Solitaire Chess

Posted on Apr 26, 2012 by Gabriel | 6 comments
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(Click to Enlarge)
Solitaire Chess is a logic puzzle/game invented by the Finnish Vesa Timonen and produced by Thinkfun since 2010. Vesa has also contributed with some of his designs for the Hanayama Cast Series, like the Cast Square or the Cast Loop, among others.

The game is for one player only and it's based on the rules of traditional chess. However, even if you don't know how to play chess, you'll most certainly enjoy the Solitaire Chess, as it's very easy to understand the rules. The objective is to capture every piece on the board, according to the challenge cards and following the movement rules, until only one piece remains on the board. There are a few key differences between the two games, but the piece movements remain the same:

- The Solitaire Chess is a simplified version with a quarter of the size of a normal chess board.
- Since the game is for one player only, all the pieces are the same color.
- Every time you perform a move, you must capture a piece.
- Pawns are not promoted when they reach the top row.
- The "check" rule is not applied for the King.
- Every challenge that includes the King will result in it being the last piece on the board (The King is never captured).

With these differences in mind, getting started with Solitaire Chess won't be a problem. Included with the game are 30 double-sided challenge cards (60 challenges in total) divided in four levels of difficulty, ten chess pieces (1 King, 1 Queen, 2 Rooks, 2 Knights, 2 Bishops, 2 Pawns), a chess board with a storage drawer and an instruction booklet with hints and step-by-step solutions.

(Click to Enlarge)

To set up a game, start by choosing one card with the desired level of difficulty and place the corresponding pieces on the board. You know you've solved the challenge when you have only one piece left. If you are left with more than one piece and there's no more possible moves, you need to reset the challenge and try again.

For someone like me that knows how to play chess, the Solitaire Chess is a surprisingly addictive game. If you're an experienced chess player and think that this game is not worth your time, you couldn't be more wrong. My only advice is to start from the harder challenges and you'll see that there will be times when you have to think very hard in order to know how to solve them. The strategy behind the Solitaire Chess is somewhat similar to the traditional chess in that you have to think many steps ahead.

I haven't played chess for a while now, maybe since I've started collecting puzzles back in 2008, but after playing a few challenges on the Solitaire Chess, I find myself totally immersed in it. The beginner and intermediate challenges are great to get the hang of it, but the serious ones start when you reach the advanced level and of course, the ultimate level, the expert. I can manage to solve the advance levels within 5 or 10 minutes, but the expert ones, can take up to 20 minutes, although I've solved a few within 10 minutes. This goes to show you that every type of player will have challenges that will certainly meet his skills, from novice to pro. After you've solved all challenges, you can try them all again after a while and see what you still remember. Great replay value.

(Click to Enlarge)

The Solitaire Chess is available at Sloyd.fi for €24.

Video: Check out Thinkfun's presentation video for the Solitaire Chess.

Closing Comments:

The Solitaire Chess is a brilliant concept and adaptation of traditional chess. It borrows the essence of chess and turns it into a fantastic and addictive puzzle/game that will be hard to put down until all challenges are solved. This is by far, in my opinion, one of the best puzzle/games from Thinkfun and also from the genre. I recommend it to anyone that is remotely interested in puzzles.

Examples of challenges (one per level of difficulty):

(Click to Enlarge) - Beginner Challenge & Last Piece

(Click to Enlarge) - Intermediate Challenge & Last Piece

(Click to Enlarge) - Advanced Challenge & Last Piece

(Click to Enlarge) - Expert Challenge & Last Piece


Unknown said...

Good review Gabriel. This looks like a lot of fun.

mhuti said...

I've seen this on Sloyd as well and this puzzle also interested me. It is definitely on my to buy list now!

Gabriel said...

Thanks Moises and mhuti ;-)
I'm sure you will like it as well. It's a great puzzle for someone that likes the way of thinking necessary to play chess.

George said...

As someone who has played a bit of chess, I thought this would be fun. The easy levels are actually much too easy for chess players. My son solved the first level in the easy, beginner and intermediate challenges in a few minutes. He became bored because the solutions were trivial. I started right off on the expert levels and solved them all in about a half hour. Some were tricky, but personally I prefer solving real chess problems, like "Mate in 3". My son who is a good chess player was totally bored by this puzzle.

Gabriel said...

You're probably too good at chess to enjoy this game, haha. I'm a mediocre player at best, so maybe that's why I liked it so much. I do understand your view, though. Many of these games from ThinkFun with challenge cards don't feel that much challenging. I guess it's because their target is mainly casual players.

omega said...

I enjoyed the game very much. It is just recreational and not intended for professional chess players.

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