Chess Lessons From a Tutor in Murray, Utah

The chess author Jonathan Whitcomb, living in the Salt Lake Valley, is now offering private and group lessons in the royal game. Inquire at the Utah phone number shown below or by email contact. Whitcomb is the author of the book Beat That Kid in Chess. Although that book is for the raw beginner, he can tutor students of a wide range of chess skills, including tournament players rated over 1500 by the United States Chess Federation.

Chess Lessons – Locations

  • At your home (if in approximately the central area of Salt Lake Valley) or:
  • At a library in central SLV or:
  • At a public park in central SLV

How Much do Lessons Cost?

The standard tutoring charge is $25 per lesson, which usually last an hour (a small child may have difficulty with a session of a whole hour). No transportation charge is added unless the location is many miles from Murray, Utah. The first session, however, is free; it allows you to judge how chess lessons can benefit you.

Age of the Student

Whitcomb has instructed persons of many ages: adults, teenagers, children. The desire of the student is most important: What the student wants to accomplish in chess. Age makes little difference in how well a person can improve in chess playing abilities.

Goals of This Chess Teacher

Jonathan Whitcomb encourages the organization of free chess tournaments in the Salt Lake Valley, for players of all ages and skill levels. He hopes that these tournaments will be both USCF-rated and non-rated competitions. (Rated tournaments require membership in the United State Chess Federation.) He welcomes participation from various chess clubs and schools in Utah.

Whitcomb encourages mental exercise, and chess is a fun way to strengthen the mind and improve concentration. Like some of his associates in chess competition, he believes that concentrating on playing the royal game can even potentially increase a person’s life span.

He also encourages players to meet others who enjoy playing chess. The social benefits of human competition cannot be matched by just playing with a computer.

after tournament early in 2016

A friendly ending of a chess tournament in Salt Lake City early in 2016



Salt Lake Valley Chess Tutor

He [chess tutor Jonathan Whitcomb] can teach a student of almost any age and playing ability, and this includes players rated up to 1500 by the United States Chess Federation.

Guidance from a qualified chess tutor in Utah

The chess-book author Jonathan Whitcomb, of Murray, Utah, now offers his expertise in chess instruction to residents of the Salt Lake Valley, especially the central communities closer to Murray.

Chess tutoring in Southern California

Gabriel E., our super-star chess student from Santa Monica, was recently profiled in the [local newspaper] here.


Why Playing Chess is Good for You

The two best rewards you’re likely to gain from concentrating on games of chess are simple: improved social life and improved intellectual capacity. Carelessly rushing through a chess game against a computer, however, is unlikely to help you much.

One Amazon customer-reviewer began her comment on a chess book this way:

Studies show that the study of chess increases your IQ, prevents Alzheimer’s, exercises both sides of the brain, increases your creativity, improves memory, increases problem-solving and reading skills, improves concentration, teaches planning and foresight, and more. Who doesn’t want that for themselves and their loved ones?

The grandmaster Susan Polgar has said, “According to research, test scores improved by 17.3% for students regularly engaged in chess classes, compared with only 4.6% for children participating in other forms of enriched activities.” Other research and testing, in a number of countries around the world, have given us similar results for the benefits of competing in the royal game.

The grandmaster Yasser Seirawan has said, in his chess book Winning Chess Strategies, “From the beginnings of human history, people have played games. And of all the games in the world, chess is aptly known as the Royal Game . . . Things survive the test of time because they are needed. . . . Tools like the spoon have survived. They have evolved to perfectly fit a need. . . . Chess is the perfect tool for developing the mind.”

If you have a chess club in your community, or in a nearby community, you know where to go to exercise your mind. Yet if you just know one person to keep company with, and that person would enjoy a game of chess, you know what to do.



Chess Book for a Teenager

Many tens of thousands of books have been written about chess, over the centuries . . . These publications can be divided into several general types, including the following: Phase of  the game of chess (opening, middle game, end  game), Basic instruction (rules, tactics, strategy)

Chess Book for Beginners

Three reviews:

  • How to Beat Your Dad at Chess (for more advanced players)
  • Beat That Kid in Chess (for the beginner)
  • Chess Tactics for Kids (for more advanced players)

The Best Chess Book for Beginners

“This is a book for the raw beginner, so we’ll not dive into handicapped  pawn structures, namely doubled pawns. Keeping to the basics . . .”


