Chess Tournaments for Children in Utah

By chess teacher Jonathan Whitcomb

Do you know of a child from kindergarten through ninth-grade who likes to play chess and lives in central Utah? This can include children in families living in the Salt Lake Valley, for Mona, Utah, is not too far for a Saturday drive south.

I’ll be directing the first chess tournament to be held at the Young Living Lavender Farm: October 28, 2017, (lasting until about 2:00 p.m.). You can call me for more information: 801-590-9692.


Utah Elementary Chess Championship Tournament of 2017

I was an unofficial photographer for the State Elementary Championship this year, held at Brigham Young University this past March. The following are the top-scoring players in the top two school grades:

Sixth Grade

Zichen Zeng, first place, 6-0

Oliver Dias Moore, tied for second, 5-1

Brendon Young, tied for second, 5-1

Benjamin Watanabe, ”  ”  “, 5-1

Jackson Kunz, ”  ” “, 5-1

Adam B. Coates, ” ” “, 5-1

Yashwanth Sai Muddam, ” ” “, 5-1

The sixth-grade division of the chess tournament had 80 participants.

Fifth Grade

Tristan Cohen-Rider, first place, 5½-½

Chloe Lin Parke, tied for second 5-1

Tommy Carter, ” ” “, 5-1

Otto Kooreman, ” ” “, 5-1

Adam Talmadge Day, ” ” “, 5-1

Seiji Aoki, ” ” “, 5-1


How to Prepare to Play in a Chess Tournament

Take note of the registration deadline. Even if it is not an absolute deadline, there may be a higher entry fee for late registration, especially if it is at the door.

Be sure that you know the rules of chess completely. This includes knowledge of en passant pawn capture and castling. Some chess tournaments enforce the touch rule, meaning that when it is your turn to move and you touch one of your pieces then you must move that piece (if possible); if you touch one of your opponent’s pieces then you must capture it (if possible).

If the tournament is rated in the United States, you will need to be or become a member of the USCF (United States Chess Federation) to play in that competition. It’s also good to know if check clocks will be required and if you need to bring your own clock.


chess tournament for children in Utah in 2016

Young competitors in the 2016 Utah state elementary chess tournament



Chess Tournaments in Utah in 2017

I’m looking forward to directing the first annual Young Living Chess Tournament for children . . . near Mona, Utah, on October 28, 2017. All kids are invited . . . kindergarten through sixth grade . . .


Chess tournament at the University of Utah early in 2016

Of the five players with ratings over 2000, four of them were among the eight who won their first two games. The highest-rated competitor, before this chess tournament began, was Brandon Clarke: 2335.


Utah Chess Tournaments (UCA)

  • Farewell Bobby Fischer X
  • 2017 Utah Blitz Championship
  • 2017 Nifty Under Fifty
  • etc.


Chess Teacher Versus Beginner

By Jonathan D. Whitcomb, chess instructor in Murray, Utah

Yesterday I played four informal chess games with Alex, a young beginner, at the Jordan Pines camp ground, in the mountains east of the Salt Lake Valley. He impressed me with how quickly he learned both the rules of the game and important points about how to play well. In fact, he was making some good moves (and a respectable number of average moves) before he learned all the rules. I hope that I can help him with additional chess instruction in the near future.

Teaching Chess to Beginners

Before getting into the moves of our third game, I’d like to mention how a chess tutor might best assist children who are beginners in the royal game. This is a brief lesson in how to teach chess lessons to children, so if you are the child then you might want to skip down to the recorded game.

Understand exactly where the child now stands in his or her abilities. This should come before trying to teach anything. In other words, your first job in teaching is to learn, and how greatly you need to learn about your student!

  • What does he know about tactics?
  • How well does he know openings, middle games, end games?
  • What most catches his interest about chess?
  • How much experience does he have in playing against post-beginners?
  • (And much more)

After you know exactly where your student stands, consider three important questions (the answers can guide you in preparing to teach your student):

  1. What points does your student most need to learn?
  2. What is he or she most prepared or willing to learn right now?
  3. What are the best ways for the student to learn those points?

Notice that the above three questions need to be taken in that order.

