Read the Secret History of Chess and Learn How to Become a Chess Master

The layout for The Foolish King is adapted from the hardcover book version.

The layout for The Foolish King is adapted from the hardcover book version.

Where does chess originate from? Some people believe it’s from India. I honestly don’t know, but I think some historical context might be helpful if you want to introduce the game to your kids.

Mark Price, father of two girls, decided to write a fictional story for his daughters to tell the history of chess. The story is called The Foolish King, and it is set in a magical land where kings and dragons still rule the world. You can buy the hardcover version of the book on Amazon as soon as it’s released. But, you can definitely give the iPad app a try, because it is available today.

The Foolish King

The book is divided into 15 chapters, where the first four chapters are used to set up the main characters and the background story. The kingdom of Stur is the location where the fairy tale is told. King Marra and his advisor, Woogle the Owl, rule the kingdom wisely. The king and his people love to grow plants, and compete to see who can grow the largest and juiciest pear.

Mr. Perry is the royal gardener. He has won every planting and gardening competitions. With his kids, Holly and Pip, Mr. Perry helps set the example on how the kingdom can flourish on gardening.

Unfortunately, when King Marra passes away, his son Parip doesn’t inherit his love for gardening. Parip has a terrible temper and an awful tantrum. He and his wicked advisor, the Crow, focus only on themselves: having royal parties almost all the time and forcing people to work for them. They even punish insects for eating fruits.

As a result, the insects leave the kingdom. The crops stop growing, and the king is running out of money. To compensate, Parip sets a high tax rate for his people, and it causes his people to leave as well.

Until one day, Parip can no longer have any breakfast. He is so jealous of Mr. Perry who can still serve breakfast for his family. He takes away the pie that Holly and Pip are supposed to have, and threatens that he would come again the following day. Things are looking bad for the kingdom as Paris threatens to cut down the only pear tree left.

The book uses insects as a fabled representation of the chess pieces.

The book uses insects as a fabled representation of the chess pieces.

Ants vs Bees

While Holly and Pip are thinking of a way to save the tree, they find a magical door called The Flutter Door. This magical door allows insects to come in and out of the kingdom, and leads them into a world where no human is allowed.

Ignoring Woogle’s advice, Holly and Pip enter a new magical world where they watch a great game of chess being played by the ants versus the bees. But then they find themselves in a tough situation where they may not be allowed to return to their world, unless they can beat the insects on the game of chess.

Having no knowledge of the games, they decide to learn the objective of the game, the rules, and every other elements of the game. The book dedicates seven chapters to explain these in a very interesting and visual way. Each chapter includes a challenge where you need to help Holly and Pip move one or more pieces according to the rules. Once they have learned everything they need to know, they’re up to the challenge.

It’s the big game where Holly has to face the bees. Will she be able to win the game and return home to their own world just before Parip cuts the only pear tree left? Or, will they be forced to stay in the insects world when the Flutter Door is closed permanently?

To help kids understand how each chess piece moves, the book includes practice boards to challenge them to apply their understanding to solve the problems.

To help kids understand how each chess piece moves, the book includes practice boards to challenge them to apply their understanding to solve the problems.

Parents Need to Know

When you read the book for the first time, you will notice that the font size is too small on the iPad. This is because the iPad app shares the layout of the hardcover book. Fortunately, the developer allows you to zoom in for better readability.

The app doesn’t have any narration, so you will need to read them yourself. I would say the book is more suitable for aged 8+ who are already fluent readers.

The app has three parts in all: the story, the chess tutorial, and the actual chess game that can be played by up to two players. On the last pages of the story, you can find the solution for every practice challenge that Holly and Pip faced in the story.

The Foolish King works great without an Internet connection. It doesn’t have any third-party ads, in-app purchases, or links to social networks. As the time of writing, the app is only available for the iPad.

I've never felt this excited when following a chess match before. It's like watching a live stream with dialogs and commentaries from both players.

I've never felt this excited when following a chess match before. It's like watching a live stream with dialogs and commentaries from both players.

Things I Like

The Foolish King is a great and engaging story. Once you start reading, you will be curious to know how the story progresses. I think it’s amazing how the writer is able to explain the rules of chess in a fictional book for kids. The tutorials are great, and I honestly think those really warrant the price of the app.

But, the story doesn’t stop there. Seeing how the final game between Holly and the bees are documented, I feel like watching a live stream of an intense battle. The storyline manages to keep me interested until the end.

When you consider the fully working chess game included with the app, and the AI mode for 1-player games, this app is definitely a must-have. Kids will learn everything they need to know about the game, even castling. They learn it the fun way by using ants and bees as pawns, grasshoppers and crickets as knights, worms and slugs as bishops, and ladybirds and woodlice as castles.

I'm not much of a chess player, but I think the easy AI opponent is quite challenging, even for adults.

I'm not much of a chess player, but I think the easy AI opponent is quite challenging, even for adults.

Conclusion

The Foolish King is a great story. I feel fortunate that the writer decided to share his creativity and write this book for all families to enjoy. Kids aged 8+ would not find a more interesting way to learn chess than reading through the storyline and solving the practice boards. I’m even considering purchasing the hardcover book version for my kids when they’re old enough.

Get The Foolish King on the App Store: iPad

App was provided for our honest review.