Posts Tagged ‘chess’

Benefits of Concentrating on Chess

July 11th, 2016

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


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.


Two men play a game of chess




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.


How Did Bobby Fischer do it?

October 30th, 2015

What was the greatest chess accomplishment of Robert J. Fischer? Not winning the World Chess Championship in 1972, according to some authorities, becoming the first American to hold that title. It was in sweeping two matches in a row against two of the top grandmasters in the world, in 1971:

  • 6-0 against Mark Taimanov
  • 6-0 against Bent Larsen

That’s twelve wins, no loses, no draws. Never before or since has a grandmaster attained such a one-sided victory against two top-level grandmasters. Indeed, Taimanov and Larsen were playing Fischer in those two matches because they had qualified for the challenging contests leading to the world championship match. Few grandmasters reach that level of achievement, to play in those matches. But what other chess player accomplished what Bobby Fischer did: Winning twelve games out of twelve against such strong grandmasters?

How can the non-chess player understand the magnitude of Fischer’s accomplishment in those two matches? It’s like a major league pitcher playing two complete games in a World Series, both games pitched perfectly: no hits, no runs, no walks.

World Chess Champion Robert James Fischer

Chess Book Written by Fischer

My 60 Memorable Games was written by Robert J. Fischer, in contrast to the book Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess, which was not. The 2009 edition of My 60 Memorable Games was ranked #20 in chess books sold on Amazon (October 30, 2015). Although the life of this World Chess Champion, away from the board, has been controversial, the Amazon customer reviews for his book have given it very high praises, with 93% giving it five or four stars. The combined total of one and two stars comes to only 6%.

Chess Book Written About Him

Searching for Bobby Fischer, by Fred Waitzkin, has also been highly praised, also with 93% of the Amazon reader-reviewers giving it five or four stars. That book was made into a movie of the same title.



Best Chess Book for a Beginner

“This is a book for the raw beginner” who knows the rules of chess but not much else.

Robert James Fischer

At age 20, Fischer won the 1963–64 U.S. Championship with 11/11, the only perfect score in the history of the tournament. . . . In 1972, he captured the World Chess Championship from Boris Spassky of the USSR . . .

Beginner Chess Book

Many chess competitors would find Beat That Kid in Chess too elementary . . . Yet how many persons know the rules of chess but have hardly a clue about how to play well!


Are they still with us?

November 10th, 2012

Have you ever reminisced on a person who was famous decades ago? Is that celebrity still alive?

Consider the following and take the test, answering who the person is (or was) and the status: living or deceased. If you believe the person passed away, guess the death year. Test yourself.

Does someone look familiar, but you can’t quite get the name? Hints are found near the bottom of this post; answers, at the bottom.


1) Who is she? (still living?)

famous person number one


2) Who is he? (still with us?)

famous person number two


3) Who is this lady? (still living?)

famous person number three


4) Who is this man? (still here?)

famous person number four


5) Who is he? (still here?)

famous person #5


This is a placeholder, so you don’t accidentally scroll down to the hints or the answers before you’re ready. Anyway, how can anybody get rid of him?

cartoon character Bugs Bunny



A young lady, innocent of the crime for which she is about to be hanged, stands dejected high up on a platform above a crowd. Nothing is above her and her executioner but the heavens. But she is rescued by a man who does not use a ladder to get up to the platform. He uses something to get down to her, knocking over the ladder and executioner in the process. The young lady is rescued, but no lady in that city would think of kissing the hero who rescued her. Does that ring a bell?


“Laugh and be happy, and the world will laugh with you.

When people see you smiling, they can’t help smiling too.”

If you remember when this sheriff first began to be famous, you’ve put a lot of candles on a lot of birthday cakes.


She was the leader of one of the largest countries in the world and had the same last name as an even more famous person of that same country. But those two leaders were not closely related. They died in somewhat similar ways: not a normal way of passing.


As American as mashed potatoes.


Since he was a small child, he concentrated on one field of competition. Some persons might think he had a checkered career. Anyway, during the Cold War, he was a pain to the Russians in proving they were not invincible.


Another placeholder – Are you sure you’re ready for the answers?

cartoon character Mickey Mouse


1) Maureen O’Hara (born 17 August 1920) – She is the only one of these five who is still with us (at least as of September of 2012). This actress played Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) with Charles Laughton.

2) Sheriff John was played on KTTV television by John Rovick (October 2, 1919, Dayton, Ohio – October 6, 2012) from 1952, one of the early children’s programs. We’ll always keep a candle burning in our hearts for him.

3) Indira Ghandi was the third Prime Minister of India, who served for three consecutive terms (1966–77) and a fourth term (1980–84). She was not closely related to Mahatma Ghandi. Both leaders were assasinated.

4) Harry Morgan (April 10, 1915 – December 7, 2011) is remembered by many as Colonel Sherman T. Potter in the M*A*S*H television show. For those who memories go back further, he was Officer Bill Gannon on Dragnet (1967–1970).

5) Robert James “Bobby” Fischer (March 9, 1943 – January 17, 2008) was the first American to win the World Chess Championship, defeating Boris Spassky of the USSR in 1972, in a 21-game match (although only twenty games were actually played). But Fischer’s best performances in 1972 were not in the world championship match: They were in the Candidates matches against two of the top grandmasters in the world, Mark Taimanov and Bent Larsen. Fischer eliminated both of them with perfect scores of 6–0, an accomplishment never equaled before or since in chess history. Until that time, perhaps no chess expert had even dreamed that any top-ranked grandmaster could be defeated 6-0, even against a world champion. When Fischer was hot, he was astonishing.


Chess Finesse

As white, your pawn has been advancing up the board. What is your best move in this position?

Pterosaurs are not Manta rays

The “pterodactyl” flew up over the jungle canopy and within a minute or so . . . It had a tail “at least” ten or fifteen feet long. It also had a long neck and a long appendage, horn-like, coming out of the back of the creature’s head.