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.

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