What if the student is anxious to learn about knight forks but constantly gives away free pawns and pieces out of carelessness or ignorance? The natural order of importance in chess skill is to learn to avoid material-giveaway blunders first, then learn tactical motifs like pins and knight forks. That means we have a conflict between the first two questions, a conflict in what to do first.

The compromise that will work—that could be giving a demonstration of a knight fork while mentioning that it’s often important to come out on top in exchanges, or at least not to lose material. That way, the students appetite for learning the knight fork will be satisfied while you slip in a side dish of advice. In other words, don’t pull the fork out of your student’s hand in the middle of a tasty feast.

That’s enough of educational psychology for the moment. Let’s get to the game.

Game Between a Chess Teacher and a Beginner

White: Young Alex

Black: Jonathan Whitcomb

1) e3    Nf6

2) Be2  c5

3) Nf3   Nc6

4) d3    g6

5) Bd2  Bg7

6) Nc3  O-O

I did mention that castling is often a good idea. He set aside my suggestion. In fact I did not see him castle until after our four games, when he was playing chess with another child . . . I mean after I had walked away to have supper and two children were playing chess, not that I’m a child.

7) h3    d5

8) g3    b6

9) Nh4  Bb7

10) f3    e5

11) Na4 . . . .

Alex-child vs J-Whitcomb knights on the rim

Have you ever heard, “Knights on the rim, prospects are grim?”

Why did I not tell Alex that moving knights to the edge of the board is often ill advised? He’s a chess beginner, and he was just learning to avoid putting his pieces out where they would be lost. In this game, he was thinking correctly in avoiding putting his knights on central squares where they would be captured, by my pieces or pawns, without compensation. He saw that no safe square was available to his knights in the center of the board, so he moved them elsewhere.

It was more important, at the time, to allow him to experience the fruit of that perspective: He did not lose material for some time. By the way, moving a knight to h4 or a4 (or for Black h5 or a5) is not always bad; but those are exceptional positions.

11) . . . . Qc7

12) Rc1 . . . .

Black is about to make a discovered attack

Black has a discovered attack available, although White can answer it well

12) . . . . e4

I would not expect a beginner to notice that this move of the black pawn creates a discovered attack, the black queen pointing to the white pawn at g3. My young opponent, looking at where my pawn moved, immediately captured it, as I expected.

13) fxe4 . . . .

Black to move and win material

The black queen is about to capture the pawn at g3, soon winning the nearby knight

13) . . . . Qxg3+

14) Kf1 . . . .

Black is about to move Qxh4

The white king has moved out of check; the black queen now captures the knight

14) . . . . Qxh4

15) Rh2  dxe4

16) dxe4  Nxe4

17) Bd3   Be5

18) Rg2   Ng3+

19) Kg1   Qxh3

20) Be1  . . . .

Black is about to move Nd4, forcing mate

Black has another discovered attack at his fingertips

20) . . . .  Nd4!

Beginner did not see checkmate threat from chess tutor

Black is threatening Qxg2 mate (from a discovered attack)

White now has no way to avoid checkmate, although moving e4 can delay mate for many moves. My young opponent did not see my threat, however, and captured my knight at d4.

21) exd4  Qxg2 mate

I have a respectable hope that Alex will become a fine chess player, far better than average and a mountain-top higher than a beginner.



chess tutor Jonathan Whitcomb demonstrates an endgame

Chess teacher Jonathan Whitcomb, after demonstrating a rare chess end game


Chess Coach Battle in Salt Lake Valley

I was delighted to participate in the chess event organized by Alexander Gustafsson on June 22, 2016, at the South Jordan Library . . . [He]  has been a chess tutor for some time; I, Jonathan Whitcomb, have only recently begun offering private lessons for a fee.

Utah – Chess Instruction

Chess lessons are available in many communities in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah, from chess coach Jonathan Whitcomb, who lives in Murray.

Salt Lake Valley Chess Coach

Jonathan Whitcomb, of Murray, Utah, author of the new book Beat That Kid in Chess, is now offering private and group lessons. His abilities can benefit 99% of those who live in the Salt Lake Valley, whatever your present skill in chess (up to intermediate tournament level in USCF-organized competition).

