When Timberdoodle approached me about reviewing Solitaire Chess, I knew I was the wrong person for the job. I don't play Chess and I doubt I ever will. However, I do have a 12-year old son who loves Chess. In fact, he harangued me for the better part of two years to read his favorite 200-page Chess manual so that I would be able to play with him. I do like to read, but really... a Chess manual? I knew I'd found the right reviewer for the job!
The goal of Solitaire Chess is a logic puzzle very similar to peg solitaire (or Hi-Q) in which one moves and jumps pieces until only one piece remains on the board. The difference with Solitaire Chess is that these moves must be made using only traditional chess moves.
Using one of 60 different challenges (30 double-sided cards slide into the game board) and up to 10 chess pieces, the player can choose the difficulty level and the pace. The manufacturer suggests the game for ages 8 to adult and I would agree that the game is designed for almost anyone with the attention span and interest. My 8-year old and 10-year old were able to understand and complete the first level easily after their brother explained it to them. (We don't know how they would have done on subsequent levels because it has been in the Professor's fascinated hands ever since.)
The game is extremely portable and holds all cards and pieces securely in the plastic game board. The Professor has already taken it with him on car rides and to Grandma's house. He is about midway through the levels, finding many of the beginning levels very easy, and has enjoyed the increasing challenge. I was surprised a couple days ago by a loud "YESSSS!!!!" echoing from his bedroom as he stepped forth with a hearty fist pump. "Everything all right, son?" "Very much so! It's taken me a couple days of thinking but I am finally victorious over that level!"
I immediately dragged him downstairs to help me finish this review...
So, you really like the game?
Professor: Definitely. We should buy it for someone for Christmas.
But I don't think most people in our family enjoy Chess as much as you do.
Professor: No, no...They don't have to like Chess. It's different even though it uses Chess moves. Our family members play Hi-Q all the time and this is like that but much more interesting. In fact, I think it could really help people to like Chess more because it would help them develop better skills while not actually requiring them to play a full game.
What specifically do you like about Solitaire Chess?
Professor: I like the way it helps me to be aware of every piece on the board and its capabilities. Every piece and pawn has a specific role in every move, and having made it to the advanced level, I can say that one must know well how each piece functions in order to win. Anyone starting to learn the basics of chess can figure out the beginner puzzles while the later puzzles are definitely more challenging.
Would you recommend this game to anyone?
Professor: I would heartily recommend this game to anybody who has an interest in chess (however slight that interest might be). If you definitely do not like chess but like other solitary games of skill, you still might enjoy this. If you have a loved one who is interested in learning chess, this is not a starter program but certainly a great supplement. If you or anyone you know would like to
learn chess, I would recommend the book and kit Once a Pawn a Time from Timberdoodle. I have not used this set but have heard much good about it.
The Professor then graciously allowed me to take the following brief video of him conquering an
early level of the game (I believe it's level 10 or 11). My apologies for the horrendous quality of the video. (Professor begins his explanation following Crash's audible and enthusiastic outburst on the beautiful October weather.)
You can find more information on Chess Solitaire at Timberdoodle's website along with a fantastic selection of single player games and family and educational games.