Category Archives: Education

Jonathan and Gladys on Ensign Peak, just north of downtown Salt Lake City

Chess Lessons in Utah

By the chess tutor Jonathan Whitcomb, living in Murray, Utah

When my wife and I lived in Southern California, she ran a large family day care for children, and I offered free chess lessons to those attending. Yet I now offer chess instruction for players of all ages: adults, teenagers, and elementary-school-age children (a pre-kindergarten child may learn to play chess in some cases; phone me at 801-590-9692 and feel free to ask about that). We now live in the Salt Lake Valley, and I can probably drive to your location for lessons.

Jonathan and Gladys on Ensign Peak, just north of downtown Salt Lake City

Jonathan and Gladys Whitcomb now live in Murray, Utah


Let’s now look at a chess position from a game played at the Harman Senior Citizen Center in West Valley City, Utah. White has just captured a black pawn with that bishop on the left:


White just moved Bxh5 but that does not necessarily win a pawn

The white bishop just captured a pawn on the h5 square. What can Black now do?

The above puzzle is not for the raw beginner but for advanced players. Don’t feel too bad if you fail to find a good move for Black. The man who played on that side in the actual game at the Harman Chess Club in the Salt Lake Valley—that player also failed to find the right move and eventually lost the game.

Part of the key to this chess puzzle is the following:

  1. White has just captured a black pawn
  2. The black queen is attacking an unprotected white pawn

This is a brief chess lesson, but it can be too challenging to those who do not know chess notation, so we’ll soon look at another diagram that makes it more clear.

Let me take you through the tactics of this positions, as if I were a chess tutor sitting next to you, explaining how to think about this position. The obvious move, capturing the white bishop with that pawn, is the wrong move, but the reason is does not work may not be obvious to you.

Notice the black knight on the c5 square. It is now attacked by the white queen but also defended by the black queen, so there is a balance at the moment. That’s important, for if the black queen were not defending that knight, the white queen could capture it.

Now notice that if it were not for the black pawn at g6 (the pawn that can capture the white bishop), the white knight in front of the white king could move to the f5 square, attacking the black queen and at the same time protecting the white pawn at h4.

I know that all this can be hard to visualize, so let’s look at the following diagram:

Part of why it would be a mistake for Black to capture that bishop

Why it would be a mistake for Black to capture that bishop: the red circle

The black pawn circled in brown—that pawn is protecting the square that has a red circle. That’s where the circled knight can move if the black pawn captures the white bishop (another brown circle is around that bishop).

Now imagine that the circled black pawn captures the circled bishop (brown circles).

Notice that the white knight, after moving to the square that has a red circle, would then do two things: attack the black queen and defend the pawn that has a green circle.

The tactical trick here is that the black queen would no longer be able to defend the black knight that is on the other side of the board. Whatever safe square the black queen would move to, it would allow the white queen to capture the black knight.

In chess, what happens on one side of the board sometimes affects the other side.

Now let’s get back to the original position. The best move for Black is probably to move the knight to e6, which indirectly puts the white bishop in danger:

Put the black knight on a safe square

The quiet-looking move may be the best here: moving the knight to a safe square

After the black knight makes that move, the white bishop really will be in danger of being captured by the black pawn.

This little chess lesson is not over yet. If the black knight moves to e6 (shown above), would not the white bishop also move to a safe square? White would then have won a pawn, right? No, it does not actually work out so well for White.

Let’s go back to the diagram with circles. Notice that the white pawn with a green circle will still be undefended and will still be attacked by the black queen. As soon as the white bishop moves to safety, the black queen will capture that white pawn, so the material will be even: Each side captured one pawn. In reality, however, Black will be better off, for the black queen will be in a position to eventually attack the white king, or at least that is a possibility for the future.

Private Chess Lessons in the Salt Lake Valley

Your own tutoring sessions, if you decide to take lessons in chess, will not necessarily involve that kind of tactical detail. What your lessons entail will depend on your precise skill in the royal game. Your lessons will be created precisely for your needs. As you improve in your abilities, the tutoring sessions will progress in step with your progress.

I can drive to many locations in the Salt Lake Valley, yet your chess lessons need not be in your own home. If you like, we could meet in a public library or a public park convenient to both of us. (I live in Murray, but my city business license does not allow me to conduct business in my own home; it is a home-office business.)