Private Chess Tutor in 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. [Yet private tutoring in chess is probably the fastest way you will progress.]


Tutor Teaches Chess by Example

By Jonathan Whitcomb (chess tutor in Salt Lake Valley, Utah)

I had the pleasure of playing chess with two young talented players recently: a high school student and a much younger child. Both boys showed talent and abilities for their ages, yet I won both games. It seems that neither of them have ever had private lessons from a chess tutor. The high school student has not yet played in a tournament (although he played well enough to make things difficult for me in our game) and just finished his sophomore year in a school that has no chess club. We’ll look at the chess game I played against the younger boy, however, as an example more appropriate for beginners to learn from.

I offer the following as a brief online lesson from a chess coach who appreciates raw talent but who almost always wins when playing against opponents who have very limited training, very limited study, and very limited experience against tournament players. I rarely lose when my opponent has little more than raw talent.

It was the first time that I attended this chess event at the South Jordan Library near Redwood Road (Salt Lake Valley), but it will not likely be the last. The librarian was very appreciative of those attending, even though the attendance was modest. I was the only adult competing. I will not mention the names of the minors who played chess that afternoon, for privacy reasons. Let’s just call them “Boy-1” (about eight years old) an “Boy-2” (high school student).

South Jordan library - front of building

The Salt Lake Valley (County) Library in South Jordan, Utah


A Practical Lesson From the Chess Tutor

White: Boy-1 (apparently about eight years old)

Black: Jonathan Whitcomb (a chess instructor living in Murray, Utah)

1) e4      d6

This chess opening is the Pirc Defense (pronounced either way: purse and pierce)

2) Nc3  Nf6

3) Bb5+ . . . .

It may seem like there may be an advantage to checking your opponent’s king, but often there is no advantage gained from it. This is one of those many times when giving check does not bring any advantage.

3) . . . . Bd7

I, the chess tutor, made a threat with this move. Do you see it?

White to make move #4

White to move – Notice what Black is threatening, early in this chess opening


Tactical Motif: Overworked Piece

The white knight at c3 is overworked, protecting both the pawn at e4 and the bishop at b5. Sometimes there’s no harm in having an overworked piece, but often the opponent can find a way to take advantage of that tactic. In this simple example the way for Black to make use of White’s weakness is simple: capture the white bishop.

Black to make move #4

Position after White made the mistake of moving Nf3


4) Nf3?   . . . .

The young boy did not see the threat.

The black bishop captured the white bishop on b5

4) . . . .  Bxb5

Now White has little choice: He needs to recapture on the b5 square or he will be a minor piece behind, having only one bishop while Black would have two bishops.

5) Nxb5  . . . .

White had to capture the black bishop on the b5 square


Now White is no longer protecting the pawn at e4.

5) . . . . Nxe4

After Black moved Nxe4


I won the game on the 19th move, with checkmate. The above move are a simple example of taking advantage of an overworked piece and winning material with that tactical motif. To an early beginner, it may seem like I was just lucky, but this was done intentionally by looking ahead a very few moves.

Two more chess events will be held in the South Jordan public library in June of 2016:

  • June 22nd from 4:00 p.m. until 5:30 p.m.
  • June 30th from 7:00 p.m. until 8:15 p.m. (adult chess players are especially invited)


Chess coach Jonathan Whitcomb

Jonathan Whitcomb (Salt Lake Valley of Utah) demonstrates the Pirc opening



Pawn End Game

Some chess books teach endgame technique: how to win when you’re ahead and draw when you’re behind. We’ll look at a simple position suitable for beginners . . .

Chess in the Salt Lake Valley

Informal Game at a Chess Club

Chess Tutor in the Salt Lake Valley

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 Tutors in Western USA

The following are not recommendations for any chess teacher except the one in Murray, Utah, and they are offered only as informational resources and brief compilations of what is available through deeper online searching for chess coaches and tutors in the western United States.


