Coach Jay’s Chess Academy: App Review
We haven’t done a ton of app reviews over the past couple years. I’m not sure about MaryAnn and Christina’s reasons for not doing any, but for me, I rarely buy an app. There are so many ways that my kids like to use their limited screen time, that they are typically satisfied with the free ones to play around with every few days or weeks.
One of the few apps that we have purchased and have found incredibly helpful is Coach Jay’s Chess Academy. Coach Jay is a chess coach in California who has been teaching chess to kids K-12 since 1993. This app he created includes over 150 lessons and 1250 puzzles, and presents them in such a way that kids could actually begin to learn chess through this app, and progress along to an intermediate level by the end.
There are a few different versions.
Coach Jay’s Chess Academy (free version): This version allows you to get a feel for the layout of the app. With this one, you get to play through the white belt 1, and by the end, you’ll know whether you want to buy the full version or not. You will.
Coach Jay’s Chess Academy (in-app purchase): This is still the free version, but you can just unlock the rest of the belts with a $4.99 in-app purchase. While the purchase unlocks the rest of the levels (White Belt 2 and 3, Yellow Belt 1 and 2), but you still have to do them in order.
Coach Jay’s Chess Academy, Education Edition for Schools and Clubs: This edition allows students to jump around the levels instead of doing them in order. Also, there are not links to the internet, which is important in some academic settings.
Onto the contents of the app.
In each belt level, Coach Jay covers 5 areas: checkmates, defense, endgame, strategy and tactics. As students move through each section, they are given a little instruction mixed in with puzzles, and it’s the perfect mixture of both. It keeps kids learning and engaged. After students master one belt level, they move to the next level, again with more advanced learning in the same 5 areas.
My son, Asante, worked through this app over the course of a few weeks, and while the website says that it can take a young player up to a USCF rating of 1000 or 1200, it didn’t quite work for him (he’s stuck around a 700-730 rating). The app certainly helped Asante some, but we didn’t see quite the increase in his rating that we were hoping for (of course, this could be because while he LOVED this app, he didn’t do hardly anything else outside of it in terms of practicing. Life lessons, people). We came across a couple glitches (we bought the app right after it came out), but they’re all fixed now.
As for me, a non-chess player, it was tremendously helpful! I began to better understand how the moves worked together, as well as ways to defend my pieces. The game of chess began to make more sense to me, and after working through some of the levels, my mind has begun to more quickly recognize better potential moves, defenses, etc.
Ultimately, it’s a great app. It’s certainly one of a kind and the best chess app for kids out there that we’ve found so far. So, if you have a chess lover in your house, go download the free version and see what you think! You can also follow them on Facebook for updates and helpful articles.
Note: We purchased the regular version ourselves, but for the sake of the review, Coach Jay provided a complimentary copy of the Education Edition so that I could have my own to learn and play through. Thanks Coach Jay!