Benefits of Concentrating on Chess

July 11th, 2016 by Nathaniel Coleman AKA Jonathan Whitcomb Leave a reply »

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

It’s no secret that focusing on a game of chess is mental exercise, although deeply competitive players rarely think about that during a game. It’s been said that two old men playing chess can wear out two pairs of pants, notwithstanding. But using your head in the royal game—that can win you advantages beyond any chess trophy.

I’m a chess tutor living in Murray, Utah, and writing on many blogs on several subjects, one of which is chess. I gained a passionate interest in the game when I was but thirteen, when John F. Kennedy was president (for those interested in ancient history). In more recent years, I noticed an interesting benefit to playing chess.

I was the organist for my ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Bixby Knolls neighborhood of Long Beach, California. For prelude music I improvised from musical themes in the hymns, a practice common at the time of Johann Sebastian Bach but becoming rare with modern church organists.

Then I had a vigorous day of chess one Saturday and found that the improvising came a bit easier on the organ the next day. I tried again, concentrating on chess on another Saturday and finding organ playing easier on the next day. Yet what first caught my attention was not the improvising, which was only a bit better: I made fewer errors in accompanying the congregational hymn singing, and for me that was markedly better.

If this were only about one chess-playing church organist, some people could refuse to sing along, doubting that an old board game could make anybody smarter. But many experiments, over many years, have confirmed that concentrating on chess can improve thinking in ways that help students do better in school. And if kids can benefit from concentrating on the royal game, doing better in school subjects, an old man like me, wearing out a pair of pants, can benefit as well.

The FIDE, the international organization for chess, has done studies on how various European countries have promoted chess-playing in schools. Here’s one page of their report:

Survey of chess activities in various nations in Europe

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Private Chess Lessons in Utah (by Jonathan Whitcomb)

For those living in or near the Salt Lake Valley in Utah, I am offering chess tutoring in private and group sessions ($25 per one-hour lesson). The first session is a free introductory meeting. It allows you to get to know how I teach and I can make a preliminary assessment of where you stand in chess-playing abilities. I can drive to your home or to a public park or library convenient to both of us (I live in Murray).

Feel free to call me at 801-590-9692 or contact me through email.

I’m a member, in good standing, of the Unites States Chess Federation.

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Two men play a game of chess

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Chess in Holladay, Utah

At least when school is in session, the royal game does not take a holiday [in Holladay, Utah] . . . Chess instructor Jonathan Whitcomb, who photographed the 2016 championship, is now promoting activity in the game during the summer months, offering both a free tournament and $25 private chess lessons.

Chess Tutor in Salt Lake Valley

The following are schools in Cottonwood Heights, Utah, that have chess clubs during their school years. This is not portrayed as a complete listing . . .

Chess Lessons in Utah

Chess Coach Jonathan Whitcomb, of Murray, Utah (author of the book Beat That Kid in Chess), offers private and group lessons in the Salt Lake Valley. . . . he is available for a free introductory chess instruction session for home-school families.

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