Utah Chess Instruction

Published / by Jonathan Whitcomb / 1 Comment on 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. The following are only a portion of the cities to which he can drive for giving private or group instruction in the royal game, and the cost is very reasonable: $25 per lesson, at 45 minutes to an hour for each lesson. (Not all of the youngest chess players, less than about six years old, will do well for more than 45 minutes of tutoring.)

For most chess players, improving basic tactical ability is very important.

A partial listing of the communities available for chess tutoring in Utah is here:

  • Murray
  • Taylorsville
  • Holladay
  • Kearns
  • West Valley City
  • Midvale
  • Cottonwood Heights

The chess tutor Jonathan Whitcomb may also be available to travel to further locations in the Salt Lake Valley, depending on this schedule. Phone him for details and any potential extra transportation charges that could apply for cities further away from Murray.

He has taught chess to students of many ages, from young children to older kids, teenagers, and adults. Instruction is available for those of many different levels of ability.

In general, the following subjects may be covered in various lessons (depending on the skill of the student, for each person is given precise individual attention):

  • Basic tactical awareness
  • Motifs of tactics
  • Strategy as a chess game progresses
  • Opening basics and details
  • Middle-game battles
  • End-game principles
  • Precise methods in the end game


man talks on telephone while playing chess

Jonathan Whitcomb wrote the book Beat That Kid in Chess, which may be the first chess publication using the NIP system of chess instruction: nearly-identical positions. This can make it much easier for a chess player to learn most thoroughly the most important aspect of winning chess: tactics.

To communicate with Whitcomb, and ask questions or make an appointment for your first free introductory meeting, use the CONTACT page or call him: 801-590-9692.



Chess Tutor in Salt Lake Valley

Convenient (at your home or at a nearby library) . . . The following communities in the Salt Lake Valley [Utah] can easily be visited by the chess tutor Jonathan Whitcomb . . .

Chess Lessons in Las Vegas

Atanas Kolev is a chess grandmaster with more than 30 years professional chess experience as a chess player and coach in many countries all over the world – Bulgaria, Spain, USA, Greece, San Salvador and so on. [$100/hour]

Chess Lesson Reviews – San Diego, California

(Although the title page mentions St. George, Utah)


Utah State Elementary Chess Championships of 2016

Published / by Jonathan Whitcomb

This chess event, at the University of Utah on March 12, 2016, was actually seven independent tournament sections, one for each grade from kindergarten through sixth. Each was a Swiss system, which means that after the first round the children are paired according to cumulative scores. In other words, in the second round the players who won their first-round games will play each other and the players who had lost will play each other, and similar pairings apply in later rounds.

The 2016 Utah Elementary Championship, held in Salt Lake City, had a total of 451 children competing in six rounds, with the largest section being the fifth-graders: 91 chess competitors. In this post, we look at the more impressive rating improvements shown by some of the players, rather than extoll just the trophy winners. (Most of the children, however, were unrated before they competed in this tournament.)

grownup plays chess with a kid

Kid plays an informal game against a grownup, before the chess tournament begins


Major Rating Improvements in Fourth and Fifth Graders

Fourth-Grade Children

Sapphire Wang: from pre-tournament-751 to post-tourney-853 (both provisional)

Chendi Luo: from 424 up to 698 – What a great jump!

Andrew Garzella: 421 to 656 – Another big step

Brigham Call: 390 to 579 (both provisional)

Natalie Germanov: 699 to 786 – Well Done!

Jared Hardy: 456 to 609 (both provisional)

Evan Luo: 398 to 593 – Great improvement! (both prov.)

Nayantara Nair: 436 (prov) to 588 (prov) – Super!

Olivia Li:  234 to 548 (both provisional) – Excellent!

Arianna Foutz: 118 (prov) to 363 (prov) – Great progress!

Audrey Young: 405 to 503 – Big improvement for an established rating

Leif Larson: 357 to 412 (both prov.) – Well done, Leif!

Benjamin Jones: 108-P to 178-P – Beat a player who eventually got three points: Great!


pre-tournament - chess trophies

Children admire the mountain of chess trophies before the tournament begins

Fifth-Grade children

Brendon Young (who tied for first place): pre-tournament-1002 up to 1087

Benjamin Watanabe (tied for first with Brendon): from 1019 to 1079

Dylan Woodbury: 592 to 790 – What a great leap upward in chess!

Ronak Agarwal: 529 to 727 – An equally impressive gain for Ronak

Felicia Che: 542 to 654 (both provisional) – Good work, Felicia!

Joseph Pachev: 471 to 651 (both prov.) – What a big upward step!

Youlhee Choi: 505-prov to 646-prov – Doing better at chess, for sure

Joseph Krois: 466 to 580 (both provisional) – an impressive gain

Kaiyi Zhang: 461-P to 558-P – Well done, Kaiyi!

Samuel Stoehr: 371 to 513 (both prov.) – Samuel keeps improving

Adam Hill: 101-P to 359-P – Adam had only one loss in this chess tournament

Kiley Almond: 589-P to 720-P – Kiley won three chess games: well done!

