Kids can Learn Chess From Senior Citizens

Chess champions in Sandy, Utah

By the chess tutor Jonathan Whitcomb

I’m a member of two chess clubs in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah, both of them in senior centers. Sooner or later, children who play chess, even the most talented young competitors, will probably find themselves across the board from those who have played the royal game for a long time. Keep calm and play the kind of chess you feel comfortable with. Even if your opponent has played this game since before your parents were born, he or she may have forgotten much of what was learned over those decades. And an old timer is quite capable of falling into an oversight, so keep alert for an opportunity to jump on your opponent’s blunder.

Before getting into a game that was played at the Sandy Senior center (south of Salt Lake City, Utah) in February of 2018, let me introduce myself. I teach private chess lessons, mostly in the Salt Lake Valley and mostly to children. Sometimes I teach two or more students at a time, and sometimes parents will listen and learn. I generally charge $25 per one-hour lesson, although the first session is free: a getting-acquainted lesson.

The following game was played between two of the higher-rated players of the Sandy chess club, which meets at a recreation and cultural center for senior citizens. White was rated 1615 and Black was 1855, but this is by the UCER system of rating: used by some chess players in Utah and similar to the national rating system of the United States Chess Federation.

At the time this game was played, the senior who play Black usually made at least one oversight per game, although not all of the mistakes were serious blunders. He had a knack, however, for defending difficult positions well, and this was critical to the final outcome of this contest. Since the black side eventually wins, we’ll mostly look at diagram’s from the Black perspective.

1) d4        Nf6

2) Nf3     e6


early chess opening in Utah

Diagram 1: Contrast early in the opening

After the first two moves, White controls the two dark squares in the center, Black controls the two white ones. The battle for the center, however, has only just begun.

3) e3         c5    White begins to consolidate control of d4 while Black attacks it.

4) c3         Be7

5) Bd3      d5   Now both sides are trying to control the e4 square.

6) O-O     O-O

7) b3         b6  Both sides need to develop the queen’s bishop.

8) Nbd2   Ba6

Black solves one problem but creates another one. White appears to be setting up the Colle Opening system that includes a pawn break with e4. This can result in White’s light-colored bishop taking an important part in a kingside attack against Black. The eighth move by Black eliminates this white bishop but puts Black’s queenside knight in an awkward position. It will take quite a few moves for that knight to obtain a good square, if it ever does.

9) Bxa6     Nxa6


Two senior citizens play a game of chess

Diagram 2

10) Bb2        Rc8

11) Qe2        . . . . .   This develops the queen and attacks that black knight.

Looking at the position objectively, that black knight should probably take two moves to reposition itself to c6. The player with the black pieces, however, may have tried to justify that knight’s original move to a6: That appears to be a mistake: The next move, Nc7, is not best for Black, although there’s no loss of material or obvious serious consequence to the knight’s new square at c7.

11) . . . .        Nc7

12) Ne5     Nd7?  The first significant blunder of the game.


White to move

Diagram 3: (From White’s perspective) what move should White make?

Did you notice that Black has a weak square, at least temporarily. In addition, White can take advantage of that weakness by using a common tactic. In this case, it wins a pawn:

13) Nc6     . . . . . This knight attacks both the black queen and a black pawn.

Black must move his queen, even though it means losing a pawn.

13) . . . .       Qe8

14) Nxa7   Ra8

15) Nc6     Bf6   Black hopes to somehow trap that knight.

16) Nf3       g6

17) a4         Bg7   Black hopes that a pawn move, f6, might trap the knight.

18) Ba3      f6

19) b4?   . . . .   Now White blunders, losing a pawn. Black should move Rxa4.

19) . . . .       c4?

20) b5       Rf7

21) Bd6      . . . .


Black to move in this chess middle game

Diagram-4: Black needs to protect the knight at c7.

A less-experienced player might look for a way to defend that knight (at c7) by moving over a piece to defend it: Qc1 or Rc1. After all, the knight at c7 has no safe square to move to. Black finds a way to accomplish two things, however, with one move.

