Chess Lessons in Central Utah


By Jonathan Whitcomb, chess teacher in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah

How can a less-experienced chess player improve the quality of his or her game? I suggest that two of the best methods are the following:

  1. Play many chess games against those not much stronger or much weaker than you are
  2. Record each game, then go over each one later, looking for ways to improve

That’s a simple two-step process, yet it can help you improve your chess performance. Much of my own early progress in learning to win chess games, back in the 1960’s came from regularly following those two steps.

The first method needs more explaining. When you play chess games against someone who is approximately the same playing strength that you are, those games will be less likely to discourage you or more likely to give you confidence. Against someone slightly stronger, you can learn from your mistakes; against someone slightly weaker, you can remember how you won games and repeat, in future games, whatever helped you win before.


Chess Lessons at Copperview Recreation Center

Chess classes in September of 2017—they cost only $25 for all four lessons in Midvale, Utah. Choose between the early-beginner and mid-level beginner classes for the very affordable group-lesson option in chess instruction. I don’t pretend to be completely objective in recommending this one-month course in the royal game: I will be the instructor in each of these chess lessons.

(Update: This class was discontinued by early 2018, because of too few chess students signing up.)


Private Chess Lessons

I also offer personal instruction in chess:

  • Openings: What a treasure of choices!
  • Middle Game: What adventures!
  • End Games: worlds in themselves
  • Tactics – how to win the immediate battle
  • Strategy and positional principles
  • How to win when you’re ahead
  • How to draw when you’re behind

I charge $25 per one-hour lesson, except the first session is a free introductory lesson. Phone me at 801-590-9692. Also free is a copy of my chess book Beat That Kid in Chess , which is given to each student who chooses to take chess lessons (at least one paid lesson).



Utah Chess Instruction

In 2017, I got back into tournament play by competing in three chess club tournaments, winning clear first place in two of them (in Sandy, Utah) and second place in the one in West Valley City. (All three of those competitions were in senior-center chess clubs.)


Chess Lessons in Utah

I (Jonathan Whitcomb) am both a tutor and an author of chess, having written the book Beat That Kid in Chess in 2015. I’m active in both the Harman Senior Center chess club and the Sandy Senior Center chess club . . .


Chess Tournament in Utah

The top three winners were:

First: Jonathan Whitcomb, 8½-1½ (7 wins, 3 draws, no loses)
Second: Grant Hodson, 7-2 (6 wins, 2 draws, 1 loss)
Third: Alan Bradbury, 4-5 (3 wins, 2 draws, 4 loses)


Chess clubs in Utah

Last month I looked through the chess library in the Harman Senior Recreation Center, West Valley City, Utah. (The senior-citizen chess club meets on Wednesday afternoons, from 12:30-3:00.) I found 102 chess books, some of them published in recent years. What a treasure for the reader interested in the royal game!


Chess Clubs in Utah and Arizona

children in a chess tournament in Utah

Let’s look at chess clubs in some of the public schools in Utah and Arizona. This is not meant to be anything close to a complete listing of school chess clubs in these two states, just a brief sampling.

Art City Elementary School in Springville, Utah

Many children from this school did very well in the *2016 Utah Elementary tournament, which was held on a Saturday in March, at the University of Utah. In fact, Spencer Wilson (kindergarten) won second place, as did Tyson Tanner in the first-grade division.

Hawthorne Elementary in Salt Lake City

Students in this school chess club did very well in the 2016 Utah Elementary Championship. Ben Watanabe tied for first place in the fifth-grade division. Chloe Parke won first place among fourth-graders, with five wins and one draw. Ethan McCulloch had 4.5 points in the six rounds of the third-grade section, as did Jaden Tu. Chendi Luo tied for second among fourth graders, only half a point behind the champion. And many other Hawthorne Elementary School children did well in this chess tournament at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

children in a chess tournament in Utah

*Two of the many fifth-grade players in this chess tournament in Utah


Legacy Junior High Chess Club in Layton, Utah

Two things in this chess club may deserve imitation from other schools:

  1. Each chess-club meeting begins with 5-10 minutes of instruction
  2. The students have a choice: informal free chess play or $15 membership

Oakwood Elementary in Salt Lake City

Photos of chess-club members are easy to find, but it can be challenging to find detailed information through an online search.

