Learning Chess by a Book or by Private Lessons

By the chess tutor Jonathan Whitcomb (Utah)

Just as an enjoyable sport can give your body physical exercise, the enjoyment of a game of chess can give your brain exercise. So when you want to take a step forward, to learn to play better quality chess, how can you best improve? Consider two proven tools:

  1. Study and concentration on the details in a good chess book
  2. Get lessons from a qualified chess coach, face-to-face

I’m a chess coach in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah, so I might appear to be biased in favor of private chess lessons. Yet I am also the author of the book Beat That Kid in Chess, which is for the beginner who already knows the rules of the games but knows little more than the rules: the beginner who wants to actually win chess games.

If you have no problem with $25 for a private lesson at least once a week, the choice is easy: private chess lessons with the right tutor can increase your ability to win games faster than any other method, except the old tried and true method of playing many chess games frequently and practicing in actual games for years.

Regardless of how you learn to play better chess, how important is concentrating on individual moves in actual games, in competition with an opponent who challenges you! However you study, by a chess coach or by a book, play chess between those sessions of study, putting into practice what you have learned.

chess played by a man with a beard

Concentrate on each move of the game

Mental Exertion is the Key

Whether you take private chess lessons or you rely only on one or more chess books, practical experience is essential. Play games with your computer or with a friend, but do more than just quickly push pieces around: concentrate on each more. Ask yourself, “What are my options?” Then when you find a promising-looking move, ask yourself, “What can my opponent do if I make that move?”

That’s the broad-shallow way of looking at a chess position, and how critically importance it is! Of course we have times in a game when looking deeply is important: seeing positions in our imagination, several moves into the future. But how many games are won or lost by looking just one complete move ahead! That means considering all the reasonable moves we can make in a position on the board before us and then considering all the reasonable responses our opponent can make. That is only one move ahead for each side, but what a difference that broad-shallow vision can make!

Jonathan Whitcomb, chess tutor in Murray, Utah

801-590-9692 (free introductory lesson available)



Chess lessons in the Salt Lake Valley

More recently, I began offering my services as a chess tutor in Utah, with private lessons in the Salt Lake Valley for $25 per hour. The following game I played against a teenager on June 30, 2016, at the South Jordan Public Library.

Chess Lessons in Holladay and Cottonwood Heights, Utah

The $25-per-lesson does not yet apply when you meet briefly with Mr. Whitcomb in a preliminary introduction: That short meeting is free. You can  judge for yourself if you think his chess lessons are best. Ask all the questions you want.

Chess Coach in Salt Lake Valley

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). You will not be subject to constantly being corrected in every detail, unless you ask for such rigorous oversight.

Private Chess Lessons in Utah

[Your chess lesson] will very likely include looking at specially constructed nearly-identical positions (NIP), a new system of chess instruction that I introduced in my book Beat That Kid in Chess.


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