21) . . . .       Nb8

This allows the rook at f7 to protect that knight from capture by the black bishop and it also dislodges the white knight at c6.

22) Nxb8    Qxb8

23) e4          Qd8

24) Bxc7     Rxc7

25) Rxe5     Qxd5


chess club game in Salt Lake Valley

Diagram-5: White is one pawn ahead in this chess middle game

How can White take advantage of his extra pawn? It’s not clear how to proceed, for the a-pawn is backward, held in place by the black pawn at b6 and the rook at a8.

26) Rfe1        Kf7  (protecting the pawn but also preparing for later king activity)

27) Qe4        Rca7   This is probably best, threatening White’s a-pawn.

28) Qc2        Qd7

29) Nd2        Qd5

30) Reb1      Bf8

31) Qe4?      . . . .    This move loses a pawn.

31)  . . . .         Qxe4

32) Nxe4      Rxa4

33) Rxa4      Rxa4

34) g3          Be7

Black’s idea is to drive back the knight and bring the black king up to d5.

35) h4          h5

36) Nd2       Ke8

37) Kg2        f5

Black has now achieved a balance: Many black pawns control light squares and the bishop has access to some dark squares.


Black has a slight advantage

Diagram-6: White to make move number 38, in this chess end game

If Black has any advantage, it is extremely small and mostly rests on a slightly more-active rook. If both sides play well, this should be a draw.

38) f4?         . . . .  This is a fatal mistake, allowing a pin on the knight.

38) . . . .       Ra2

39) Rd1     . . . .    This was the only way to save the knight.

39) . . . .       Rc2  The white pawn at c3 cannot be saved.

40) Kh3     . . . .  This is a poor place for the white king.

40) . . . .       Rxc3

41) Re1       Kd7

42) Ra1       Rc2 (?)  Much better was probably Kd6.

43) Nf3        Bf6

44) Ra7+     Kc8   Better would have been Kd6.

45) Rf7        Rc3?  Much better would have been Bd8.

46) Rxf6      Rxf3

47) Rxg6?    . . . .

White should have moved Rxe6, which would have kept the white rook better involved in both offense and defense.

47) . . . .        Kd7

48) Rg5       c3


White needs to move Rg7+

Diagram-7: White needs to play 49) Rg7+

With Black’s c-pawn only two moves from promoting to a queen, White has no time to capture that pawn at h5. The only hope for White to survive is the move 49) Rg7+ with a desperate attempt to become involved in the other side of the board (the right side).

49) Rxh5?      c2

50) Rh7+        Kd6

51) Rh8          c1(Q)

52) Rd8+       Ke7

White resigned.


Chess Club Games in Utah

For the average chess club, you don’t necessarily need to play a whole game without any errors, if you want to win. Often, the player with the fewest mistakes, the least serious mistakes, or the next to the last mistake—that is the person who wins the game.

For senior citizens in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah, perhaps the most active chess clubs are in the senior centers in West Valley City (at the Harman recreation center) and in Sandy. If you’re at least 60, come join us at either of those locations. Come play chess, whatever your skill level, or just watch.



Chess lessons in Utah

I’m Jonathan Whitcomb, of Murray, Utah, author of the book Beat That Kid in Chess, and I’m now offering my services as a chess coach in the Salt Lake Valley.


Chess tournaments directed by Whitcomb

While directing two chess tournaments in Utah recently, I devised a tiebreaker system for double round robin events . . .


Chess tutor in Salt Lake City area

Should the tutor play chess games with the student? I give no stock answer for chess instructors, for the best use of tutoring time depends on the precise needs of the student.


Learn chess in Utah

I teach private chess lessons, mostly in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah and generally for only $25 per lesson.


Chess clubs for seniors in Utah

The following game was played recently at the chess club of the Harman Senior Recreation Center in West Valley City, Utah, which is in the Salt Lake Valley.


