Chess Lessons From a Private Tutor

By Jonathan Whitcomb, a chess author and coach in the Salt Lake Valley

Many of those who are now chess grandmasters were once students of private chess tutors. That does not mean that every beginner needs chess lessons to progress in his or her abilities in the royal game. Many top amateurs in chess clubs around the world never had private instruction, for they got most of their skill from practice and sometimes from a combination of practice and personal study. That common way of progressing in chess skill, however, takes time: often taking many years. In fact, some club members have played for decades, but they never get close to the level of an official chess expert.

I’m the author of Beat That Kid in Chess, and I now am available for teaching new students in the Salt Lake Valley. Chess lessons can be tailor made for each student, with the following levels of ability (beginner to average tournament level):

  1. Not yet knowing even the rules
  2. Knowing some of the rule but not all of them
  3. Beginner knowing the rules of chess but nothing else
  4. Having a little experience in chess but wanting to win more
  5. Having a skill level comparable to a rating of 300-800
  6. Having chess-playing ability comparable to 800-1200
  7. Rated or comparable to a rating of 1200-1500

Whatever your present skill, it probably relates to one of the above seven. Yet effective chess lessons need to be geared toward your own specific needs. That’s my philosophy on private chess lessons.

I would like to learn how you look at a chess position: why you made specific moves in games that you played. As I come to understand what you had in mind, I can much better guide you into knowing and understanding how the stronger tournament players think about chess positions. In other words, your private lessons will be constructed based on your needs. This makes it much more challenging for me but much easier for you to quickly improve in your abilities.

I know what it takes to progress from the beginner or lower-ranking player to a high rating in tournament competition. I’ve been through the process. It need not take many years, as it did for me and my associates who never had private chess lessons. You’ll probably be able to progress much faster with private tutoring sessions.

chess player Jon Whitcomb, long ago

Jonathan Whitcomb in the 1960’s in Pasadena, California

I had the above photo taken as a joke, when I was a teenager, but real games of chess I took very seriously, becoming the top player (out of about 2,000 students) in my junior high school in the mid-1960’s.

I never had private chess lessons when I was in my early-to-mid-teens—few players even thought of that in California in the 1960’s. Starting with chess books around early 1962, I began playing against myself and then against my dad, soon beating him in every game. In the eighth grade I was very active in my junior high chess club, playing first board when we competed with other schools in matches in Pasadena, California.

I was not especially talented in chess, probably no better than average, so how did I progress during my middle teenage years? It was a combination of two kinds of study:

  1. Recording my chess games for later study
  2. Reading chess books and going over the games of grandmasters

That eventually made up for the lack of private chess tutoring lessons, but it took years of work, longer than if I had been taking private lessons in chess.

Chess Tournaments

I won first place in the 1966 Pasadena Chess Club Junior Championship, my first tournament, winning all four of my games. Yet it took years of practice and study, and many tournaments, to obtain a USCF rating over 1900, around the year 1970.

Rated chess tournaments provide opportunities for you to compete with stronger players than you might encounter in your local chess club. But you need to be prepared, if you don’t want to lose most of your games (if not all of them). Private chess lessons can greatly help in that preparation for tournament competition.

Couple on Ensign Peak, Utah

Jonathan Whitcomb with his wife (Ensign Peak near Salt Lake City, Utah)

After my wife Gladys retired from her childcare business in California in 2014, we moved to Murray, Utah. I have been active, in recent months, in the Harman Center Chess Club in West Valley City, and I highly recommend getting involved in a local chess club.

I now offer a free introductory meeting for your evaluation of private chess tutoring lessons. I can meet with you at your home or at a convenient public park or library, and you can have a friend or family member present.

The regular lessons (after the introductory session) are only $25 each, with free chess materials included for personal study. In fact, a copy my book Beat That Kid in Chess will be given to you in your first lesson, and you do not need to commit to any more lessons.

Call me at 801-590-9692 or contact me by email for asking questions about chess.


Jonathan Whitcomb demonstrating the Pirc Defense opening

Chess Tutor Jonathan Whitcomb, with Pirc Defense opening



Chess Tutor in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah

With many thousands of chess books available online, a beginner or intermediate player can feel overwhelmed and frustrated. . . . A better approach [than just choosing a chess book for yourself] may be individualized private chess lessons, formulated just for you, based upon your individual needs.

