Chess Lessons in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah

By the chess teacher Jonathan Whitcomb of Murray, Utah

The following chess game I played, late in 2016, against a beginner in the Salt Lake Valley. This brief online chess lesson may be helpful to other beginners, although the best way to improve your ability to win is to play many games and to take private chess lessons.

I played white against one of my beginner students, a gentleman in a retirement home.

1) e4    e5

2) Nf3  Nc6

3) d4  . . . . This is the Scotch opening. Black should now capture the pawn on d4.

3) . . . .  Nf6 (?) This is not the best move.

4) d5  . . . .

Black needs to move his knight in this unorthodox Scotch opening

Diagram-1: Black to move (the knight on c6 is threatened)

4) . . . . d6?  This mistake loses a knight.

5) dxc6  bxc6  Black gets a pawn, but this is poor compensation for losing a knight.

6) Nc3   c5

7) Bb5+  . . . .

Black should now get out of check by blocking with the light-squared bishop: Bd7

Black should get out of check by moving Bd7

Diagram-2: The best move for Black is Bd7

For many chess beginners, to get out of check, moving the king first comes to mind. If the beginner sees a legal move by the king, that move is made. Yet two other types of remedy are sometimes possible, to get out of check: capturing the checking piece and blocking the check. Look at all the legal possibilities.

In some of my chess lessons (most of them are in the Salt Lake Valley), I point out how a particular move may be important tactically or strategically. In Diagram-2, Black may get out of check by moving his knight: Nd7. But interposing with the bishop (Bd7) would be better both in terms of tactics and strategy.

The black knight is already on a good square, but the black light-squared bishop is not yet developed, so it would probably be better to block the check with the bishop. That is looking at the position through the lens of strategy.

On the tactical side, moving the bishop to d7 is also better, but that can be too deep for beginners, so let’s move on to how the game was actually played.

7) . . . .  Ke7? This puts the black king into danger.

8) Nd5+  Ke6?

chess tutor versus one of his students in Utah

Diagram-3: What is White’s best move?

If you’re a chess beginner, it may take more than a few seconds to find the best move for White in Diagram-3. Before I give you the answer, I’d like to mention a few details about private chess lessons, for I’m a chess tutor in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah.

Chess Lessons in Utah

I normally drive to the home of each of my chess students. Lessons are for one hour, at $25 each, with no charge for travel in the Salt Lake Valley. A slight extra charge applies when I need to drive further, as in a $10 fee for driving to Provo, Utah.

These private chess lessons are arranged precisely for the unique needs of each individual student, so it’s hard to generalize. Call me at 801-590-9692, if you live in or near the Salt Lake Valley of Utah.

Solution to Diagram-3

White wins immediately by checkmate: 9) Ng5#



The Gift of Chess Lessons

For some chess players, what better gift could they receive on Christmas (or on a birthday) than the gift of chess lessons? It’s not so fun to lose every game, and learning a lot, only from the experience of losing, can take years. How much better to speed up the learning process by taking private chess lessons!

Private Chess Lessons in Utah

Chess does not take a holiday in Holladay, Utah (by chess tutor Jonathan Whitcomb) . . . At least when school is in session, the royal game does not take a holiday in this community up against the mountain foothills in the eastern Salt Lake Valley.

Salt Lake Valley Chess Lessons

I’m not the only chess instructor in the state of Utah, or even in the Salt Lake Valley, but I emphasize a new chess-teaching method: NIP (nearly-identical positions). I used that system in writing my book Beat That Kid in Chess, and I recommend it for those who promote quality chess instruction.

Private Chess Lessons

[in Saint Louis, Missouri] Private lessons are an excellent opportunity to get specialized, one-on-one instruction with our highly trained staff. Private lessons include an initial assessment where the instructor will determine the player’s strengths and weaknesses, and then custom tailor a lesson plan to suit the player’s needs.



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Chess Instruction by Private Lessons

I’m Jonathan Whitcomb, of Murray, Utah, author of the book Beat That Kid in Chess, and I’m now offering my services as a chess coach in the Salt Lake Valley. I can drive to your location, if you live in or near the communities of Taylorsville or West Valley City or one of the other cities in central Salt Lake Valley. (My travel to more distant cities and towns can also be arranged.) Your private chess lessons need not be at your own home, if you would prefer a public park or library not too far from your home.

Your chess instruction will be precisely arranged according to your individual needs, to most effectively help you improve in your chess-playing abilities. For that reason, details on what your first lesson will contain—that cannot be explained in a blog post like this one.

It 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. The simplicity or complexity of those chess positions, however, will depend on exactly what you need. Everything depends on precisely where you now are in your abilities.

