Review by Leslie Crenna, Common Sense Education | Updated December 2012
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Solitaire Chess by ThinkFun

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Practice classic chess moves in a fun, unintimidating package

Subjects & skills
  • Math

  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: Simplifies chess for novices and maintains flexibility in play.

Cons: Doesn’t capitalize on the opportunity to teach real chess strategy, testing routines, or probability concepts.

Bottom Line: A great starting point for kids who want to build chess and memory skills.

Solitaire Chess is an app that takes the basic rules of chess and combines them with classic peg solitaire: Make every move a capture and finish with just one piece. Faced with an arrangement of traditional chess pieces on a 4x4 board, kids drag pieces to capture others and test out various sequences until they find one that leaves only one piece standing. The difference from regular chess: Every move must be a capture. It's not easy; players will need to reset many times before finding the right sequence. Kids can choose Challenge or Quick Play (same puzzles, just no menu) among four difficulty levels with 100 puzzles each.

Tap and hold pieces to see where they can be moved, or use the hint button to solve puzzles one step at a time. Skip to any challenge without solving previous ones, reset all data (single user only), or replay each challenge endlessly.

As with chess, kids learn to test and remember sequences using probability skills and to consider powers and limitations for each move. With 400 total puzzles in four difficulty levels, Solitaire Chess offers plenty of challenge for any skill level. With just basic knowledge of chess moves, grade-school beginners will be able to solve the easy-level puzzles.

The tutorial splits up topics well: basic chess moves; rules for Solitaire Chess; and how to use hints, reset, and undo (kids will need to use reset routinely even though the text says "we frown" upon this). Trainer mode can be toggled off, but it's unclear what effect this has, if any. It would be nice if the game told kids when they were stuck, especially for new players. Although the app doesn’t include hints written specifically for each puzzle, students might enjoy the challenge of writing testing routines or hints that ask players to consider particular piece attributes.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Clean graphics, easy navigation, a simple game concept, the ability to replay endlessly, plus 400 puzzles across four levels of difficulty give this app a wide range of appeal.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

The app can help develop memory, probability, and strategy skills through repeated practice. Hints respond by making the correct next move, which doesn't necessarily help kids strategize.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

A tutorial helps with basic moves, Solitaire Chess rules, and how to use hints, reset, and undo. Kids are able to reset all data and replay endlessly.

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Mary F. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
University Park Elementary School
Denver, United States
OK for afterschool programs or at home
I guess this would be a fun site for students in afterschool programs, earning online rewards, or other such pursuits. It does teach the basics of chess, and it helps kids learn by resetting and replaying. There's no educational value, especially since strategies and thought processes aren't part of the learning.
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