When a Chess Coach is Good

There is a perception that persists, that the best coach is the one who plays the best chess. However, the thinking processes of the newbie and the grand master are on two entirely different planes! . . . Imagine how ineffective it would be, for both parties involved, if a mathematician at NASA were to teach 4 year olds how to count.

Chess coach in Salt Lake area

[Jonathan Whitcomb] (who lives in Murray) is now offering private and group lessons in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah . . .

Chess Tournament for Children in Utah

The Utah state elementary school chess championship tournament was held on Saturday, March 14, 2016, at the University of Utah.


Posted in Beginner, Chess Lessons | Tagged | 3 Comments

End Game Logic

Does common-sense logic work in the chess end game? Simple logic definitely can help you, provided you combine it with knowledge of the general type of ending in which you find yourself, and you work out the move calculations that are often critical. Some chess books can be extremely useful for increasing your knowledge of end games, but the brute-force mental calculations are still needed.

Many end game problems can be especially challenging for beginners. The following is better understood by chess players with more experience than raw beginners, at least a little more over-the-board experience with endings.

I recently played a casual game at a chess club in West Valley, Utah. To see the first half of that game, the opening and middle game and beginning of the end game, see this (on the site The Caress of Chess): chess club in Utah (informal game).

I believe I had an advantage going into the end game, but it wasn’t easy for me to win. My opponent was obviously no novice. Here is the position after my 46th move (I was White):

Black moved Kc2 and lost quicklyDiagram-1  Black to move (can he survive?)

My opponent attacked my rook with Kc2 (Diagram-1) and resigned after I captured the d2 pawn, sacrificing my rook. It was obvious to both of us that, after the black king takes that rook, White can move Kd5 with no hope for Black to advance the pawn on the c-file.

But what if my opponent had instead advanced that pawn on the c-file? Let’s look at that:

46) . . . .  c5

After Black's c5 advance of a pawnDiagram-2  after Black advanced a pawn to c5

Let’s look at Diagram-2 logically. What is the best way for White to approach a win? We’ll begin by examining Black’s only hope. The best chance for Black is to have the king on c2 and the c-file pawn on c3, which seems to take three moves. How can anyone argue with that logic, in light of this: It will take White four moves to promote the e-file pawn to a queen. That makes Black’s position appear not so hopeless.

But it’s White’s move. What’s the logical course for White? Destroy your opponent’s one hope for survival. That means trying to find a way to prevent Black from getting both pawns far advanced. We have two ways to do that. Let’s look at one.

In Diagram-2, White needs to get his king out of the way, so the white pawn can advance. Where’s the best place to put the white king? Why not to d5, attacking that black pawn?

White attacks a black pawn with Kd5

Diagram-3  after 47) Kd5

What’s great about attacking that black pawn, for Black will just advance it, giving it protection? Black wanted to push that pawn forward anyway. But look at Black’s problem after advancing the pawn:

47) . . . .  c4

The black king is now over-worked

Diagram-4  after Black advances the pawn to c4

Notice a tactical theme in Diagram-4. It’s not a pin or a fork or a double attack. It’s the over-worked piece: The black king is defending two pawns. White simply sacrifices the rook, capturing the pawn on d2. After the black king captures the rook, the white king captures the pawn on c4. White can then push the last pawn forward to promote it to a queen, that is, if Black does not resign long before then.

If you’re a beginner, or have limited experience with looking ahead, try the following: Imagine, in Diagram-4, the rook capturing the black pawn next to it. Now imagine the black king capturing that rook on the square that pawn used to be on. Notice that the black king is now removed from protecting the other pawn which is then captured by the white king. Obviously the black king will not be able to catch up to that white pawn, so it will become a queen. Most experienced players can win with king-plus-queen versus king.

Not all end games are so simple, nor the tactics and logic so easy, but this variation (which did not actually occur in that game at my chess club) does appear simple and logical.



Chess book for a beginner to learn

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.”

Best Chess Book for Beginners

A much better choice would be Beat That Kid in Chess, which is written for the early beginner who knows how to play but does not yet know much about winning in an actual competition.

Play Chess to Win

An end game on the Dinosaur Chess site


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