Chess Lessons in Salt Lake Area of Utah


Before getting into details about a particular chess tutor, consider what is marketed online. On July 20, 2016, the following phrase was used in a Google search:

chess lessons in Salt Lake Valley

Here is the result for the first page:

  1. Utah Chess Association (home page)
  2. “Chess Teacher in Salt Lake Valley” (blog post by Jonathan Whitcomb)
  3. “Chess Instruction by Private Lessons” (similar to #2 in that it promotes Whitcomb)
  4. An old discussion thread of almost no relevance to organized lessons
  5. “Chess Club” in Sandy, Utah, but it’s really a number of class sessions
  6. “Take Lessons” appears to be part of a general tutoring service
  7. The URL is mentioning “Cottonwood Heights”
  8. A page of the “WyzAnt” tutoring system
  9. Another general tutoring service: “Tutor Select”
  10. “Chess Tutoring Available in Holladay, Utah” – another Whitcomb page

The #1 page from Google (UCA) had not even one mention of “lesson” or “tutor” or “instructor” or “teacher.” This does not mean that the Utah Chess Association is not doing great things for the royal game, of course. They’re just not making it easy to find a chess tutor through Google searching on July 20, 2016.

The #2 Google-result had twenty instances of the word “lesson” and a good number of other relevant words. This could be useful, with a phone number and email-contact page for communicating with the tutor himself. The next two are similar.

The #5 page is for classes at the Dimple Dell Fitness and Recreation Center. It costs $30 for four class sessions, beginning with at least one session for beginners. This is probably a far cry from private chess lessons.

The “Take Lessons” page appears to be part of a big business: probably many subjects are offered with many tutors in many locations. This particular page seems to be for chess lessons in “Salt Lake City.” This could help students get a good chess tutor, but the page itself says almost nothing about the royal game. With the business appearing to take part of the fee, this is unlikely to be a low-cost way of learning how to play chess better.

The #7 page is another promotion for the chess tutor Jonathan Whitcomb ($25 per lesson). It says much about where lessons are available in the Salt Lake Valley, but this page itself does not have anything like a chess lesson. It’s just marketing such instruction.

With a photo of a young lady playing the violin, you’d think the #8 page has little relevance to chess. But scroll down and you’ll see brief information on five chess tutors. Their average cost is $38, although the apparently most-qualified chess expert charges only $30 per hour. WyzAnt is a tutoring business, so many of your dollars will probably go to that company, and you probably have no way to easily contact any of those five tutors directly.

“Tutor Select” is another business for connecting students to private instructors. This page has more information on the tutors and has a grand total of 15 teachers. Most of those tutors charge between $35 and $50 per lesson.

The big problem with the Tutor Select page, however, is that with all those many descriptions of teaching style, educational background, and tutoring experience, not one of those fifteen paragraphs has the word “chess” within the body of the text. You can learn that a tutor teaches mathematics, English, and science; you can learn how those tutors teach; you can learn about their personal philosophies about education. But you’ll see nothing about any instruction in the royal game, at least on July 20, 2016.

The final #10 spot on the first page of the Google search is another Whitcomb page. It’s time I explained that I am Jonathan Whitcomb. Why do my web pages dominate this Google search? I’m a nonfiction writer, and one of my subjects for writing about is chess, and since I’m now offering my services as a chess tutor I have been writing much about that.


Jonathan Whitcomb instruction in a chess end game

Chess tutor Jonathan Whitcomb demonstrates a simple endgame technique


Chess Tutoring in Salt Lake Valley – by Whitcomb

I live in Murray, but my city business license forbids the use of my home for business (it’s a home office). I can probably drive to your location, however, as I travel to many places in the Salt Lake Valley. We can meet at your home or at a public park or library convenient to both of us.

The first meeting is free, a getting-acquainted session in which you may learn something about my chess teaching methods and I may discern where your stand in chess-playing abilities. After that, if your choose to have private lessons, the cost is $25 for each hour-long lesson. There is generally no additional charge for chess-instruction materials.

There is also generally no travel charge, provided we can agree on a mutually-convenient place to meet. This would be the great majority of cities and communities in the Salt Lake Valley.

