Category Archives: Games

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 . . .


Three books for chess players

Buying a Chess Book for a Gift

Hundreds of thousands of books may have been written about chess, over the past three centuries, perhaps more books about the royal game than all sports-books combined. Making a good buying decision for a chess book to be used as a gift, however—that requires care.

What is the chess-skill level of the gift recipient? That’s the big question. Is it a child who has already learned the rules but wants to win a game or two? Beat That Kid in Chess may be the best chess book for that child. Is it a club player who wins about half the time but needs to know a broad range of combinations that lead to checkmate? That intermediate-level player could benefit from the book How to Beat Your Dad at Chess. (By the way, both of those chess books are for a wide range of reader ages, not just for children.)

Three books for chess players


We now look at three very different chess books, for different gift recipients.

Chess for Children

This is not for older children, but it could be delightful for small kids who have adults who’ll read it to them or for second graders. Much of it is devoted to the rules of the game. Here’s one reader-review:

I bought this book for my children’s school library. I am the chess coach at their school and have been making efforts to increase the library’s collection of chess books for children. This book is a fine addition to the collection. As I read through it I thought that my K-2 crew would probably enjoy it more than my 3-5 crew, but so be it. [four stars out of five]

Beat That Kid in Chess

The title was chosen for marketing purposes, for it’s not actually about defeating a child in a chess game: It matters not the age of your opponent.

This chess book is for a wide range of readers: older children, teenagers, and adults. It assumes the reader already knows the rules of chess but not much about how to actually win a game. Here’s part of a reader-review for Beat That Kid in Chess:

Studies show that the study of chess increases your IQ, prevents Alzheimer’s, exercises both sides of the brain, increases your creativity, improves memory, increases problem-solving and reading skills, improves concentration, teaches planning and foresight, and more. Who doesn’t want that for themselves and their loved ones? This book is perfect for someone who knows the basic rules of chess but needs additional help to actually win. . . .

Chess Tactics for Kids

This book is for the third-level of chess skill: the intermediate player who already has the ability to look ahead in a game. Chess Tactics for Kids is not for the real beginner, the person who knows little more than the rules and has had very little over-the-board experience.

Like Beat That Kid in Chess, however, this book is for a wide range of reader-ages. Here’s one of the more-positive reviews for Chess Tactics for Kids:

I found this book a revealing guide to the way top players find chess combinations. Of course there are many books on tactics – one reason this one stands head and shoulders above the rest is because of the quality of the examples, and the logical presentation.



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 . . . “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 . . .”

Chess Books – for early beginner and post-beginner

Beat That Kid in Chess may be the best book for . . . the player who knows the rules but not much  else. The concepts taught with large chess diagrams can be understood and enjoyed by readers of a large range of ages . . .

Chess Books – Reviews

This is a set of short book reviews for the following:
* How to Beat Your Dad at Chess
* Chess: 5334 Problems, Combinations and Games
* Beat That Kid in Chess

New Chess Book Uses a New Teaching Method

The new paperback Beat That Kid in Chess may be the first publication to systematically use the teaching method called “nearly-identical positions” (PIN). It was also written especially with the “early” beginner in mind.


"Beat That Kid in Chess" back cover

More About “Beat That Kid in Chess”

This book for early beginners in chess—it actually has few competitors, for the vast majority of chess books fit into one of the following two categories:

  1. For tournament competitors (many thousands of books)
  2. For mid-level or advanced beginners (at least many hundreds of books)

Beat That Kid in Chess is for the “raw beginner,” who has little, if any, experience winning a game of chess. It fits into neither of the above two categories. The reading level of the text is teenager-adult, but some older children will have no problem with it. The concepts are presented simply and can be easily assimilated by readers of a wide range of ages, including many children.

From the second page of the introduction:

Trust me. Start at the beginning of the first chapter and progress from page to page. There is no magic formula at the end of the book; don’t bother looking ahead. Well . . . actually, if you’re thirty minutes away from starting a chess battle with that kid, and you have a little experience with checkmates and tactics, you can skip to the exercises at the end. That’s temporary. Otherwise I recommend taking the lessons in order.


white to move and mate in one

White to move (from the first page of the first chapter of the book; the actual diagrams in the book have letters and numerals running along the ranks and files, for clarity and chess notation)


Notice the above diagram, taken from Beat That Kid in Chess. For those acquainted with back-rank mates, moving the queen up to the top of the board might come to mind. The black king, however, would then escape to the nearby white square (it would not be checkmate).