Chess Lessons in Murray, Utah

Book author offers chess tutoring lessons in Salt Lake City – $25

  • Private or group instruction
  • Chess coach travels to your location (within limits)
  • Literature included at no extra charge
  • Tutor uses a new teaching method: “NIP”

Whitcomb's on Ensign Peak above Salt Lake City

Jonathan and Gladys Whitcomb live in Murray, Utah (Salt Lake Valley)

Before moving to Utah, they were professional child care providers in California


Chess Coach in Washington State

The Orlov Chess Academy in Redmond, Washington, has several highly-rated masters available for their courses of study. The fees are a bit complex, but basically may include a $25 registration fee and a lesson-fee of $21 each, unless the student is signed up for five or more lessons (then it’s $17 each). High-performance lessons cost $45-$50 each, depending on how many lessons are taken.


Oregon Chess Wizards

(Portland area) Their programs include summer chess camps. Their full-day and half-day camps include activities other than chess, with “hundreds” of locations that appear to include parks and churches. Private chess lessons are also available, although details like prices do not seem to be available online (phone them).


Chess Assistance in Fremont, California

The NorCal House of Chess has a few celebrated chess tutors, including these:

  • Ted Castro (“Superstar coach”)
  • Vadim Milov (grandmaster, once #22 in the world)
  • Varuzhan Akobian (another highly rated grandmaster)
  • Dejan Bojkov (Bulgarian grandmaster and author)
  • Enrico Sevillano (an active grandmaster)





Salt Lake Valley Chess Coach

Your lesson can be in your home or in a library near your home. The tutoring-service locations include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following cities . . .

Tournaments in Utah, early in 2016

February 27th Saturday competition in Salt Lake City

Brief Reviews of Chess Books

  • Modern Chess Opening Traps
  • Beat That Kid in Chess
  • Think Like a Grandmaster
  • e4 versus the Sicilian II


Salt Lake Open Chess Tournament

The second annual Salt Lake Open was held at the Warnock Building of the University of Utah, on Saturday, March 19, 2016, in three separate divisions: Open, Reserve (unrated/1600), and Booster (unrated/1000). Let’s now look at what happened in the Open Section, in which the highest-rated players competed.

Open section of tournament - after rd-2

Open-Section standings after the first two rounds of the Salt Lake Open

Of the five players with ratings over 2000, four of them were among the eight who won their first two games. The highest-rated competitor, before this chess tournament began, was Brandon Clarke: 2335.

Four of the 29 players in the Open section had ratings less than 1000 and two were unrated. Four were Class-A (1800-1999), and ten were Class-B (1600-1799).

Brendon Young had played in the Reserve section of the Utah Speed Championship, just three weeks earlier. Now he was playing against the big boys of chess.

Four players in the Open section of the March 19th tournament had played in the Open section of the Speed Championship on February 27th:

  • Bryan Leaño
  • Alexander Gustafsson
  • Stephen Gordon
  • Grant Hodson

The young grandmaster Kayden Troff did not compete in the Salt Lake Open this year (he did play in the earlier speed tournament, and won with a perfect score).

Final Standings in the Open Section

First place to Brandon Clarke: 4-0

Second place to Bryan Leaño: 3½-½

There was a five-way tie with a score of 3-1:

  • Stephen Gordon
  • Eric Hon
  • Alexander Gustafsson
  • Juan Zhang
  • Steve Hoisington

Side Notes on the Tournament

Perhaps most noteworthy was the participation of Gatlin Black and Brendon Young, who both did exceptionally well in a tournament for children one week earlier: The Utah K-6 Elementary Chess Championship (held on March 12th). Gatlin had a perfect score in that chess event, in his sixth-grade section. Brendon tied for first among the fifth-grade kids.

Gatlin Black got an even score against the big boys, in the Salt Lake Open tournament: 2-2. His rating before that March 19th competition was 1464, but that went up to 1484 from his play in the Salt Lake Open.

Highest-rated section in Salt Lake Open

Open division of the Salt Lake Open chess tournament, March 19, 2016




Speed time-control tournaments in Utah

Two chess tournaments were held on Saturday, February 27, 2016, in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah, both of them with some form of Blitz time control.

Rating improvements for children in a Utah chess tournament

Two chess tournaments were held on Saturday, February 27, 2016, in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah, both of them with some form of Blitz time control.

