Q: How do you get a 5-year-old boy interested in chess?


Yes, it’s a Justice League chess set, and my son Sam has instantly learned chess.

I’m not the kind of dad who insists that his 5-year-old play chess, but Sam has been playing this Justice League video game, “Halls of Injustice,” in which his heroes move on a grid and make specific actions to defeat their opponents, and it’s about five time more complicated than chess, so I thought I’d give it a shot. No problem at all. He grasps the principles without a second thought. I doubt I have another Mac Pomeranc on my hands — although I would not complain if I did — but it’s a huge leap forward for the boy and, as usual, I have the Justice League to thank for it.

The players, for those curious, are:

White (let’s call them white, even though they’re silver) Superman is King, Wonder Woman is Queen, Flash is Bishop, Batman is (Dark) Knight, and Hawkgirl is Rook.  Green Lantern is the Pawn. 

Black (gold) are: Shade is King (What?  No Lex Luthor?  I guess he’s too much of a Superman villain), Star Sapphire is Queen (well, better than Cheetah, I guess) , Solomon Grundy is Bishop (Solomon Grundy?  They let him run the diagonal length of the board?  Solomon Grundy?) Ultra-Humanite is Knight, Copperhead is Rook (Copperhead, right — guy in a snake suit is going to go up against a flying alien with an indestructible weapon), and an alien robot called a Manhunter (Sam had to remind me which episode they appear in) is the Pawn.

All of this makes sense to me except Hawkgirl, who doesn’t seem to be very rook-like in her attitude.  But it was either her or Martian Manhunter, and someone had to get the axe — might as well be the creepy green guy from another planet no one likes.

Martian Manhunter’s mother: “You can change your shape, J’onn, why don’t you change it to look more like that nice Superman boy?  I’d bet you’d get your own chess piece then.”

J’onn J’onnz: “Moo-oommm…”

Captured on the sidelines, the Amazon queen steals some time with her Dark Knight.  Batman, of course, plays it cool.

John Stewart: “Wait a minute, why is the black guy a pawn?  What are you trying to teach kids?”

Superman, for some reason, looks a little put out at having been made King.  Little pouty.  Like maybe he said “Ooh!  I’ll be King!”  And then he found out that he can only move one space and everyone wants to kill him.

It’s a little weird to hear things like “Are you sure you want to move your Wonder Woman there?  Because my Copperhead could capture her and that would put your Superman in Check.  Why don’t you move your Batman there, ’cause that would block my Ultra-Humanite from capturing your Flash,” but one gets used to it quickly.


13 Responses to “Q: How do you get a 5-year-old boy interested in chess?”
  1. toliverchap says:

    That is awesome I have to get me one of those.

  2. That is seriously cool.

  3. mr_rakshasa says:


  4. ghostgecko says:

    “Wait a minute, why is the black guy a pawn? What are you trying to teach kids?”
    Seriously, what?

    Otherwise, this is a beautiful story. Need to get me one of these.

  5. dougo says:

    Having 8 Green Lanterns really drives home the point that it’s a job, not a person. But why do they all look alike?

  6. Anonymous says:

    Surely Superman’s pouting is because he SO wanted to be Queen?

    He was all for starting the game, then got the memo that, due to his responsibilities to the brand, contracts, endorsements, and the like, he will be King.


  7. Anonymous says:

    Superman has a Matt-Dillon-on-steroids look. The eyes and nose especially. So maybe that reveals something about the pouting as well, he’s thinking, another crap role?

  8. vaklam says:

    I was wondering about the John Stewart = Pawn thing, too. Then I got to the Manhunter part and it clicked since the Manhunters are the evil GLs.

    Awesome set. Sounds like an awesome kid, too.

  9. Todd says:

    Re: Pawns

    If I was hired to design the set (I was not), I would make the Green Lantern pawns, but have each Green Lantern be a different Green Lantern. One could be John Stewart, one could be Katma Tui, one could be Kilowog, one could be Tomar Re, one could be Arkkis Chummuck, so forth. And it would make perfect sense that they would go up against the Manhunters. But nobody ever asks me about these things.

  10. robolizard says:

    Solomon Grundy would have made an excellent Rook. What about that Wonder Woman villain who got trapped in the mirror?! That is a much better Hades. And Luthor being a Superman villain is no excuse, for where IS Gorilla Grodd?!

    What if the JLA had Red Tornado’s as the pawns is they all have to look the same? He gets destroyed a lot…

    Really, all of the villains [except kinda Grundy] are B-List… where’s Sinestro?! Luthor!? Anyone will do…

    Also they should have made League [both villain and hero] characters have teams [like the question and huntress a bishops, Batman and Green Arrow as Knights…]

    Or am I getting to Newsarama-Fanboyish about a chess set?

    Congrats about the chess playingness btw… the first few years are always the best…

    • Todd says:

      To be fair to the designers of the chess game, the set came out during the first season of Justice League so they were limited in their choices of characters. There were only seven members of Justice League and decisions obviously had to be made. On the basis of seniority (and popularity), I would have guessed that Hawkgirl would be the pawn, but that’s me.

      Chess tradition also plays against having the bishops, rooks and knights playing in “teams,” so I can hardly fault them there. As for the bad guys, I can only point to “Injustice For All,” the episode which introduces the Injustice Gang, which includes all of the bad guys here (as well as Cheetah, who, like, who cares, and also Lex Luthor and the Joker, who, presumably, were licensed elsewhere at the time), in addition to the Manhunters from “In Blackest Night.”

  11. Anonymous says:

    superman should be a pawn

    superman should be a pawn

    everytime when there’s a big giant monsterous being thingie appear and causes chaos to humanity, Superman will be flying towards them to try to get the first hit!

    and yeah, Superman always get the first hit and being thrown back to crush a few buildings. After that, we know how big the damage the big giant monsterous being thingie can do to humanity. Thanks to Superman!

    He is our Super “Tanker”, Boo-Yah!!