The first session is free, allowing you to learn how I teach and allowing me to learn where you stand in your chess-playing abilities. Regular lessons are at $25 per hour, but you can proceed as you will after the first free session: You don’t need to make any commitment to continue.

Call me at 801-590-9692 or send me an email with your questions. Thank you.

Chess tutor Jonathan Whitcomb in Utah

Chess tutor Jonathan Whitcomb, Salt Lake Valley, Utah

This instructor is an active member of the Harman Chess Club in West Valley City, Utah.



Instructive Chess Lessons in Utah

Beat That Kid in Chess [published late in 2015] I wrote for the early beginner, the chess player who knows the rules of the game but little else about how to win. 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.

Chess Tutor in Salt Lake area

Before moving to Utah, he was helping, part time for over ten years, with his wife’s large family child care business in Long Beach, California, where they offered free chess lessons for children . . .

Chess Instruction in Utah

This chess coach (who lives in Murray) is now offering private and group lessons in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah, with no travel charges to the central communities of the valley.

Chess Coach in Salt Lake Valley

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 . . .


"Beat That Kid in Chess" - by Whitcomb

A New Chess Book for Beginners

I [Jonathan Whitcomb] have just published my first book on chess: Beat That Kid in Chess. I’ll quote the first three paragraphs from the back cover of this 194-page paperback:

Do you know the rules but almost nothing more about chess? This is the best book for the early beginner. Whatever your age, feel your understanding grow as you learn to checkmate and also learn to gain many advantages that can lead to a checkmating position.

After the lessons in the first eight chapters, you can see your progress in simple exercises and then in the more-advanced exercises, as you become ready.

How few chess books are for the raw beginner! How few of them concentrate on what the early beginner needs the most! “Beat That Kid in Chess” differs by emphasizing the simple basics that give the biggest rewards, so you’ll quickly make real progress.

Here’s a small part of the Amazon description:

The approach was organized by a professional nonfiction writer who began teaching chess beginners in the 1960’s. He knows what the raw beginner most needs to learn. Of the countless chess books which have been published, very few appear to be carefully written for beginners, perhaps less than 10%. Of those that seem to be for beginners, most are too confusing and more appropriate for lower-ranked tournament competitors.


"Beat That Kid in Chess" - by Whitcomb

Author’s Evaluation (for what it’s worth)

I’ve looked through other chess books that appear, on the surface, to be for the chess beginner. Not one of them impressed me, in how a beginner might benefit in comparison with the benefits possible if certain basic points had been emphasized properly. I pressed forward, with full confidence that my book, Beat That Kid in Chess, could become the best chess book ever written for the raw beginner. Now that my book has been published, I present it as a candidate for being the best such book ever written.

If I am mistaken, through overlooking a better book, please let me know.


One estimate for the number of chess books published (in history) is about 100,000. Probably less than 10% of those were written for the raw beginner, the player who knows the rules but not how to win an actual game. Who can say what is the best chess book for a beginner? But one point can be said for Beat That Kid in Chess: It uses a new method of instruction called nearly-identical positions. This greatly helps the student to see those critical details in chess positions, details that make all the difference.

In the first chapter of the book, Diagram-1 is a position in which White can make an immediate checkmate, capturing a black pawn with the queen. On the next page, however, one piece has been added, and that black queen protects that pawn, preventing White from getting mate.

Those nearly-identical positions are then repeated over and over, with different possibilities that come from those minor alterations. This can save the reader from losing many games over a long period of time. How is that? Instead of learning slowly by the painful experiences of losing many games, the beginner learns those basic concepts from examining those carefully planned chess positions in those diagrams in Beat That Kid in Chess.



Another Voice for the Benefits of Chess for Children

. . . in the United States, a nation that actively promotes sports for the physical development of students but promotes intellectual competition (like chess) much less than European countries promote the game [of chess] in schools.

A New Chess Book for Beginners

Castle early in  the game, to get your king closer to a safe corner

Beat That Kid in Chess

Published September 2, 2015, with a suggested retail price of $13.40 (US dollars)

Chess for Beginners

. . . The above four simple principles, when applied consistently, may allow an early beginner to soon win a game, provided the opponent is also an early beginner.


two "pterodactyl" ropens seen in Cuba in 1971

Religion and Belief in Modern Pterosaurs

By Jonathan D. Whitcomb, investigative reporter

A handful of American cryptozoologists and explorers have searched for living pterosaurs around the world and have searched for eyewitnesses of those featherless flying creatures. Let’s examine how religion relates to belief in modern pterosaurs.

