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