Review

Teaching through play

21 Nov 2020

Its didactic approach and friendly user interface set Learn Chess with Dr. Wolf apart from other chess learning apps. If only it could help beyond a 1400 rating level, writes Fernando Offermann.

Learn chess with Dr. Wolf
Learn chess with Dr. Wolf

There are many programmes and apps for learning chess – Learn Chess with Dr. Wolf is different. A sonorous eminence, who has a lot of knowledge to convey, while remaining polite and patient – which chess student would not wish for such a teacher? Dr. Charles Wolf not only provides you with lessons that combine knowledge and exercises. Like a real teacher, this app also plays teaching games.

During play it gives hints about its own moves and comments the moves of the learner: „You captured a hanging piece, well played.“ In this way Dr. Wolf keeps the learner attentive and motivated. At the same time it doesn’t overwhelm you. Dr. Wolf only conveys what is suitable to your level and necessary for you to understand the moves and the position. The lessons are also personalized to your level. This smart app, that is promoted by Chess.com, can do all this because it processes the moves you make and how you do in the exercises.

Different functions come with different layouts.
Different functions come with different layouts.

Its simple interface (you can check it out on this long video or that short video) catches the eye immediately, the colour palette in library brown and the friendly tone with which Dr. Wolf addresses the learner is another feature that sets this app apart from others. To some, this may seem like an inconspicuous detail. To me, a friendly interface makes a big difference. Look at mobile phones, cameras, and cars – successful companies invest a considerable proportion of their development budget in the interface between human and machine.

I appreciate the pleasant sonore tone of Dr. Wolf’s instruction and love the antiquated, study room-like setting.

As someone who was always puzzled by the cheeky, high-pitched voice of Fritz, I appreciate the pleasant sonore tone of Dr. Wolf’s instruction. While I, a dinosaur from a world of printed newspapers and books, love the antiquated, study room-like setting, my students were less impressed by the design. It seems to be a question of taste. Perhaps the app should come with a choice of at least two fundamentally different styles. The addition of Dr. Vivian Wolf, Dr. Isaiah Wolf and Dr. Regina Wolf as teachers is a step in the right direction.

Fernando Offermann is a [chess coach][1], journalist, photographer and blogger in Berlin. He will talk at the session Does the chess community tell the right stories to reach a wider audience? at [ChessTech 2020][2]. 


  [1]: https://schachtrainer-berlin.de/
  [2]: https://www.chessconference.org/
Fernando Offermann is a chess coach, journalist, photographer and blogger in Berlin. He will talk at the session Does the chess community tell the right stories to reach a wider audience? at ChessTech 2020. (photo: private)

Dr. Wolf is a great compagnon for someone who is a complete beginner or knows the rules but not much more. It introduces fundamentals of strategy and basic tactical motives. If you already have a rating of 1400 or more, you will hardly benefit. I wish that the app would aim higher. It should come with more diverse and more challenging exercises. It should be able to play you in openings of your choice.

Learn Chess with Dr. Wolf is available for Android 5 or higher and iOS 10.3 or higher. A monthly subscription is € 5,49 or $ 4,99, annual costs € 37,99 or $ 34,99.

David Joerg, the creator of Dr. Wolf, will talk in the session What’s Next in Chess Learning Technology? at ChessTech 2020.