Learn Chess

Game review by
Christopher Healy, Common Sense Media
Learn Chess Game Poster Image
Great chess instructor, but a demanding opponent.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

In addition to the general idea that brainy, challenging games can be a lot of fun, Learn Chess also repeatedly enforces the "practice makes perfect" lesson.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The ghost who serves as the game's chess tutor is generally likable and mostly a postive, constructive teacher. It would be better, however, if he didn't occasionally veer into negative criticism and use words like "stupid."

Ease of Play

Despite having three difficulty levels, the Artificial Intelligence (AI) opponents are quite challenging on even the easiest of those levels. This is no Mickey Mouse chess course -- the game wants you to get really good.

Violence & Scariness

Though the chess tutor is mostly constructive, he occasionally uses negative words like "stupid" to describe a chess move. He will sometimes mock a move with a quip like, "That was a banana move." Also, there is one unnecessarily low-brow joke told by a parrot, which equates a pirate's going to the bathroom to his ship being bombed.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this instructional chess software covers pretty much every teachable aspect of the game. Learn Chess is a very demanding course of study, despite its fun, cartoony environments. Kids will need a lot of patience and a long attention span, but they can learn a  lot about the game of chess if they do. Two players can compete against one another wirelessly, but only with two DS units and two copies of the game.

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What's it about?

Believe it or not, LEARN CHESS, actually does have a storyline. A pirate has stolen the treasured chess pieces of a ghostly king, and will only return them if he is bested in a chess match. The ghost-king is bound to his castle, so he decides to train you, the player, to play chess and become good enough to beat the pirate and earn back his stolen chess pieces. In the course of the tutoring, the ghost will run you through many lessons and present you with several challenges or quizzes for each. In between lessons, you are free to explore the haunted castle, which is full of point-and-click surprises.

Is it any good?

Learn Chess seems about as thorough as any instructional chess game aimed at children can be. The colorful and playful environments offer a much welcomed break from the instensely cerebral chess lessons. Learn Chess is only appropriate, though, for kids who have the patience to really absorb the lessons and learn the strategies involved in playing chess. The ghostly tutor won't even allow you to attempt a shot at beating the pirate captain until he thinks you're ready. You've got to beat him first -- and that could take a while.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the value of learning chess. What skills can one learn from the game other than simply being good at the game of chess itself? How can you apply ideas and stategies you learn from chess in other aspects of life?

  • Parents can also use the game to talk about delayed gratification and the importance of practice. It is unlikely that even on the easiest level, children will beat the computer in their first few attempts -- but practice can allow them to eventually do so.

Game details

  • Platforms: Nintendo DS, Nintendo DSi
  • Price: $19.99
  • Available online? Not available online
  • Developer: Dreamcatcher
  • Release date: January 4, 2010
  • Genre: Strategy
  • ESRB rating: E for Comic Mischief
  • Last updated: November 11, 2020

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