Sean Babcock: 278 to 360 (both provisional) – Sean is getting better

Zachary Durtschi: 101-P to 292-P – What excellent progress for Zachary!


Fifth-grade section of the tournament

Fifth graders concentrate on a chess game, late in the tournament



Final-round pairing of fourth graders in the chess tournament

State Elementary School Championships of Utah – “Hundreds of children, with countless parents and grandparents, swarmed into the Union building at the University of Utah, early in the morning of March 12, 2016, to compete in the annual state chess tournament . . .”

New Chess Book for Beginners

Do you know someone who learned to play chess but then got discouraged from losing? “Beat That Kid in Chess” is for readers of many ages: adults, teenagers, and many older children. It accepts you as you are, leading you into knowing how to win.

Sixth grade pairings for the final round

Posted pair-ups for the 2016 Utah Elementary School Chess Championship, 6th-grade, round six

Chess book for beginners

. . .  the choice of a book on chess should depend on the playing level of the one who reads the book. . . . For a teenager or adult who knows the rules of chess but little else, the choice may be easy: the new book Beat That Kid in Chess or the old one Chess for Dummies. If the book purchase is for a gift, the first title is obviously much better . . .

Teenagers’ chess book for beginners

This chess book [Beat That Kid in Chess] is balanced in depth and breadth, with lessons on how to checkmate your opponent, gain a material advantage over another beginner, promote a pawn to a queen, pin one of your opponent’s pieces, make a knight fork, avoid becoming checkmated, and much more.


Chess Tournament at the University of Utah

Published / by Jonathan Whitcomb / 1 Comment on Chess Tournament at the University of Utah

The outcome of the 2016 Utah Speed Championship was played by the book, as Grandmaster Kayden Troff won the tournament, in the open section, with a perfect score: 14-0. The second place finisher was four points behind the young grandmaster: Bryan Leaño at 10-4. This quick-play chess tourney was held on February 27th, at the University of Utah.


Troff plays Blitz chess after the tournament

Grandmaster Kayden Troff (left) won the speed tournament with a perfect score: 14-0


Open Section of the Utah Speed Championship of 2016

Kayden Troff: 14-0

Bryan Leaño: 10-4

Matthew Boren: 9-5

Alexander Gustafsson: 8½-5½

Alex Hall: 8½-5½

Stephen Gordon: 7½-6½

Josh Smith: 7½-6½

Frank Rockwood: 7-7

Charles Rasmussen: 6-8

Jamie Olsen-Mills: 6-8

Adam Stevenson: 6-8

Jeffrey Scott: 6-8

Grant Hodson: 2-12


tournament director with Grant

Tournament director Steve Hoisington (left) and Grant Hodson (standing)


Reserve Section of the Tournament (unrated and under 1500 rating)

Vahan Kardzhyan: 8-2

Matthew C. Larson: 6-4

Charles (Chip) Evans: 6-4

Henry Chen: 6-4

Brendon Young: 4-6

Jerry Zheng: 0-10


2nd place and 1st place winners in reserve section

Larson (left) and Kardzhyan (first-place winner) after the tournament


Tournament Tidbits

After winning all fourteen games in the open section, Kayden Troff seems to have gained only nine points in his Blitz rating: It is now 2545 (he is #29 in the USCF national rating list for Blitz). None of his competitors in this tournament had close to his rating, so his perfect score improved the seventeen-year-old’s rating only slightly.

Adam Stevenson, who was unrated before the event, now has a provisional rating of 1636 in Blitz.

Frank Rockwood gained 100 points in his provisional rating, which now stands at 1738.

Alexander Gustafsson, who placed fourth in the open section, gained 75 points: He’s now at 1947.

Bryan Leaño, who got second prize under Kayden Troff, passed the 2100-level in Blitz: now 2109.

In the reserve section, Henry Chen gained 145 points in his provisional rating: now 990.

Matthew Larson has graduated from a provisional rating: now a regular Blitz rating of 1030.

Jerry Zheng was the youngest competitor at seven years old.

Jamie Olsen-Mills was the only female; we need more lady participants in the future.


Jamie Olsen-Mills in open section of tournemant

Jamie played in the section with the stronger competitors


7-year-old in chess tournament

Jerry Zheng (right) and his younger brother (chess event: a speed-chess tournament at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City)



Grandmaster Kayden Troff wins chess tournament

Second place went to Bryan Leaño, who scored 10-4. Matthew Boren got third prize at 9-5. Fourth place was shared by Alexander Gustafsson and Alex Hall at 8½-5½.

Chess Book Reviews

Three publications:

  • Smerdon’s Scandinavian (opening)
  • Beat That Kid in Chess (for beginners)
  • The Dragon (opening)

New Chess Book for Beginners

Whether for your own enjoyment or for that of the person who receives a gift-book from you, the choice of a book on chess should depend on the playing level of the one who reads the book.