The Breadth of Sighting Locations

Over the past twelve years, I have received emails from five continents, from persons of various cultures, various religions, and various backgrounds. Most of them are eyewitnesses of apparent pterosaurs, not paleontologists examining fossil bones but ordinary persons who have witnessed an extraordinary winged creature that resembles a pterosaur more than a bird or bat.

Yet I have done more than read emails. In 2004 I traveled to Papua New Guinea and explored part of Umboi Island with my interpreter-bodyguard, the native Luke Paina. We searched for the nocturnal ropen and almost totally failed, but we succeeded in finding many eyewitnesses of the gigantic featherless long-tailed flying creature of the night.

After returning to the United States, and during the eleven years since that expedition, I have communicated with many eyewitnesses of apparent pterosaurs. I have learned about the flying creatures and about people. Here are some of the countries where sightings were reported:

  • Papua New Guinea
  • Australia
  • Philippines
  • Afghanistan
  • Namibia
  • Sudan
  • Spain
  • Amsterdam
  • Great Britain
  • Canada
  • United States
  • Mexico
  • Cuba

two "pterodactyl" ropens seen in Cuba in 1971Sketch drawn by an eyewitness of two flying creatures seen in Cuba in 1971


An Objective Look at Religion

How does religion relate to non-extinct pterosaurs? It appears to mostly connect with one’s passion in searching for those creatures; religion appears unrelated to sightings themselves. In other words, your religion has nothing to do with whether or not you will see an apparent pterosaur, however it relates closely to whether or not you will go on an expedition in search of those creatures. Also, it can relate closely to whether or not you’ll believe an eyewitness.

Critics and skeptics have sometimes ridiculed the living-pterosaur (LP) investigations with a statement like this: “A modern pterosaur will not prove the world is only 6,000 years old. We already have ‘living fossils’ and yet we know the world is billions of years old.”

Yet rarely will a critic quote the words of any LP investigator (like me or Garth Guessman or David Woetzel or Paul Nation), preferring to set up a straw man argument and trying to make us look silly. Let’s take a more objective look at how religion relates to the concept of non-extinct pterosaurs.

Biblical Creation and LP Investigators

Most of the expeditions and interviews were conducted by a few Americans who hold a firm belief in literal readings of the Old Testament. Critics have pointed out that belief, apparently to dismiss everything we have done and said regarding sightings of apparent pterosaurs.

Yet many of the most celebrated scientific discoveries of the last few centuries have been made by those who hold a firm belief in literal readings of the Old Testament. Sir Isaac Newton is said to have spent more hours studying the Bible than in scientific work. That makes any attempt at dismissing LP investigations inappropriate, to say the least, when religious belief is the reason for dismissal. Look at the ideas themselves and consider the value of those ideas.

And yet our purposes can be explained, for those who are actually interested. I cannot speak much on behalf of my colleagues, only for my own purposes, and they have multiple levels.

One Purpose of Jonathan Whitcomb

I here mention one level of purpose, so we’ll let that suffice for now.

I want people of Western cultures to see more clearly, each person thinking more for himself or herself, with a better awareness of how we have been affected by indoctrination. How have we been indoctrinated? A book might be required to address that question completely, but let’s now take a brief look. The following is taken from the fourth edition of my nonfiction book Searching for Ropens and Finding God:

Automatic dismissal of an eyewitness report of a live pterosaur—that usually comes from dogmatically protecting ones philosophy or the universal-extinction assumption of our culture; it does not come from protecting science, at least with what I consider any reasonable definition of science. [page 10 of SFRFG, 4th ed.]

Watch science documentaries for years, those broadcast on American television, and you may find no mention of “origin philosophy,” or even a hint that such a thing exists. Why? Those science documentaries are funded by those who have adopted the standard-model axioms about origins, and they sometimes use the word “science” for that origin philosophy, which includes Darwin’s idea of unlimited common ancestry of all living organisms. [page 338 of SFRFG, 4th ed.]

I know from personal experience that Darwin’s concept of natural selection actually prevents the evolutionary changes he imagined. By the mathematical simulations in my investigation “Evolutionary Boundary,” I know. Take that by faith or reject it or set it on a back burner, but I myself know that flaw in Darwin’s philosophy, by my own personal experience. [page 339 of SFRFG, 4th ed.]