For more information, please call me at 801-590-9692 or ask questions by email. Thank you.



Chess Lessons in Utah

I’m a chess instructor, living in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah. I know something of how the beginner and the post-novice and the moderately-advanced player, can benefit from chess lessons. It begins with tactics, NOT strategy.

Salt Lake Chess Tutor – Lessons

How will you learn to play better chess, gaining the ability to win more games? Each chess lesson will be tailor-made for where you stand (assuming you take private lessons instead of group sessions).

Chess Lessons in Holladay and Cottonwood Heights

The first session will be an introduction, a getting-acquainted meeting, and it’s free. Ask questions and learn how I may help you in improving your game. You can then decide if you would like to continue with private chess tutoring, at $25 for each one-hour lesson.

Salt Lake Valley Chess Tutor – Whitcomb

You may choose what course of study to receive, yet I would advise allowing me to help you in what you most need regarding improving your ability to win chess games. You have the final word on your course of training, however.


Chess Books

This is a set of short book reviews for the following:

  • How to Beat Your Dad at Chess
  • Chess: 5334 Problems, Combinations and Games
  • Beat That Kid in Chess

Tens of thousands of books have been written about chess, for the past few centuries, probably more publications on chess than all books on sports combined (football, tennis, golf, baseball, track, basketball, etc). What kind of chess books are there?

  • Openings
  • Middle Game
  • End Game
  • Tactics
  • Strategy
  • Master-game Analysis

Let’s keep to some popular best-sellers and to newer books available on Amazon:

How to Beat Your Dad at Chess

This book may be ideal for the intermediate-level player or post-beginner who can already handle looking more than one move ahead. Amazon gives it an age range of 9-12 years. This is all about tactics and almost entirely on checkmates.

chess book

  • Author: Murray Chandler
  • Published in 1998 (hardcover,Kindle)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1901983050
  • Suggested retail: $16.95
  • 127 pages

Chess: 5334 Problems, Combinations and Games

This is a huge collection, in 1104 pages, written by the chess coach who is the father of three well known female chess champions: Susan, Judit, and Sophia Polgar. Among the thousands of puzzles in this book are 3412 mates-in-two, which are great for intermediate-level players but probably too advanced for many beginners.

Chess book

  • Author: Laszlo Polgar
  • Published in 2013 (paperback, hardcover, Kindle)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1579125547
  • Paperback: $21.20 on Amazon on Oct 20, 2015
  • 1104 pages

Beat That Kid in Chess

This is for what the book calls, on the back cover, the “early beginner,” the player who knows how to move the pieces around the chess board but hardly anything else. The reading level is for teenagers, adults, and older children. Simple tactics abound.

"Beat That Kid in Chess" book by Whitcomb

  • Author: Jonathan Whitcomb
  • Published in 2015 (paperback)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1508856221
  • Suggested retail: $13.40
  • 194 pages



Books on Chess

Mostly for the beginner and intermediate chess players, including club competitors

Chess Book for Beginners

This 194-page paperback was written with a modest goal: Teach and prepare the raw beginner to win a game of chess, even if it’s against another raw beginner.

Chess in Movies

In the 1942 film ‘Casablanca,’ Humphrey Bogart plays the part of Rick, an owner of a club in a big city in Morocco, northwest Africa, during World War II. . . . Rick [is] working his way through an opening variation of chess.


What Kind of Chess Beginner are You?

Which of the following best describes your view of a chess game?

Early (“raw”) Beginner

I know how the pieces move and I know the rules of chess, at least most of them. And yet when I look at the board, I don’t know much about what to do. I can move pawns, knights, bishops, rooks, and the king and queen, but which one and where to move it? I know what checkmate is, but how do I achieve it?

Mid-Level Beginner

I know from experience that my opponent might leave a piece exposed. That’s when I capture it. The more pieces I have on the board, compared with my opponent’s, the better off I am during a game of chess. Yet it’s common for my opponent to do the same to me, when I get careless and let one of my pieces get captured, but I don’t let that happen as often as I used to. I do know a checkmate technique and watch for any opportunity to win the game with that pattern.