The checkmate pattern taught in this diagram, however, is that the white queen can capture the pawn that’s directly in front of the black king, and that’s checkmate. The book explains:

Were it not for the white bishop, the black king would simply capture the white queen. As it is, this move is checkmate . . .


"Beat That Kid in Chess" back cover




For the Early Beginner, a New Chess Book

‘Beat That Kid in Chess’ may be the best book for the early beginner, the player who knows the rules but not much  else.

Two Great Chess Books, one for Beginners

Both emphasize the importance of tactics in winning chess games. Both are extremely practical, preparing their readers to beat their opponents by checkmate.

New Chess Book for Beginners

Do you know the rules but almost nothing more about chess? This is the best book for the early beginner.

Nearly-Identical Positions in Chess

Why use the NIP method of chess training? . . . students learn to look at a chess position more like a grandmaster would.


queen-vs-rook endgame of chess

Queen Versus Rook – Chess Endgame

The most important key position in most queen-versus-rook end games is the Philidor. The winning technique for this kind of position has been known for centuries, among chess masters and enthusiasts. (François-André Danican Philidor lived from 1726 to 1795.)


queen-vs-rook endgame of chess

Diagram-1 with black to move


The 64-square chess board has four corners, with two Philidor (Q-vs-R) positions possible in each corner, making a total of eight possible appearances of this pattern. We’ll examine it from the perspective with the defending king (black) on g1, shown in Diagram-1.

In this position, black is in zugzwang, meaning that having the move is a disadvantage, with every potential move creating more of a problem for the defender. Let’s look at what black may do.

  • Rh2 (the rook attacks the queen) loses immediately to Qe1-mate
  • Kf1 (the only legal move for the black king) loses quickly to Qh3, winning the rook, for the queen pins it; the black king must then move, for the rook cannot move, after which the queen captures the rook.
  • Several other moves by the rook will allow it to be captured, with NO stalemate
  • Rd2 allows the queen to fork the rook with Qg5+, winning the rook

Let’s look at how white can handle Rb2:

White wins the rook after Qd4 check

Diagram-2 with the potential move Qd4+ winning the rook

After black moves the rook to left, to the b2 square, white can fork the rook and king by moving the queen to the left, to d4. If black moves (instead of to b2) the rook to g7 in Diagram-1, the same queen move shown in Diagram-2 will also win the rook.

What if, from Diagram-1, black moves the rook to c2?

Philidor after black moves Rc2

Diagram-3 after black moves Rc2

In the position shown in Diagram-3, white first moves Qd4+.

Philidor after Qd4+ - chess end game

Diagram-4 after white moves Qd4+

After the queen check at d4, the black king cannot remain on the first rank (with Kh1) without allowing the queen to move to d2, winning the rook. (Of course, if the black king moves to f1 then Qd1 would be checkmate.) Black must move the king to h2:

chess endgame - Philidor queen-vs-rook

Diagram-5 after black moves Kh2

In Diagram-5, white will move Qd6+, quickly winning the rook or getting checkmate.

Black must give up the rook or be checkmated

Diagram-6 after white moves Qd6-check

The winning move is shown in Diagram-6: Qd6+. If the black king moves to the first rank (with Kg1 or Kh1), the queen moves to d1, forking the black king and rook. If the king instead moves to h3, the result is Qh6-mate. This would be a good time for black to resign.

Let’s get back to Diagram-1:

queen-vs-rook endgame of chess

Diagram-1 (again)

What if black moves the rook all the way to the left?

Philidor - Ra2

Diagram-7 after black moves Ra2 (from Diagram-1)

The quickest way for white to win, in Diagram-7, appears to be Qd4+ as shown below:

black cannot move Kf1 because of mate

Diagram-8 after white moves Qd4+

After white move the queen to d4, black cannot get out of check by moving the king to f1 without getting checkmated when the queen then moves to d1. If black now moves the king to h2, the result will be the same as if it moved to h1, we we’ll now look only at Kh1:

The black king just moved to h1

Diagram-9 after black moves Kh1

White now will move Qh8+, practically forcing the black king to g1:

White moved Qh8-check and wins

Diagram-10 after white’s Qh8+

After white checks again, by moving to h8, black’s interposing with Rh2 fails to Qa1-checkmate. Yet if the king moves to g1, then white wins the rook with Qg8+. So we have only two other moves available for black, from the original position of Diagram-1: Rg6 and Rg8.