The fee for each chess tutoring lesson is $25, and that includes instructional materials. In addition, you get a copy of my chess book (Beat That Kid in Chess) at no additional charge, with the first lesson, and you don’t need to commit to any more lessons. You decide what to do after getting that first one-hour session.

Feel free to have a friend or family member be present. You can even arrange for a group lesson, for the fee is still just $25. Be aware, however, that group lessons may be less effective in meeting your individual needs, unless the members of the group have similar abilities, similar strengths and weaknesses, in chess-playing abilities.

chess coach Jonathan Whitcomb

Chess tutor Jonathan Whitcomb, of Murray, Utah

I advise having a free introductory meeting with me. This brief introduction to chess instruction should be sufficient for you to know how to proceed regarding private tutoring. You can ask questions about lessons or about chess tournaments, chess clubs, tactics, strategy, or whatever you would like to ask.

Many club players and tournament competitors have attained a moderate to high level of success without ever having had a chess tutor, never having had private lessons. This has usually taken years of practice in competition, however, even to become just an average tournament player. But those who have quickly risen to competitive success have often been chess players who were given regular private chess instruction.

Call me at 801-590-9692 or contact me by email, and ask what you will. Thank you.

Jonathan Whitcomb is a member of the chess club at the Harman Senior Recreation Center (4090-South, 3600-West; West Valley City, Utah). It’s also known as the “Harman Chess Club,” meeting on Wednesdays from about 12:30 p.m. until almost 3:00 p.m.



Chess Tutor in the Salt Lake Valley

Lessons are available in Murray, Taylorsville, West Valley City, Holladay, Cottonwood Heights, West Jordan, and in many other nearby communities in Utah, from the chess coach Jonathan Whitcomb, who lives in Murray.

Beat Your Dad at Chess or “Beat That Kid”

The first [of the two chess books reviewed] is not really about defeating your father; the second is not really about defeating a kid. Both are exceptional at teaching you to win a chess game . . . [brief book reviews]

Salt Lake Valley, Utah, Chess Tutor

Whitcomb has taught chess to those of many ages: children, teenagers, and adults. He and his wife had a state license, for many years, for a large family day care in Southern California, before they moved to Utah in 2014 . . . yet the age of the student is of little importance.


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Beat Your Dad or a Kid?

This is a double book review:

  • How to Beat Your Dad at Chess (by Chandler) – best for intermediate players
  • Beat That Kid in Chess (by Whitcomb) – best for “raw” beginners

The first is not really about defeating your father; the second is not really about defeating a kid. Both are exceptional at teaching you to win a chess game, but only within narrow limits: two different skill levels in chess.

How to Beat Your Dad at Chess

This chess book is extremely popular on Amazon, yet combining the two-star and one-star customer reviews makes 9%, which can be a warning flag if you’re to purchase a book to be used as a gift (6% are two-stars; 3% are one-star). How to Beat Your Dad at Chess is far from ideal for the early beginner who has not yet learned to look ahead in calculating a combination in his or her head. One purchaser said:

This was Not the book I needed to help my 9-yr old grandson advance from the beginning level of chess playing. It is much too complex. . . .

That grandparent would probably have been much happier at purchasing Beat That Kid in Chess, which is crafted especially for early beginners. So who does benefit from the book for intermediate players?

chess book by Murray Chandler

How to Beat Your Dad at Chess, by Murray Chandler, can greatly benefit certain players who have already learned how to look ahead at least to this degree:

  • What move can I make in this position on the board? (find a move to make)
  • What can my opponent do in response to that move?
  • What can I then do in response to that potential move by my opponent?

Once a post-beginner has arrived at that level of move-calculating ability—that’s when How to Beat Your Dad at Chess may be appropriate. But don’t throw that book at a novice who is not ready, or it may bounce back at you.

So what exactly does the book by Chandler teach a post-beginner? It’s almost entirely devoted to checkmate combinations. That’s it. If that’s what a chess player needs the most, then How to Beat Your Dad at Chess may be ideal, the very best chess book.

But if you want something that teaches you about openings or middle games or endgames, you’d better look for another chess book.

Beat That Kid in Chess

If you win most of the chess games you play, at least some of the lessons in this chess book may be too elementary for you. It’s for the raw beginner who knows the rules of the game but has not yet learned much about winning.

Whitcomb's nonfiction "Beat That Kid in Chess"

The first chapter demonstrates how to recognize an opportunity to checkmate your opponent. Just as important, it shows you how to recognize when a checkmate is almost possible but not yet available in a position on the board. (Many other books do the former but not the latter.)

The reader may be unaware of the new NIP system of chess training in Beat That Kid in Chess, while reading and looking at the diagrams. You don’t need to know anything about the teaching-psychology of nearly-identical positions to benefit from it. You learn to think tactically in a smooth orderly manner, naturally learning to think a little bit more like a master would think about a particular chess position on the board.