Advanced Beginner

I don’t automatically capture my opponent’s piece just because I can do it. I look more carefully than that, for if I capture something of little value, like a pawn, and my opponent captures something of mine that is more valuable, like a knight, then it would be better to avoid that line of play. I might play a whole game without being surprised at losing a piece, for I am careful to avoid leaving my pieces up for grabs. Still, some games I make that kind of mistake and my opponent captures something that I accidentally left unprotected. I know more than one way to make a checkmate.


queen versus rook - black to move

Look at the chess position above. It’s a queen versus rook endgame, with black’s turn to move. Remember how long you looked at this position and what move or moves came to your mind. Decide on your choice of a move for black, for it’s black’s turn. Now look further down to see how well you did.

puzzled expression on a man's face

Do you feel sure about the move you chose? Let’s see:


Did you see that the white queen can capture the black rook? That’s fine. Experienced players, including masters, would immediately see that capture. But it’s black’s turn to move.

Did you see that the black rook can move to the f4 square, checking the white king? Great! Is that the move you chose? Why did you choose that move? It’s not checkmate. Was it just because you like to make checks on your opponent’s king? If so, you missed the point here. Making a check is not necessarily the best move to make in a particular position.

But in this case it’s the best move for black. Why? Because the white king must move out of check, and after that king moves then the rook may capture the queen. Of course the white king would finally be able to capture your rook, leaving nothing but two kings on the board, ending the game in a draw, automatically. So why would you want to run that route?

Many beginners could fail to understand one basic fact in this position shown in the above diagram. The queen is much more powerful than the rook, though not quite twice as powerful. In almost all situations, the most reasonable perspective for the player with the black pieces, in this kind of queen-versus-rook end game, is to try to get a draw. It’s really not always reasonable to always try to win, at every stage of every game, unless you can play every game so well that you never get behind.

In other words, in the position shown in the above diagram, if black gets a draw it’s almost like winning. On the other hand, if white fails to win and the game ends in a draw then it’s almost like losing. Take things in perspective.



"Beat That Kid in Chess" book by Whitcomb

Best chess book for the raw beginner: Beat That Kid in Chess


Chess for Beginners

queen-versus-rook puzzles

Chess Book for a Beginner

It may be rare for two chess books to differ greatly inside when they look very similar on the cover. Yet that’s the case with ‘Beat That Kid in Chess’ and ‘How to Beat Your Dad at Chess.’ The first is for beginners; the second is for more experienced players.

Chess for Children

To be in checkmate, a king needs to be in check, with no legal move that can get that king out of check.

Chess in Movies

Harry, Hermione, and Ron are searching for a magic stone . . . The greatest obstacle is a giant chess set, in which enemy pawns will not let them pass before they play a dangerous game.


Chess in Movies

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (as called in the USA and India)

In the first Harry Potter film, chess plays an important part. Harry, Hermione, and Ron are searching for a magic stone to protect it from being stolen and used by the evil Lord Voldemort. The greatest obstacle is a giant chess set, in which enemy pawns will not let them pass before they play a dangerous game.

The three children must use themselves as three of the chess pieces, with Ron Weasley a knight who sits on a horse. It would appear to be childish fun, except that this is Wizards’ Chess, a game in which captured pieces are smashed into bits, into pieces in a different sense.

Real Wizards' Chess in Harry Potter movie

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (or Sorcerer’s Stone)


In the 1942 film Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart plays the part of Rick, an owner of a club in a big city in Morocco, northwest Africa, during World War II. An early scene includes Rick working his way through an opening variation of chess by himself.

Chess & Humphrey Bogart in "Casablanca"

Dangerous moves are ahead, contending with Nazis in Casablanca

The movie soon leaves the complexities of chess for complex political issues in an African country in which players on both sides of the war must live together in a peace filled with tension. One faulty move can lead to a swift and decisive demise.



Chess in the Movies

Many film fans remember the  scene near the beginning of  Casablanca. We see Rick’s hand by the chess board as he taps the white bishop.