Game Review: Chess King

Karen Luciana takes a look at Chess King, and how it can fit into a classroom of fourth graders! 

Chess King is a game of strategy and skill.  You use the same pieces as you do in regular chess, but you are not competing to checkmate your opponent.  You are trying to solve different puzzles on your own game board.  You compete by trying to solve your puzzles more quickly than your opponent solves his. Play is tricky and challenging,  because the puzzles can change depending on your moves. The object is to move your king around your own puzzle board without encountering what is known as a Chess-King Lock.

Chess KingI played Chess King with my fourth grade students who found it engaging and fun.  What impressed me right away was that they were able to set up the board and follow directions without my guidance.  To me, the ease in setting up a game and following directions are crucial to using games in the classroom.  The set-up is simple. The directions are simple. The moves that each piece make are simple.

The game, however, is deceptively simple.  And that is what makes it fun to play and fitting for classroom use.

This year, I happen to have a very bright group of 9 year olds who breeze through math and definitely need more of a challenge.  Chess King is a perfect addition to my collection of games to use during my math block.  Not only are the students able to set up and get started all by the themselves, but they stay actively engaged during play.  From their perspective, this makes Chess King a hit. From my perspective, I appreciate how the inventor designed varying level configurations that increase in difficulty.  Students will not get bored or will not be able to memorize solutions to puzzles, because there are 25 increasing levels.  So when they master an easy level, I can instruct them to start at one that is more challenging.

The teacher in me recognizes this game as one that strengthens critical and strategic thinking, skills that are necessary to reach the goals of  the common core curriculum.

For students who want to play but find even the beginning levels a bit difficult, it is easy to differentiate to make Chess King accessible to all children.  One rule of play is to complete the puzzles within 3 minutes.  For those who process at a slower pace, eliminating the timer is an option.  Another idea to make the game easier would be to eliminate one or two pieces from the starting configuration, thus making the task of  moving the king around the perimeter of the square less complicated than if all pieces were used. A third way to differentiate is to play in teams, so that players can help one another.  Still, another way is to only require the solving of 2 puzzles instead of 3 per match.

My students and I are excited to use Chess King this year.  I am pleased that this game offers different levels, and with ease I can differentiate components of the game.  It is a game that all of my students can play and will get them all thinking.  Chess King is a definite go.

Karen Lucianais a teacher who has been using games in the classroom for over 20 years.


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