In Western countries, how often does the media portray belief in accidental existence as if that is a foundation of scientific thought! How often is the philosophy of Charles Darwin promoted in universities as if that philosophy is the center point of science! We are taught from childhood through old age, and what are we taught? Not how to think but what to think. Many Americans have rejected the indoctrination, but how many others have been molded into mental zombies, hardly capable of thinking for themselves! Part of my purpose has been to encourage clear independent thinking.



Pterosaurs and Belief in God

The following online sites contain scientific evidence or observable phenomena that directly or indirectly can lead to belief in the existence of God or confirm the logic of that belief.

Evidence of Modern Pterosaurs or Ropens

Many persons in Western societies, including in the United States, are blind to ideas that run contrary to deeply-entrenched assumptions.

Modern Pterosaur on Creation-Wiki

“Their most primitive representatives (seen through fossils of bats and pterosaurs) are fully transformed as capable fliers.” [“The Evolution of Dinosaurs” by Paul C. Sereno]

Video Evidence for Ropen Bioluminescence

Cliff Paiva, a physicist living in California, analyzed the video footage: two lights that Paul Nation (of Texas) recorded in Papua New Guinea, late in 2006. Whatever the lights were, they were not airplanes, meteors, car headlights, flashlights, or camera artifacts. The images were also not from a paste-on hoax.

The “Bible of Modern Pterosaurs” Cryptozoology Book

“. . . a hope that  carried us to a remote tropical island to search for a  living creature that almost all scientists had set aside  as if dead for millions of years. How dearly we all need  the mother of that little hope: a sense of a worthy  purpose to live!”

The Fiery Flying Serpent and a Book by Whitcomb

Although this new book has been called “the Bible of Modern pterosaurs,” and it explains a new interpretation for the flying “snakes” in the Old Testament, the Bible itself is quoted only in a few places.

Searching for Ropens and Finding God

On Barnes & Noble: “Fly above common true-life adventures, and dive into what may become the most unsettling scientific discovery since Copernicus and Galileo: living pterosaurs of the modern world–what a discovery!”

Brief Introduction to Living Pterosaur Investigations

Youtube video by Jonathan Whitcomb: his Umboi Island expedition in 2004

The Ropen of Papua New Guinea

It is described as a large, featherless flying creature with a long tail. It is reported to glow at night, in a way suggesting the animal controls the light (called “intrinsic bioluminescence”).

Kongamato Pterodactyl

A flying cryptid in Africa: The word “Kongamato” is said to have come from a native word that means “breaker of boats.” Even though some people believe it is a fictional animal of myth, some cryptozoologists belief kongamato is a “pterodactyl,” meaning a pterosaur.


3D animation of an old man at a chess set

Chess for Beginners

Learning and playing chess can help children mentally, but teenagers and adults can also benefit. So what about beginners who want to improve their chess skills?

Importance Principles for Early Beginners in Chess

  • Learn how to make a checkmate
  • Learn to avoid getting checkmated
  • Learn the values of pieces and don’t throw away material
  • Learn to see when your opponent blunders away material

The above four simple principles, when applied consistently, may allow an early beginner to soon win a game, provided the opponent is also an early beginner.

Chess Book for Beginners

The following is taken from the nonfiction book Beat That Kid in Chess:

Keep your king safe, especially in the early and middle of a game. After most of the pieces have been captured (and no queens are left), it may be important to use the king as a fighting force, but not when it can become in danger, especially not in the opening and middle game. Castle early in the game, to get your king closer to a safe corner. . . .

Take the lessons in this book seriously and your ability to play chess may advance further than if you had struggled through losing twenty games. It might not take the place of seriously struggling through eighty games, however, for over-the-board experience teaches in its own way. Yet you might soon see that kid struggle in competing with you, as you apply these lessons and teach that kid humility. It’s about time he learned that.


3D animation of an old man at a chess setFrom Geri’s Game by Pixar




Chess for Children

Studies have shown that playing chess can benefit children in a number of ways, and not just in potentially improving self confidence and self esteem. Playing chess can help kids improve concentration.

Chess in the Movies

A young boy sees men playing chess in a city park and is  fascinated by the game. . . . his father soon learns  that his boy has a natural skill with combinations. [the film “Searching for Bobby Fischer”]