Gift of a Chess Book

Written especially for the raw beginner, the chess player who knows the rules of the game but not much about how to win, Beat That Kid in Chess is ideal for the novice. It uses the new teaching method for the royal game: nearly- identical positions (NIP) . . .

Chess Book for a Teenager

Most chess books are purchased by the players who use them, rather than by those giving them as gifts. One exception is a gift-book for a beginner. A new entry in that genre is Beat That Kid in Chess. We’ll now compare it to an older book, Winning Chess Tactics for Juniors.

Chess Books for Children

While marketing my chess book (and researching potential competition for my Beat That Kid in Chess), I found several publications that could be very beneficial for children. Since these books do not appear to be directly competing with mine, I feel no hesitancy in mentioning them.


Chess Books: Old and New

Brief Reviews by Jonathan Whitcomb

Modern Chess Opening Traps

This is an old chess book, written by William Lombardy, the same grandmaster who coached Bobby Fischer and kept him in the World Championship match (1972) so that Fischer won that title, becoming the first official American World Chess Champion. Modern Chess Opening Traps can be a valuable book for tournament players and chess club competitors, although it is written in the old descriptive notation. This is too advanced for a raw beginner.

Book written by Grandmaster Lombardy


Beat That Kid in Chess

This book for chess beginners, written in 2015, may be the first one written with the new NIP system of chess instruction. Nearly identical positions—that helps the player learn to think tactically, more like a master calculates tactics. The reader need know nothing about the teaching method itself, for it works naturally: under the surface. Similar positions have different tactical potential, allowing the chess student to see exactly what is possible in each setting.

One reader said the following in an Amazon customer review:

We liked that the first chapter in this book was on Checkmate. My daughter has been playing chess since she was four, but she would still struggle with finding checkmate when it was possible for her. As we went through this book, I set up the board according to the diagrams shown, and we worked together on finding checkmate when it was available. I think this provided a good confidence boost for her, and this added confidence helped give her the motivation to want to keep learning and discovering how to spot the sorts of moves that would eventually lead her to a possible checkmate during a game.

Beat That Kid in Chess is not really about competing with a child, for age is actually of little consequence when a beginner plays another novice competitor. The reading level is more for adults and teenagers, although some older elementary school children could benefit. Younger kids may also get a lot from this new chess book, if an adult helps (as noted above).

"Beat That Kid in Chess" by Whitcomb


Think Like a Grandmaster

This old chess book was translated into English in 1971 and was written by Grandmaster Alexander Kotov. This is not for a beginner, but many tournament players may find this book especially helpful in avoiding time trouble by logical calculating of different variation possibilities over the board. The following is taken from page 28:

You simply must not wander to and fro, here and there through the branches, losing time in checking. . . . Better to suffer the consequences of an oversight than suffer from foolish and panicky disorder in analysis.

"Think Like a Grandmaster" chess book


1.e4 vs The Sicilian II

This new chess book is not likely to be very helpful to most beginners, for specific-opening books are generally most useful to tournament players, rather than novices. This publication, written by Parimarjan Negi (a grandmaster from India) has very few descriptions on the Amazon page, as of mid-March, 2016, and not yet any customer review.



New Chess Book for Beginners

‘You may notice that many diagrams are nearly identical, something rarely encountered in most chess books. You need to get used to those small differences that are so important in chess games. How critical can be the smallest difference! This approach can help you to think like a tournament player, in the sense of diving into a chess position as if it had never come up before . . .’

Best New Chess Book for the Beginner

A new chess teaching method, in this new book, sets it apart from all other chess books:  N.I.P.* training for tactics. This natural method develops the mind in seeing the relevant details in positions. It avoids the weakness that can be prevalent in many chess books, in which a tactic can so easily be accidentally associated with some general form of the position. [NIP: nearly-identical positions]

Fifth and Sixth Grade Chess Championship in Utah

The state elementary school chess championship was held at the University of Utah, on Saturday, March 12, 2016, and was directed by Bill Clark, with a number of assistants. The official time control listed for this chess tournament was game-in-30-minutes with no time delay, but it appears that chess clocks were not generally used.