Rock Canyon Elementary School Chess Club in Provo, Utah

Perhaps most notable here is the official web page (click on above), which has links to, games from the mid-1800’s up until recent years.

Killip Elementary School in Flagstaff, Arizona

Six chess coaches—what an impressive educational chess program!

Winifred Harelson Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona

One of the highest ratings in a school review included this:

The extra curricular offerings are awesome with chess club, track, and science club being a few of the electives.

Lineweaver Elementary School in Tucson, AZ

One reviewer said the following about Lineweaver:

It offers choir, Student Council, a chess club, sports (track and field and cross-country), an “honors recorder” program, and much, much more.



Chess Clubs in Utah

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.

Chess Ratings in Utah Chess Clubs

Here’s the UCER (Utah Chess Estimated Rating) listing for the end of 2016 . . . [20 senior citizens in the Salt Lake Valley]

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. [only $25 per one-hour lesson in the SLV]


New Chess Rating System in Utah


A new chess rating system began operating in September of 2016, among a few senior-citizen chess club players in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah. UCER stands for Utah chess estimated rating and was originally based upon USCF (United States Chess Federation) ratings of a few of those senior chess-club members.

Here’s the UCER rating list for December 16, 2016:

Terrell Kerby               1898
Grant Hodson             1879
JonathanWhitcomb   1767

Ivan                       1695
Dick                       1634
Dennis Hansen   1605
Steve                     1603

Alan Bradbury   1554
Vinn Roos           1516
Bruce                   1497
Doug Miller        1487

Greg        1446
Jerry       1416
Mike       1406

Sally Jo    1055
Ottie         1028
Frank       1000
Robert       983

Each of the above eighteen players have played, at least on occasion, at one or both of the following chess clubs in the Salt Lake Valley:

  • Harman Senior Center in West Valley City
  • Sandy Senior Center

Difference between USCF Ratings and UCER Ratings

Tournaments and matches rated by the United States Chess Federation (USCF) require membership; chess games rated by UCER require no membership and the service is free. Technically, you can be any age and receive a free chess rating with UCER (it just happens that in this early stage of development senior citizens’ games were rated.)

Chess games that are UCER rated are generally informal, usually without a chess clock, which is the opposite of most competitions that are USCF-rated. Also, most UCER-rated games are not recorded in chess notation, in contrast to regular USCF-rated games.

The same mathematical formula is generally used in both rating systems.

A player who is rated in both systems may have ratings that are similar or different. For example, see the following regular* USCF ratings (*not speed or blitz):

  • Terrell Kerby: UCER=1898 and USCF=1881*
  • Grant Hodson: UCER=1879 and USCF=1600*
  • Jonathan Whitcomb: UCER=1767 and USCF=1606*
  • Dennis Hansen: UCER=1605 and USCF=1603*
  • Alan Bradbury: UCER=1554 and USCF=1663*

What can we conclude from the above? Grant and Jonathan have done better in their informal chess games than they have in USCF tournaments, and Alan has not done so well in those informal games. On the other hand, Terrell and Dennis have played about equally well in USCF competitions as they have in their UCER-rated informal games.

Chess tournament in Utah in 2016

A USCF-rated chess tournament in Salt Lake City in 2016



Utah’s UCER chess rating system

Last week, a new chess rating system was started in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah, with nine players receiving ratings at the Harman Senior Center Chess Club in West Valley City. It is based upon calculations and levels similar to those used by the United States Chess Federation (USCF). The new system is called UCER, for Utah chess estimated rating.

Top Rated Chess Cities in the World

According to, the following ten cities are the best for chess players:

  1. Moscow, Russia
  2. St. Louis, Missouri
  3. Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia
  4. New York, New York
  5. Baku, Azerbaijan
  6. Reykjavík, Iceland
  7. London, England
  8. Tromsø, Norway
  9. St. Petersburg, Russia
  10. Havana, Cuba

Top 100 Rated Chess Players in the World

What countries have the most chess grandmasters? Looking at the twenty top-ranked chess players in the world, we see the following:

Russia: four
USA: three
India: two
Ukraine: two

And one each from these nations:


The total number of chess grandmasters in the world is well over 1500.