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Elliott's Chess School Pawn Level 1 / Elliott's Chess School Knight Level 2 Review by Maggi Beardsley

Elliott Neff
13555 Bel-Red Road, Suite 200
Bellevue, WA 98005

Elliott's Chess School Pawn Level 1 and Knight Level 2 are the first two of six videos produced by National Master Elliott Neff, a chess champion and coach. Mr. Neff began playing chess at age 8 and has been coaching now for over 16 years. The next levels are Bishop, Rook, Queen, and King. The website claims that mastering all six levels will "easily launch a player into the top 5% of scholastic tournament players in the US!" Besides the DVD, it would be helpful to have a chessboard. The website states that children ages 4 and up could learn from the videos. A new player to chess would start with Pawn Level 1 and continue in the sequence. No previous knowledge of chess is needed. You can sign up to receive chess tips by email. There is a daily chess puzzle on the

The Pawn level introduces the game of chess, the rules of play, and the basic strategies so that a student would be able to enjoy a game of chess. Mr. Neff introduces each of the pieces and teaches the students the value of each piece as well as the best strategy for each of them. Beyond that, the DVD teaches you how to block your opponent and the four most important squares to control. Elliott's Chess School Knight Level 2 starts where Level 1 ended. It introduces checkmating strategies, planning, and tournament competition.

This DVD series would be used in a homeschool to teach logic, strategy, and game playing. We used it as an end-of-school day game between parent and child. The veteran chess-playing parent would play with the child after he had watched an episode. The rookie chess-playing parent would watch the episode with the child and then try and play a game. These DVDs are perfect for the child already interested in learning the game of chess. They were not made specifically for the homeschooler but are definitely for the self-motivated, independent learner.

Let me preface my review of the DVDs by admitting that I have tried a number of times to learn the game of chess and have never understood the game. My son, however, began reading books and playing chess with family members. And he often would want to play with the only adult home on a school day--me. So I was very glad to have Elliott's Chess School to help me begin to understand the game. Mr. Neff's presentation is friendly and informative. We were able to pick up his enthusiasm for the game while watching him teach. The segments made sense. For example, I never knew that each piece had a numerical value. I also liked that there was strategy within the first DVD. I could learn the names of the pieces, the direction in which they moved, and understand a little strategy so that I could play a game after dinner. Mr. Neff has a long list of great achievements in the chess world. He has the presence of a man who played a great chess game at an early age, and my son appreciated that.

The website states that the DVDs are for ages 4 and up. My children under age 8 could not follow along well. I'm sure that a 4-year-old who was interested in chess would do all right with a parent watching as well. The other levels are not yet available, so I have some time to practice my Level 1 and 2 moves. Chess is often seen as an extra-curricular activity, so not every family is going to choose to add chess to their homeschool.

I am very glad that Mr. Neff invested his time in making these DVDs. He is enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and thorough in his instruction. Elliott's Chess School DVDs worked for a struggling adult and an enthusiastic 8-year-old.

Product review by Maggi Beardsley, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2008