Review of Some of the Best Chess Books

The following five chess books were chosen, for this review, not for head-to-head competition but for comparing different skill levels of chess players. Each of these books may be among the best ones for each level.

  1. Chess for Children – for the totally ignorant child – very popular
  2. Beat That Kid in Chess – for the raw beginner (whatever age)
  3. 1001 Chess Exercises for Beginners – not so easy for novices
  4. Chess Tactics for Kids – for the post-beginner (all ages)
  5. How to Beat Your Dad at Chess – even if you’re an orphan

How is any publication a “best chess book?” That’s too deep a subject to cover well in this post. What does the reader want from the book? That’s easier to answer. Whatever the reader knows before picking up the book, whatever that person’s skill in chess—that plays a big part in what he or she wants to get from it.

We’ll start at the bottom: the child who knows nothing about the rules of the royal game. We’ll then move up to the player who knows almost nothing except the rules. We’ll continue until we arrive with a competitor who has performed at the equivalent of an average level for an average chess tournament.


Five chess books compared


Chess for Children

This looks like the only chess book, among these five, that has a title that closely relates to who it’s for. But even on that score, the title would have been more informative with “Chess for Small Children.” It really is for small kids, a book that a twelve-year-old would be embarrassed to be seen reading.

With that said, Chess for Children now appears to be the most popular publication of its kind on Amazon, and that says a lot considering about 100,000 books may have been written on chess. Its playful cartoon images may delight small children, and the rules of the game are laid out clearly and simply.

"Chess for Children" book

One Amazon reader-reviewer has said, “I have seen countless books on chess aimed at youngsters over the years, but this is probably the nicest introduction I have ever seen . . .” Be aware, however, that this chess book has many pages devoted to just teaching the rules, so it’s best for the young child who wants to learn how to play. For little kids who already know the rules, other books could be a better choice.


Beat That Kid in Chess

This could be the best chess book for the early beginner, the person who already plays the game but just wants to win, or at least to win more often. It uses a new method of chess instruction: nearly-identical positions (NIP). This is to teach the novice to see a position more like an advanced player would see it, evaluating the possibilities with precision. The goal is to save the reader from the embarrassment of losing a dozen games or so against other novices, while learning the principles that are taught in Beat That Kid in Chess.

nonfiction paperback book on chess

You might be mislead by the cover. This book is not filled with cartoons for little children. In fact the reading level is more for teenager and adults, perhaps for older children as well. Like other chess books here examined, the title relates to marketing: It’s to train you in defeating any beginner of any age.


1001 Chess Exercises for Beginners

This chess book appears better for the advanced beginner rather than the early beginner. One Amazon reader-reviewer said, “This . . . simply fails to deliver. Although it was ostensibly written for beginners, only the first three chapters . . . are suitable for that audience. The remainder of the book is too advanced for the true beginner.”

Nevertheless, this chess book is about tactics and that’s dearly needed for the advanced-beginner and the intermediate player.

"1001 Chess Exercises for Beginners"

1001 Chess Exercises for Beginners

This may be better for the reader who has already mastered the concepts in the previously reviewed book (Beat That Kid in Chess).


Chess Tactics for Kids

The grandmaster Murray Chandler has another successful title with Chess Tactics for Kids. It has “50 tricky tactics to outwit your opponent,” although that subtitle appears more like something a non-chess-playing editor or publisher might have chosen. Grandmasters probably use words like “defeat” or “win” rather than “outwit.” Regardless of that detail, this may be the best chess book for the intermediate level tournament player or average chess-club member.

Be aware that this is not the best book for a raw beginner. In addition, the title may be misleading, perhaps even more so than is the title of Beat That Kid in Chess. The concepts in Chess Tactics for Kids may be grasped by older children and by a few very young prodigies, but the reading level is beyond that of many children. Barnes & Noble says “10 to 13 years” old.

chess book by a grandmaster

“Tricky Tactic 24” is noteworthy, not found in many chess books. This tactic the author calls “desperado sacrifice.” It may be well known to class-A players and experts, but this can be important for lower-rated tournament competitors to learn.


How to Beat Your Dad at Chess

This chess book is similar to another one written by Murray Chandler: Chess Tactics for Kids. These two hardbacks are similar in content, but complementary, and they’re about the same length. But How to Beat Your Dad at Chess is devoted almost entirely to checkmates, a very important but narrow focus.

chess book written by Murray Chandler

How to Beat Your Dad at Chess is not really about putting your father in his place. It can be useful for many players who have been too-often defeated by a competitor of any relationship or non-relationship. This chess book, however, is not for the raw beginner and it can be too daunting for the advanced beginner as well. It may be most useful to the average tournament player.