This new chess book may be the first publication to use the NIP system systematically, helping the early beginner to see what’s most important. In addition, the following important subjects are taught:

  • Checkmate
  • Material – both preservation and capturing
  • Defending against checkmate in the opening
  • “Tactics in Battle” (Chapter Four)
  • The order of what to look for in a position
  • Endgame
  • Middle Game
  • Opening

This chess book ends with two short sections of exercises: simple and “advanced”



How to Beat Your Dad at Chess

Like the other two chess books, it has a title and cover image that could be misleading. . . . [The other book, “Beat That Kid in Chess,” is much better for the early beginner]

Best Chess Book for Beginners

“Take the lessons in this book [‘Beat That Kid in Chess’] seriously and your ability to play chess  may advance further than if you had struggled through losing twenty  games.”

Tactics in a Chess Combination

The Cuban chess wizard Jose Capablanca played a gorgeous combination against the music professor Marc Fonaroff, apparently at an evening party in New York [in 1918].


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The Value of Nearly-Identical Positions (NIP)

Before September of 2015, very few chess book reviews mentioned the nearly-identical positions (NIP) method of instruction in the royal game. Beat That Kid in Chess was then published, perhaps the first chess book every written that systematically uses NIP in helping beginners grasp the essence of simple chess tactics.

If you already own a copy of Beat That Kid in Chess, the following diagrams will simply supplement what you learn in that chess book. (The NIP positions shown below are not found in the book.) If you don’t have that book, you can still benefit from this:


Diagram-1  with White to move

What can white do in Diagram-1? That can be a difficult question for a raw beginner, a player who has had little if any experience with chess tactics. Let’s look at three moves.

Rxe7 – The white rook near the white king captures a black knight

The black rook near the black king will then capture that white rook, giving Black an advantage of taking a rook (generally worth five points) at the expense of only a knight (generally worth three points). Rxe7 would be a mistake, for White gets no compensation for that loss of material (not even a pawn to show for that exchange).

Bd5 – The bishop moves to a central square, right in front of a black pawn

With the bishop then on the d5 square, it would attack and pin the rook that is near the black king. That rook cannot move to safety because that king would then be exposed to check from that bishop. Does that mean that White will win material, gaining a rook in exchange for a bishop? Not quite, for there’s a black knight on e7, next to that black rook, and that knight would capture the bishop on d5. So Bd5 would be a blunder, throwing away a bishop for no compensation.

But that bishop does appear to control a long diagonal leading to the upper left corner of the board. What about another bishop move in that direction?

Bb7 – The bishop moves almost as far as it can to the upper left

This move makes a double attack. On b7, the bishop is now attacking a rook and a knight, so one of those two black pieces will be captured by the bishop.


Diagram-2  White just moved the bishop to b7

From the first diagram, White moved the bishop to b7 making a double attack against two of Black’s pieces, shown in the second diagram. Black may move one of those two pieces, but the bishop will probably then capture the other piece. One exception is if black now moves Nb4, where it will threaten to move to d3, forking the white king and both white rooks. If the black knight on the upper left does move to the b4 square, however, the pawn at a3 will capture it, winning a piece for white.

But now let’s look at a different position, one similar to what we saw in Diagram-1:


Diagram-3  White to move

Please don’t immediately look for how this differs from the first diagram; we’ll get to that difference soon enough. What can the bishop now do on that long diagonal?

What about moving the bishop to b7, like we did earlier? There’s a problem with that move now, however, for the knight at d8 would capture the bishop after it moved to b7. But that bishop now has another option, a move that did not work in Diagram-1: Bd5.


Diagram-4  White just moved the bishop to d5

The bishop now pins the black rook that is on f7, meaning it cannot move because the king would be in check. This time, no black piece can capture that bishop on d5, so White will win material after capturing that rook.

Now we can see the difference between Diagram-1 and Diagram-3. Those two NIPs have one of the black knights in different positions: e7 and d8, yet that slight change in the placement of that knight makes a big difference in what White can do.

Consistent use of Nearly-Identical Positions in BTKC

Because of the systematic use of NIP in Beat That Kid in Chess, it may be the best chess book for beginners who know the rules of the game but little else.



Chess book review

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.

Nearly-identical-positions in chess

Beat That Kid in Chess uses nearly-identical-positions in many of the diagrams. Yet how important are those little differences!

Best Chess Book for Beginners

“A common weakness in the games of raw beginners is failing to see  the many possibilities. When you see that a particular piece can move  to a particular square, compare the resulting position with what it  would be if you made a different move.”


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