and less helpful, really, for beginners. And if he or she likes the first installment (which is also very girl-friendly), then by all means advance to the second -- especially for kids over 6.
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on August 28, 2005
When you practice basketball, you practice one specific skill at a time. Repetition of fundamental movements leads to mastery. Chess, of course, is the same, but I have never really seen a book or program that uses this fundamental method of practice as an approach to learning the game.

What is even more special is that the drills are FUN! My son (a precocious seven years old) will practice one drill for up to an hour, trying to reach the next level in the Black Castle. My wife looks at the "video game" he is playing and asks, "Where is the Chess?" But the Chess is definitely there. I play it myself to beef up my skills. Sure I know what a discovered check is, but I've probably only used it a half dozen times in an actual game. This lets me identify the move in dozens of different tactical situations - outstanding practice. Same for forks, pins, double checks, and lots of other really good tactical plays.

I have heard the first version is great at teaching the game. My son already knew the basics quite well, so I got the second version. I think that was the right move. But for a beginner I think the first version has got to be great too after seeing how well this one works.
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on July 28, 2005
My 8 year old son, who plays competitive chess, loves this game. It teaches stategy and has good games for openings and middle games and end games. This was recommended by his chess coach and it is a way for him to learn on his own between sessions.

I would recommend this for players who know the rules, but need to strengthen their game - all done in a fun and truely learning way!
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on August 31, 2005
My kids loved the first Fritz and Chesster chess CD. They were just as pleased with the second. Although they're recommended for ages 8 and up, there is minimal reading involved, making it appropriate for even our 5 year old. I know nothing about chess, but this works to make it accessible to my kids, despite my ignorance. Highly recommend!
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on January 12, 2005
I have the first part, but it does not tell me anything in regard to Castling, but part two does have it, and explains it well, and what a difference it has made in my Chess game. With 200 games under my belt (i am still a novice) this has sure helped me stand against the Chess machine in this part 2 of Learn how to play Chess with Fritz and Chesster: Chess in the Black Castle. The format is just like the first part, it is story form, & this time Chesster the Rat gets kidnapped by King Black, and so it is up for little Bianca and little Fritz to save him from the selfish King who wants to be the only Chess master in the land. This is a clean game which will be enjoyable for parents and teens, as well as for young children.

Like i said, Castling will be explained, and it will show you how to do it in the Chess board. This is simply Awesome Chess entertainment by Viva Media.

Part 1 was made in 2003 and part 2 was made in 2004. This software program is from the country Germany.

*Message*, i find so surprising that this is so popular in some areas of the country(USA).

This part 2 is highly recommended but i too recommend both discs(meaning part 1 and 2 of learn how to play chess with fritz and chesster) so your game can improve, like it has for me. Get a couple of discs for your friends if they want to know how to play Chess.

This might sound washed up, but Chess is cool.
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on January 15, 2006
My children absolutely love this version. They wake at 5 a.m. to play before school. My son says "it's great--I've learned lots of tips, and now I'm a much better chess player."

Why a 4-star and not 5? The down-side--the game doesn't allow the player to "save" at a certain level--totally frustrates the kids when they want to return, they have to start at the beginning again.
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on July 7, 2006
Although this game maybe aimed for kids, it can still offer powerful training games in an entertaining way. Each assorted machines is like an arcade that trains each tactical aspects individually. Such as blind Chess, eye-training, memory training of chess positions are most notable that separates it from the other beginner chess training programs.

The only thing I hate bout this game is the lack of options. You can't log off to a different username without having to shutdown the program first then relog nor can you delete usernames. No BGMs (backgroundmusic)during chess matches.

Other than that, its an awesome tactical training tool. Kids really do love to play this game and is one of the best games out there that can get them into playing Chess. I think Chess can be a beneficial contribution to school learning and thinking process.
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