Whether purchased for a gift or for yourself, these five chess books are worth considering.



Best Chess Book for Beginners

If you know the chess rules but almost nothing about how to win, this book is for you.

Four Chess Books for Beginners

A brief search on Amazon, for chess books, can give one the impression that there’s an unlimited number of them, including publications for novices.

Three Chess Books Reviewed

  1. How to Beat Your Dad at Chess
  2. Beat That Kid in Chess
  3. Chess Tactics for Kids

Beginner Chess (online)

Lessons for the novice to learn online

Learn to Play Chess

Different levels, with a variety of concepts (online)


Pawn End Games

With chess books, those on the end game are greatly outnumbered by opening books. For publications that do cover end games, positions involving pawns are most common. Let’s now consider the simplest pawn end games.

White to move and win

Diagram-1: White to move

The above position shows how important it is for the side with the pawn to put the king ahead of the pawn before it advances toward the queening square. Two moves win for White in Diagram-1: Ke6 and Kf6. Moving the pawn, however, would allow the defender to get a draw by the following moves:

  1. e6?       Ke7
  2. Ke5      Ke8!
  3. Kd6     Kd8
  4. e7+      Ke8
  5. Ke6     draw by stalemate

From Diagram-1, let’s look at the correct way to win, using the move Ke6, which takes control with king-opposition. The black king must move to the right or left. We’ll look at the position after Black then moves Kd8.

chess end game with one pawn

Diagram-2: White to move

Black has just moved Kd8 in Diagram-2. When White now moves to Kf7, that king will be protecting the queening square e8. The black king will then be unable prevent the pawn from advancing forward until it reaches the eight rank, becoming a queen.

The above method is not the only way for a pawn to be successfully advanced to the queening square, but it’s probably the first method that should be learned by a beginner. Chess books and online resources are abundant for this most simple type of end game.



Chess End Games

Not many end-game chess books give much attention to the queen versus rook. Consider three books (none of which had beginners in mind, apparently)

A Queen Versus Rook Corner Defense

We are indebted to Derek Grimmell for his studies and his videos that explain how this works.

The Best Chess Book for Beginners

Some publications are for the advanced tournament player, but more of them are for average or intermediate competitors. Others books are for post-beginners or for novices.


Chess Books for the Novice and Post-Beginner

Three Chess Books Compared

Two of these are hardback publications by Murray Chandler, a grandmaster who was (several times from 1987 to 1988) rated as the 29th best chess player in the world. The third book is a paperback by Jonathan Whitcomb, a nonfiction writer who has tutored chess beginners starting in the mid-1960’s. Let’s review what these three books contain.

How to Beat Your Dad at Chess

127 pages; suggested retail $16.95; published in 1998

chess book written by Murray Chandler

Like the other two chess books, it has a title and cover image that could be misleading. It’s not really dedicated to teaching you how to win a game of chess against your father, or even against a competitor who is older than you. Like the other two publications (which also show one or more kids on the cover) it’s not about a child or teenager playing the royal game. It does resemble the other two books in teaching you to win chess games.

The back cover includes the following:

This is a chess book for everyone, from eight to eighty, beginner to master. In a clear, easy-to-follow format it explains how the best way to beat a stronger opponent (be it a friend, clubmate — or Dad!) is by cleverly forcing checkmate. Delightful and instructive positions from real games are used to show the 50 Deadly Checkmates that chess masters use to win their games.

Before analyzing that paragraph from the back cover of How to Beat Your Dad at Chess (it’s not without error), consider what a chess-book-author competitor has said about this publication by Murray Chandler:

“For many tournament chess players with USCF ratings around 1000-1900, this book may be the most practical and valuable one they could have in their hands. In addition, some players with ratings below and above that range could benefit from a careful study of How to Beat Your Dad at Chess. I say this as an author of a chess book that appears, on the surface, to directly compete with Chandler’s book, for I myself have a copy of HBYDC and I must be honest. The great majority of my tournament games, when I was competing many years ago, were with players rated between 1000 and 1900, (when I was near the top of that range) so I speak from experience.” Jonathan Whitcomb, author of Beat That Kid in Chess.

Yet despite that acclaim, Murray’s book is best for the post-beginner (with adequate over-the-board playing experience) rather than for the truly inexperienced novice.