Chess Book for the Raw Beginner

The paperback Beat That Kid in Chess was published by Createspace on September 2, 2015 . . . This book can take you into a level that should help you defeat many beginners, at least sometimes. In other words, you will no longer be a raw beginner and will instead be able to defeat [novice opponents], at least more often than you lose.


Blitz Chess Tournaments in Utah

Two chess tournaments were held on Saturday, February 27, 2016, in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah, both of them with some form of Blitz time control.

  • Utah State High School Chess Championship (in Sandy)
  • Utah Speed Championship (University of Utah)

For High School and Junior H.S. Students

This Blitz-chess tournament was held after the completion of the standard-time-control tournament. Apparently both events were held in Sandy, Utah (although the USCF gives the location as “Salt Lake City”). It was divided into two separate sections: for senior and junior high school students. Players in each section were scheduled for ten games, in a double-round Swiss system tournament, meaning each paired opponent was played twice (alternating piece colors). All games had a time control of five minutes per game for each player.

High School Section (30 players)

  • Eric Hon:  9-1
  • Samuel Mason: 8-2
  • Jesse Johnson:  8-2
  • Luis Goodrich:  8-2
  • Gabriel Zhao:  6½-3½
  • Clancey Black: 6½-3½
  • Matthew Fontaine: 6½-3½
  • Lili Clark:  6-4
  • Devin Dustman: 6-4
  • Devon Bunn:  6-4
  • George Charlier: 6-4
  • Jayden Paulus:  6-4
  • Joseph Garcia:  5½-4½
  • Wesly Harston: 5½-4½
  • Bryan Guo:  5-5
  • John Blazzard: 4½-5½
  • Parker Steenblik: 4-6
  • Jackson Pyrah:  4-6
  • Bryan Christiansen: 4-6
  • Connor Smith:  4-6
  • Benjamin Wiscombe: 4-6
  • Ethan Low:  4-6
  • Tyson Hadlock: 4-6
  • John York:  4-6
  • Jackson Dean: 3-7
  • William Casper: 3-7
  • Alex Jarrett:  3-7
  • Timothy Worthen: 2-8
  • Sage Georgie:  2-8
  • Paul Sorenson: 2-8

Junior High Section (18 players)

  • Gatlin Black:  8½-1½
  • Andrew Roach: 8-2
  • Jacinda Lee:  7-3
  • Jonathan Williams: 6-4
  • Anna Lee:  6-4
  • Caleb Elliott: 6-4
  • Sraavya Pinjala: 6-4
  • Justin Dong:  6-4
  • Alexander Qi: 5½-4½
  • Evan LaForge: 5-5
  • Vrishank Jannu: 4-6
  • Ilha Hwang: 4-6
  • Anoushka Kharkar: 4-6
  • Sarah Day:  4-6
  • Joseph Stay: 4-6
  • Spencer Brown: 3-7
  • John Baird:  3-7
  • Solon Grover (two games played)

Utah Speed Championship

This Blitz chess tournament, held at the University of Utah, had a different time control: 4-minute games (per player) with a 2-second increment. This meant that many games could take over ten minutes to complete. This tournament was divided into two sections: Open Section and Reserve Section.

First place in the open section went to Kayden Troff, who had a perfect score of 14-0. Second place went to Bryan Leaño, who had a score of 10-4. This division of the tournament had much higher rated players than the reserve section.

First place in the reserve section went to Vahan Karzhyan, who scored 8-2. A tie-breaker gave the second-place trophy to Matthew C. Larson, who scored 6-4 in regular game-points.

GM Kayden Troff, after the speed tournament

Grandmaster Kayden Troff enjoys an unofficial Blitz game, after winning the open division of the speed tournament at the University of Utah



2016 Utah Speed Championship

In USCF Blitz ratings, no other chess player in Utah is within 400 points of Kayden [who had a perfect score to win the open section of the tournament], who stands at 2536.

Chess Book Reviews

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 . . .

Saturday chess tournament in Utah

I was delighted to witness the Speed Championship of Utah this past Saturday, February 27, 2016, at the University of Utah. Nineteen Blitz players competed . . .

Tactics in Four Chess Books

  • How to Beat Your Dad at Chess
  • 5334 Problems, Combinations and Games
  • Beat That Kid in Chess
  • 1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations