Chess Clubs in Utah and Idaho

By Jonathan Whitcomb, a chess tutor offering lessons in the Salt Lake Valley

Of course many schools have their own chess clubs, but we now look at others, beginning with chess clubs in Utah, starting in the south. Some of these organizations offer chess lessons or contact information for instruction in the royal game.

St. George Chess Club

  • Contact: (435) 656-1966
  • Address: 354 East, 600 South, #302, St. George, UT 84770
  • Hours: open 3 to 6 pm Monday through Thursday, 3 to 10 pm on Friday, and for lunch between 11:30 am to 1:30 pm on weekdays.

You might want to phone before dropping by the St George Chess Center, to be sure they’re still in operation.

Dixie Rocks Chess Club

They meet on Wednesdays at the St. George Library (5-7 p.m.) and Thursdays at the St. George Recreation Center (about 6-9 p.m.).

  • Contact: Mike Kruse 435-703-8001 or 435-627-0616.
  • “Bring your boards and pieces. All ages, everyone welcome for casual chess.”

Heber City: The Wasatch County Senior Citizen’s Chess Club

  • Contact: Christy Ackerson 801- 864-6403
  • Address: Wasatch County Library/Senior Center, 265 E 1200 S, Room 157
  • Hours: First Monday of the month at 5 p.m.

Sandy Senior Center Chess Club (Utah)

  • For senior citizens
  • General information about the senior center: (385) 468-3410
  • Address: 9310 S 1300 E, Sandy
  • Hours: Play starts at about 12:30 or 1:00

Harman Senior Center Chess Club in West Valley City, Utah

  • For senior citizens
  • Contact: Jonathan Whitcomb – 801-590-9692
  • Address: 4090 South 3600 West (Salt Lake Valley)
  • Hours: about 12:30-2:55 p.m. on Wednesdays (but call first, to be sure the center is open on the Wednesday you’d like to come: 801-965-5822)

Salt Lake City: Sugar House Chess Club (Utah)

  • Contact: Greg Smith 801-870-1515 or Kevin Keyes 801-641-8408
  • Address: Chick-fil-A, 1206 East 2100 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84106
  • Hours: Tuesday nights from 6:30-10 pm.
  • All skill levels welcome

Boise Chess Club in Idaho (founded in 2014)

  • Contact: 208-343-5653
  • Address: All About Games, 7079 Overland Road, Boise, Idaho 83709
  • Hours: Monday’s from 4:00 p.m. to closing (10:00 p.m.)

CDA Chess Club, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

  • Contact: James Maki 858-243-5110
  • Address: 1323 E. Sherman Ave., Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814
  • Hours: every Wednesday from 6 pm to 10 pm
  • Enjoy a tournament or casual play. All levels are welcome.

Idaho Falls Informal Chess Club

They meet at the Barnes & Noble bookstore/café, Tuesdays at 7 p.m.

More places to play the royal game in Idaho

Visit this page: Idaho Chess Association


Utah chess instructor Jonathan D. Whitcomb

Jonathan Whitcomb can give you chess lessons if you live in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah. The first introductory session is free, and you can decide where to go from there. Call 801-590-9692 for more information about private chess lessons.



An Instructive End Game at the Harman Chess Club

I’m a chess tutor in living in Murray, Utah, and am active in the chess club of the Harman Senior Recreation Center in West Valley City. Recently I played an endgame there against one of the stronger players in the club.

A Game at the Sandy Chess Club in Utah

The day before yesterday I played an informal game at the chess club of the Sandy Senior Center. Normally their games start at 12:30 p.m. on Mondays, but once a month (first Thursdays) they invite outsiders to come play the royal game.

Private Chess Lessons in Utah

1. Join a chess club and compete informally . . .
2. Read and study chess books, using the best methods …
3. Record each of your games, to later analyze . . .
4. Take private chess lessons from a qualified tutor . . .

An End Game at the Harman Chess Club in West Valley

[This is not the same end game shown further up this page.]

Can a chess book prepare a club player for an end game? It depends on both the book and the game. Basic principles of the end game can be learned from chess books, to be sure, but experience over-the-board and careful pondering of possibilities can count for much.

St George, Utah, Chess Club

St. George is proud to boast that it has its own chess center that promotes chess and serves as the local governing body of the game as an affiliate of the United States Chess Federation.

Chess Teacher in Salt Lake Valley

By Jonathan Whitcomb, chess instructor-coach in Utah

I’m the author of the beginner-book Beat That Kid in Chess, which uses a new teaching method of chess instruction: NIP (nearly-identical instructions). I now offer my services as an instructor in the royal game, with lessons available for groups or for individual private tutoring.

The first session is for getting acquainted and is free. You will then be free to decide whether or not to continue with paid private chess lessons (or group instruction).

The regular lessons are $25 per hour for individual training or $25 divided by the number of students, if you arrange the cost to be split between a number of persons. If you are the parent of several children who want to improve in their chess-playing abilities, you might consider having group lessons for all of them. You cost would be $25 per hour, with the hour being divided into personal attention for each child, although each one would be present to learn as much as possible from the overall instructions.