Chess Lessons in Cottonwood Heights Area of Utah

Chess teacher Jonathan Whitcomb demonstrates an endgame

Free chess tournaments in the Salt Lake Valley are encouraged by the chess tutor Jonathan Whitcomb, who offers his volunteer services as a tournament director.

The following are schools in Cottonwood Heights, Utah, that have chess clubs during their school years. This is not portrayed as a complete listing; it’s based on a reasonable online investigation. Additions and corrections can be sent to Jonathan Whitcomb.

Schools in Cottonwood Heights Having Chess Clubs

Ridgecrest Elementary
1800-East, 7200-South

Butler Middle School
7530 South;  2700 East

Brighton High School
2220 East Bengal Blvd

Relaxing before the children's chess tournament in Utah in early 2016

Children before a chess tournament in Salt Lake City (photo by J. Whitcomb)


Private Chess Lessons Available in Cottonwood Heights

By the chess tutor Jonathan Whitcomb

I live in Murray, Utah, and offer private or group chess lessons in the Salt Lake Valley. I’m the author of Beat That Kid in Chess, a book for the early beginner, but my lessons can be tailor-made for you, whatever your present skill in the royal game.

The first session will be an introduction, a getting-acquainted meeting, and it’s free. Ask questions and learn how I may help you in improving your game. You can then decide if you would like to continue with private chess tutoring, at $25 for each one-hour lesson.

I can drive to your home or we might arrange for a mutually-convenient meeting place at a public library or park in the Salt Lake Valley. I do not charge for traveling, with the exception of meeting outside the Salt Lake Valley of Utah. The following communities and cities incur no travel charge (a partial list):

  • Cottonwood Heights
  • Belmont Heights
  • Midvale
  • West Jordan
  • Kearns
  • West Valley City
  • Taylorsville
  • South Salt Lake
  • Murray
  • Mill Creek
  • Wendell Circle
  • East Mill Creek
  • Zions Park
  • Holladay
  • Sleepy Hollow
  • Suncrest Park
  • Wildwood
  • Applewood
  • Cottonwood West
  • Alpine Gardens
  • Willow Creek Hill
  • White City
  • West River Estates
  • Santorini Village
  • Williamsburg

For many communities, including those shown above, the only charge is $25 per lesson (after the initial free getting-acquainted session). You may stop after the free session, if you like, with no obligation on your part.

You may choose what course of study to receive, yet I would advise allowing me to help you in what you most need regarding improving your ability to win chess games. You have the final word on your course of training, however.

You can receive your chess lessons with one or friends or family members present, if you like. In fact, you can make it a group session, with each student paying a portion of the lesson fee ($25 total per lesson). Please keep in mind, however, that private lessons are tailor-made for the individual student’s needs, so if we have more than one student then the concentration on individual needs may need to be divided accordingly. It’s up to you.

Call me at the number below with any question, or send me an email.

communicate with Whitcomb

Chess teacher Jonathan Whitcomb demonstrates an endgame

Jonathan Whitcomb, chess instructor in the Salt Lake Valley

At least for a limited time, he offers to direct free chess tournaments for children, teenagers, and adults, in the Salt Lake Valley. Participation is completely free, with no membership required in any chess club or in the United States Chess Federation. (These will probably be mostly unrated events, for being rated by the USCF would require someone paying at least a small fee for each participant.)



Chess End Game Lesson by Tutor Jonathan Whitcomb

 I, Jonathan Whitcomb, am a chess author, recently becoming available in the Salt Lake Valley for tutoring in private chess lessons (I live in Murray, Utah) . . . [He wrote Beat That Kid in Chess]

Chess Lessons in Cottonwood Heights, Holladay, etc

The following communities in the Salt Lake Valley can easily be visited by the chess tutor Jonathan Whitcomb, who lives in the city of Murray. Many days are available . . .

Chess Lessons in Salt Lake Valley

The $25 chess lessons include one free copy of his book and other materials of instruction. A getting-acquainted meeting is also offered and this first meeting is free, with no obligation for the student.