Black is about to move Rg6

Diagram-11 from the position of the first diagram, black is about to move Rg6

The following are the best defensive moves available to black, from the original position of Diagram-1, the first two of which we have already looked at:

  • Rc2
  • Ra2
  • Rg6
  • Rg8

Here is the position after Rg6:

The rook may look safe, but it's not

Diagram-12 after black’s Rg6

In the above position, white will move Qd4+:

Black cannot move Kf1 because of mate

Diagram-13 after white moved Qd4+

Notice the position in Diagram-13. If black moves to f1, Qd1# is mate. Black has two other choices: Kh1 and Kh2, which lead to the following (keep in mind that the black king cannot ever move to h3 while the white queen is on the above diagonal, the a1-h8 diagonal, or the result would be Qh8 with mate soon following).

  • If Kh2, then Qb2+ and when black then moves the king to g1 or h1 then Qb1+ wins the rook.
  • If Kh1, then Qa1+, Kh2, Qb2+ and white may soon fork the rook and king by Qb1+.

Here’s the final possibility for black:

black just moved Rg8 in this end game

Diagram-14 after black moves Rg8

The position in Diagram-14 may look safe for black. After all, the black king and rook are on opposite colored squares and on the same file and the maximum distance apart. But white actually has to moves that lead to a win here. The quickest way is probably Qd4+.

Philidor queen-vs-rook end game

Diagram-15 after white moves Qd4+

After white moves the queen to d4 (check), the king cannot move to f1 or it will be immediately checkmated. But if the black king moves to h1 then Qa1+ will quickly get a fork for white. Let’s now look at the last line for black: Kh2.

chess Philidor after king moves to h2

Diagram-16 after the black king moves to h2

Let’s look at this position logically. In Diagram-16, we can see one potential way for white to win the rook in the future. It’s by moving the queen to a1, checking the black king when it’s on g1 or h1. That is possible if the queen stays on the long diagonal from a1 to h8. But black is now threatening to move the king to h3, escaping away from the corner. And if white stops checking the black king, it may give the defender time to return the rook to the g2 square, continuing that corner defense.

Is there a move that will keep the queen on that long diagonal and yet stop the defender from moving Rg2 and also stop the king from escaping to h3? Yes there is. It’s Qe5+.

winning the queen versus rook Philidor position

Diagram-17 after Qe5+

After white moves the queen to e5, with check, black cannot move the king to h3 without allowing checkmate from Qh5#. As with many of the checks in this kind of endgame, the defender cannot interpose with the rook without losing it. So the black king must move to g1 or h1, where it will be checked by the queen moving to a1. Kg1 gives no advantage (to the defender) than Kh1, so let’s look at the king moving to h1:

chess position after Kh1

Diagram-18 after the black king moves to h1

Now the queen can move to a1 with check, preparing to make the next move that will fork the black king and rook (Qa2+).

chess position after queen moves to a1

Diagram-19 after white moves Qa1+

Now what if black uses the rook to block check? After Rg1, white would get checkmate by moving the queen to h8. The only other option for black, in the above position, is Kh2.

chess end game position after Kh2

Diagram-20 after the black king moves to h2

Do you see the fork now available to white? It’s Qa2+.

white moved Qa2, check, winning the rook

Diagram-21 white wins the rook by moving the queen to a2 with check

In this last line of the Philidor chess end game (queen versus rook), the black king and rook are forked by the queen. There is no stalemate possibility, so white wins the rook and will soon checkmate the lone king.



Examining the Philidor Pattern

Each of these eight positions is a Philidor [queen versus rook] corner position.

End Game [Chess] of Queen Versus Rook

Let’s examine a particular corner defense in the queen-vs-rook chess end game.

A Chess Combination by Paul Morphy

. . .  regarded by many as the greatest chess player in the world, during his tour of Europe in 1858

The Chess Champion Paul Morphy

At least from his early-middle-aged years until he died in 1884, Paul Morphy reportedly considered chess an amateur activity, not to be pursued as a profession.

A beginner can win a chess game

How this book can help you