Just before the 2016 Utah Elementary Chess Championship Tournament

Just before the 2016 Utah Elementary Championship chess tournament

(Jonathan Whitcomb photographed much of this chess event for children)


Teaching-Philosophy for Chess Improvement

How will you learn to play better chess, gaining the ability to win more games? Each chess lesson will be tailor-made for where you stand (assuming you take private lessons instead of group sessions). You will not be subject to constantly being corrected in every detail, unless you ask for such rigorous oversight. As the chess tutor, I will mention those points which will be most beneficial for you to learn at present. In that way, you may be better prepared to win a game of chess in the near future.

Questions and Answers

Q-1: Can I decide the subject to learn in a private chess lesson?

A-1: You are the final judge on what I, the chess teacher, will present in your lesson. If you specifically ask for advice in the openings, I can give you a lesson on openings, even a specific chess opening. But if you want to progress as quickly as possible in winning games, you’ll probably do better to let me learn exactly where you stand in your present abilities, and then let me create a lesson that will be most effective for you.

Q-2: Can’t I just read a chess book rather than take lessons?

A-2: Some chess beginners, or post-beginners, can learn well from study and practice with a book. Bobby Fischer was one of those players. Most people, however, will progress much faster with chess lessons specially geared toward their individual strengths and weaknesses. Keep in mind that Fischer was coached for many years by William Lombardy, and that greatly helped the rising young star of the royal game.

Q-3: What will I get in a chess lesson?

A-3: Your lesson will be arranged to fit what you most need at the time. For most beginners, it will probably include some training in how to see the possibilities in chess positions. Avoiding the blunders of giving away material without compensation—that is likely an important part of a chess lesson for a beginner.

Q-4: What if my playing strength is around 1400-1600? Will lessons help me?

A-4: I can be of great help in teaching most chess players who are up to the 1600-level of rating or equivalent, whether or not they are rated by the USCF.

Call me, Jonathan Whitcomb, at 801-590-9692 or contact me by email. Thank you.


Utah chess instructor Jonathan D. Whitcomb

Jonathan Whitcomb, chess tutor who lives in Murray, Utah


Chess Instructor Jonathan Whitcomb

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 . . .

Chess Tutor in Salt Lake

The fee for each chess tutoring lesson is $25, and that includes instructional materials. In addition, you get a copy of my chess book (Beat That Kid in Chess) at no additional charge, with the first lesson, and you don’t need to commit to any more lessons.

Utah Chess Instruction

[This chess coach] is the developer of the NIP system of chess instruction (nearly-identical positions) and the author of the book Beat That Kid in Chess. This new chess book may be the first such publication that systematically uses the NIP method of instruction.


Matt with his two sons, after the tournament

The Larsen family participated in the 2016 chess tournament in Salt Lake City

(Photograph by Jonathan Whitcomb; Elementary Chess Championship)


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 for elementary school students. Every participant received some kind of award, at least for participating, and some trophies were almost as big as the kids who carried them away. It was a full day of chess.

Matt with his two sons, after the tournamentMatt Larson had two sons who played in the 4th-grade division of the tournament


Fourth-Grade Pairings Near End of Tournament

The following shows the sixth-round pairings for fourth grade children. Scores are given from the first five rounds, with wins scoring one point and draws half a point. If a student got three wins, one draw, and one loss, the score would be “3½-1½.” (As of early in the morning of March 16, 2016, the finals scores of the tournament were not yet available from the United States Chess Federation.)

Chloe Parke (4½-½) versus Austin Roach (5-0)

Natal Germanov (4½-½) vs Saphire Wang (4-1)

Adam Day (4-1) versus Chendi Luo (4-1)

Andrew Garzella (4-1) vs Jared Hardy (4-1)

Nayantara Nair (4-1) vs Tyler Nielson (4-1)

Brigham Call (4-1) versus Arianna Foutz (4-1)

Tommy Carter (3½-1½) vs Anthony Hsu (3½-1½)

Alex Ikeda (3½-1½) versus Aedan Lawlor (3½-1½)

Breyton Banks (3-2) vs Tr Cohen-Rider (3-2)

Spencer Hall (3-2) versus Owen Larson (3-2)

Eddie Li (3-2) versus James McAdams (3-2)

Even Luo (3-2) vs Leif Larson (3-2)

Nat Westerman (3-2) vs Zachary Wooldridge (3-2)

Shayan Kaveh (2½-2½) vs Olivia Li (3-2)

Otto Koorernan (3-2) versus Olive Unguren (3-2)

J Christensen (3-2) vs Kyle Franklin (3-2)

James Saley (3-2) vs Zachar [Zachary?] Walton (3-2)

Bryce Jameson (3-2) vs Alex Bramwell (3-2)

Jackson Meanea (2½-2½) vs Audrey Young (2½-2½)