Getting back to the paragraph from the back cover of How to Beat Your Dad at Chess, the promoters got carried away on three points. To be blunt:

  1. It’s far from ideal for chess masters
  2. It’s far from ideal for low-level chess beginners
  3. It’s far better for helping you defeat a player who is similar to you in strength rather than for helping you defeat a stronger opponent

Notice the last few words of that paragraph: “. . . that chess masters use to win their games.” Surely that statement is true, that masters use those tactics (found in this book) to win chess games. So why would those masters need this book? In general, most of them would have limited use for How to Beat Your Dad at Chess, for many of the patterns are already known by many masters.

Now for chess beginners. Of those millions of players who could be called beginners, few indeed would compete well with tournament players rated around 1000. Novice players generally lack the calculating skills needed to assimilate the combinations that abound in How to Beat Your Dad at Chess. In fact, for some beginners, the challenge of trying to foresee those tactical finesses and failing to learn them quickly—that could discourage them from pursuing the study. For the lowest-level novice in particular, the player who knows how to move pieces but not how to win—that reader should find a different chess book, one that is truly centered on helping the lowest-level beginner.

Now for the third point. How to Beat Your Dad at Chess gives a player the ability to begin to win more games than he or she loses against competitors who are similar in strength. When compared with many other good chess books, it compares poorly regarding preparing you to beat a player who is clearly stronger than you in chess abilities. Chandler’s book is dedicated to training the reader in fifty tactical patterns (almost all of which are checkmates, but not quite all fifty of them). This requires an explanation.

Have you ever played several games of chess with a friend who won every game or almost every game? If the win-to-lose ratio was at least four-to-one, then your friend was clearly stronger than you in chess ability. One normal course of a game, when it does not end in a draw, is as follows: One side gains an advantage which is pressed forward until that advantage is increased to the point that checkmate is eventually attained. The key is in the word eventually, so let’s look deeper.

The process of gaining, maintaining, and increasing one or more advantages—that is the key to winning most chess games. Checkmate, or the resignation of the opponent, usually comes at the tail-end of the struggle, at least with an average game between players who have advanced beyond the raw-beginner stage. How to Beat Your Dad at Chess gives the reader few clues about how to gain an advantage, maintain the edge, and increase it or add to it, leading to a position that allows you to checkmate your opponent. If this is the only chess book you ever study, don’t expect to win four out of five games against a friend who had previously beaten you by that margin. That will not happen.

With all that said, How to Beat Your Dad at Chess can be a valuable tool, especially when combined with other tools like experience in competition and other good chess books.

Beat That Kid in Chess

194 pages; suggested retail $13.40; published in 2015

nonfiction paperback book on chess

This is promoted as an ideal chess book for the “raw beginner,” the player who knows the rules of the game but hardly anything about how to win. It uses the new chess-training method of “nearly-identical positions” in training the beginner’s tactical ability, perhaps the first chess book to use this method regularly.

Like the other two books reviewed here, it’s not especially for any particular age group or for learning to win games against any particular age of opponent. Unlike the other two books, this one is only for the “early beginner.” Yet if the reader has a little experience in winning one or two chess games (against another “early” beginner), this book might still be a better choice than the other two books that are reviewed here.

Online details on Beat That Kid in Chess abound on many sites, so no more needs to be said here on this chess book for beginners.

Chess Tactics for Kids

128 pages; suggested retail $16.95; published in 2003

"Chess Tactics for Kids" book

This chess book by Murray Chandler resembles his earlier publication (How to Beat Your Dad at Chess), not just in the cover but in the contents. It appears to be written as a complement to the earlier one. It also appears to be ideal for the mid-level competitor, far better than for the master or for the common novice.

From the back cover:

Chess enthusiasts of all ages and levels will find this book an instructive delight. In a simple, easy-to-understand format it explains how to bamboozle your chess opponents using commonly occurring tactical motifs.

From the Introduction:

The best way to confound and confuse a chess opponent is by using tactics — a forcing sequence of moves that gain an advantage. . . . It is written as a complementary sequel to my previous book, How to Beat Your Dad at Chess, which covered checkmating patterns.

For those chess players who have already advanced beyond the beginner phase, Chess Tactics for Kids may be even more valuable than Chandler’s earlier book. For those who have adequately advanced in their skills to be able to win more games than they lose against beginners, perhaps the best choice is to study both of these chess books by Murray Chandler, for they really do complement each other well.