Nicko Molling (2½-2½) versus Nickt Hight (2½-2½)

Weston Jensen (2½-2½) vs Ellio DeForge (2-3)

Zachar [Zachary?] Brinton (2-3) vs Leila Farhart (2-3)

Rya [Ryan?] Nabrotzky (2-3) versus Rykar Peterson (2-3)

Abiga [Abigail?] Fuentes (2-3) vs Dalli [Dallin?] Jenkins (2-3)

Preston Giles (2-3) versus Hanxiao Shi (2.3)

Easton Adams (2-3) vs Maryam [Maryann?] Qadir (2-3)

Conlin Patch (2-3) vs Giese Waylon (2-3)

He Christensen (2-3) vs John Pearce (2-3)

Sarah Miyagi (2-3) versus Dillan Orr (2-3)

Gabe Auvinen (1½-3½) vs Ethan Luker (1½-3½)

Niko Cummings (1½-3½) versus Tucker Tew (1½-3½)

Dani [Daniel?] Mascarenas (1-4) vs Isabella Mejia (1-4)

Zyra Mang (1-4) versus Alexan [Alexander?] Minnock (1-4)

T Braithwaite (1-4) vs Christo [Christopher?] Bouck (1-4)

E Sarver (1-4) versus Sienna Yang (1-4)

Mika Thomas (1-4) vs Ellie Jenkins (1-4)

Slade Reid (0-4) vs Gavin Bain (0-4)


sixth-round game with two 6th graders

It can get tiring, near the end of the 6th round, concentrating on another chess game



First grade after five rounds of the chess tournament

Hundreds of children showed up at the Union building at the University of Utah, on Saturday, March 12, 2016, ready to play chess.

Elementary School Chess Tournament in Utah, 2016

At least 68 second-graders . . . and the following shows the final-round pairings for second grade students . . .

Utah Speed Championship of chess

17-year-old Kayden Troff [got] a clear victory at the University of Utah, on Saturday, February 27, 2016, in the open section of the Utah Speed Championship. Bryan Leaño placed second . . .

For beginners, the best chess book

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.


An End Game in West Valley City, Utah (at the Harman Chess Club)

Can a chess book prepare a club player for an end game? It depends on both the book and the game. Basic principles of the end game can be learned from chess books, to be sure, but experience over-the-board and careful pondering of possibilities can count for much. Be prepared for complexities in seemingly simple positions.

The following end game illustrates how to play an endgame with an extra minor piece. It was played in early 2016, at the Harman Senior Recreation Center, southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah. Jonathan had the white pieces against Vinn, in this ladder game of the senior chess club.

Jonathan versus Vinn in West Valley, Utah

White to move – what would you do? (Jonathan vs Vinn)

In the above position, White has gotten into an endgame with a bishop in exchange for Black’s two extra pawns. How can White take advantage of that extra minor piece?

Jonathan realized that his pawn at a3 could not be protected for long. He wanted to win, but he was concerned about the challenge of his opponent’s two connected passed pawns after the capture of the pawn at a3.

What about protecting that pawn by moving the bishop to b2? Black would then be able to play Rb3, attacking both bishop and pawn. If White then moved Bc1, that rook could move to c3, again attacking both pawn and bishop. But Jonathan found a solution to the threat of his opponent getting more passed pawns.

bishop attacks pawn at b6

White moved the bishop to d4, attacking a black pawn

Jonathan moved the bishop to the d4 square, offering an exchange of pawns. Perhaps Vinn should now have moved his pawn at b6 to b5, saving it from capture by the bishop, but he moved instead the pawn at g7 to g5.

Notice the power of the bishop in the above position. It does three things:

  1. Attacks Black’s pawn at b6
  2. Attack’s Black’s pawn at g7
  3. Prevents Black’s e-pawn from advancing

Black preserves the g-pawn

Black moved g5, to free up his rook to capture the pawn at a3

Vinn wanted to capture the white pawn at a3 without allowing his pawn to be captured at g7. Jonathan was happy about that, for he was much more concerned about his opponent’s queenside pawns. Now he eliminates one of them.

White moved Bxb6

The bishop captured the pawn at b6

Notice that after the bishop captured Black’s b-pawn the pawn at e4 still cannot advance without being captured. Now the best that Black has is probably to capture the pawn at a3, for the black rook would then be defending the pawn at a5. The e-pawn will just have to be abandoned.

Within a few moves, Jonathan found a way to protect his g-pawn with his rook, freeing his king to advance towards his opponent’s a-pawn. Vinn resigned.


Harman Chess Club in Utah

Chess books in the library of the Harman Senior Recreation Center

Two chess book reviews

The first is not really about defeating your father; the second is not really about defeating a kid. Both are exceptional at teaching you to win a chess game . . .

New chess book for beginners

This is concentrated and simple: how a raw beginner can beat another beginner. Yet this book may help you make an interesting game of it even against a post-beginner.