Three Chess Books for Real Beginners

I’ve been promoting my own chess book (for novices) for several weeks now: Beat That Kid in Chess. So why would I mention two competing books on the royal game, both of them for beginners?

A Chess Book for Beginners

The book you really need to quickly prepare to win chess games, a revolutionary new way to come to know those simple basic tactics

Chess Beginner – to learn to win

The first sentence of the first chapter in the book ‘Beat That Kid in  Chess’ makes it clear: “What’s the most important thing to see in  chess? See how to get an immediate checkmate.” In other words,  when you play a game of chess, when it’s your turn to move, look at  the possibility of checkmating your opponent’s king . . .

Chess Instruction for Beginners

Almost entirely about the rules of the ancient royal game of chess

New Chess Book for Beginners – Beat That Kid in Chess

Have you had trouble with a kid who was too smart, beating you in a game of chess almost before you knew what hit you? I can probably help you teach that kid a lesson, but . . .


Beat That Kid in Chess - How to Beat Your Dad at Chess

Two apparently similar chess books (one on left is for raw beginners)


End Game of Queen Versus Rook

Let’s examine a particular corner defense in the queen-vs-rook chess end game. We are indebted to Derek Grimmell for his studies and his videos that explain how this kind of endgame works.

a corner defense in this end game

Diagram-1: Black to move (White threatens to win the rook soon after Qa4+)

With black to move, in the above position, there is no reasonable way for the rook to attack either the white king or the queen. Moving the rook to be a knight’s move away from the defending king is often good, so black plays Rb5.

Notice that any king move, in Diagram-1, loses quickly. Ka8 allows the pin Qe4, with mate on the next move. Kb6 loses the rook to a skewer: Qb4+. Ka6 loses the rook almost as quickly after Qa4+. Black is better off playing Rb5 instead a king move.

white to move in this queen-vs-rook end game

Diagram-2: White to move

After black moves the rook, we have the position in Diagram-2. What can white do? If Qa4+, then the black king escapes to b6, towards the center. If Qc7+, then Ka6 leaves the white king almost trapped on the edge.

White has two moves worth looking at in Diagram-2: Put the queen on the long diagonal with Qe4 or make a rosette, for a rosette is often challenging for the player with the move. But in this position Qe4 allows Rc5+, followed by Kb7, getting the defending pieces further away from the corner.

Let’s look at Qd6, creating a rosette pattern, as Mr. Grimmell calls it.

A rosette pattern in this end gameDiagram-3: Black to move

In this particular rosette, black cannot move Rb6 because the rook would be pinned by Qd4, and black would quickly lose (Ka8 would then fail to Qa4+ and Ka6 would allow White to play Kc7, threatening both mate and the rook). Black cannot move Rb7, in Diagram-3, without quickly losing the rook to Qa3+ and then Qb4+.

white wins this end game

Diagram-4: Black just moved Rh5

White now has a way to prepare to shield the white king and to threaten mate at the same time. Do you see it? It’s Kc7!

White moved Kc7 in this queen vs rook endgame

Diagram-5: White moved Kc7!

White now threaten a mate-in-two beginning with Qa3+ and another one beginning with Qb6+. Black has not reasonable choice except to check the white king with Rh7+.

white must moved Kc6 in this queen-vs-rook end game

Diagram-6: Black moved Rh7+ and white then moved Kc6

We now see what Grimmell calls the Javelin position, in Diagram-6. Black has the move but what could work better than Rb7, which allows the Philidor position after Qa3+, Kb8, and Qa5? The Philidor is well known in the winning technique. Look instead at Rh1.

White to move, versus a very badly placed rook

Diagram-7: The black rook now appears safe (white’s move), but is the king safe?

In Diagram-7, black has just moved the rook to h1, apparently putting it on a safe square. But what about the black king? What is that rook doing, other than keeping far away in a safe place? Notice that the defending king is hemmed in at the upper left corner. How many ways does the queen have to make a check while preparing to checkmate? More than one, including Qc7+ and mate next move.

The Philidor position is covered elsewhere, so that’s it for now, for this particular corner defense of the queen versus rook end game.



Euwe Position of Queen Versus Rook

Moving Rc8 soon results in a fatal back-rank prison for the black king

Two Easy Queen versus Rook Endgame Puzzles

How do you draw when you have only a rook and king and your opponent has only a queen and king?

Queen Versus Rook Corner Defenses

Video by Derek Grimmell