February 13, 2015

How to find a good chess coach?

This is a VERY IMPORTANT question. Let’s be realistic: without a good coach, your chances for becoming a titled player are quite limited.
“To know the road ahead, ask those coming back” – says a wise Chinese proverb.
Of course, you can try to discover everything by yourself: read books, play games, analyse your mistakes and work on their elimination, etc. Perhaps sooner or later you will come to the right decisions.
BUT chess is a competition. Your opponents – who are taught by good coaches, and whose training is more effective – will beat you more often than not.
This brings us back to the first question: How to find a good chess coach?
I’d been struggling with this question all the time when I was an active chess player. Actually that’s one of the reasons why I decided to become a chess coach. :)
In 2004, I finished a Sport School in my region and since that time have started my coaching practice.
All in all, I now have huge experience both as a chess student and as a teacher. So let me give you some hints.
A private chess coach should perform the following things for you:
  1. Analyse your games and detect what you need to work on.
  2. Develop your training plan.
  3. Make on-line or real lessons.
  4. Give you home tasks.
  5. Answer your questions that arise via e-mails.
  6. Check your last home task and provide feedback on your work.
  7. Prepare a next on-line/real lesson based on your training plan and the current needs (that have been detected during items 1 and 5-6).
  8. Think about your overall progress; make necessary corrections in your training plan.
  9. Plan your participation in tournaments.
  10. Keep track of the current situation in chess (read chess news, observe main tournaments, notice new tendencies, popular openings, etc.).
A private chess coach should perform all of these tasks regularly, even if you have only one chess class a week!
By using the above list of items, it will be easier for you to evaluate a certain coach and to decide if he/she is a suitable one for you.
Nowadays there are many web-sites which offer you the services of various chess coaches. Recently I visited one such site and read coaches’ descriptions. Some of them write something like “I am a very popular coach and I have 50+ private students”. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at this…
Take a look at our list above. Is that possible to perform it for 50 students? Of course NOT!
In fact “50+ students” means that this person teaches all his students extremely superficially, and he spits upon them all! Does he really think this is his positive side? LOL
Let’s move on to the next piece of advice:
A private chess teacher should be a COACH
It’s not a joke. :)
A strong player (IM or GM) can show you some opening lines, can play with you, BUT he can’t be your teacher.
Is he going to perform the coach’s duties (see our list above)? Of course not! He is not even aware of these duties…
Can a GM really understand your current problems and needs? Well, he was in your situation; HOWEVER, maybe it was 50 years ago!!
Another example is that a chess coach must collect useful games/positions that are suitable for training in a certain topic. Does a chess player have such collections for every important topic? No! He simply doesn’t need it.
There is a HUGE difference between being a chess player and a chess teacher. It requires different skills and knowledge. That’s why quite a lot of chess “coaches”, unfortunately, have no idea of how to teach.
So when you are looking for a private coach – select a real COACH.
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We’ve been talking about chess coaches, and I hope you are now much wiser about such matters. Now let’s take a look at a STUDENT. There’s one important thing that I’d like to emphasise here.
A student usually does NOT know what he/she really needs.
“To know the road ahead, ask those coming back”.
How can you know what you need in order to advance to the next level,
if you have never even been on that next level?
Naturally, you enjoy those parts of the game in which you perform well. And you may dislike those parts of the game that you are failing in. This is normal for all chess players.
Now, if you dislike defence, and you don’t know this topic well and it seems hard and uncomfortable for you – you’ll never master it. So here is where a coach should come and force you to do what you don’t want to do (the things he knows you NEED and MUST do). This will eliminate your weakness, will bring you nice victories and… you’ll start enjoying  defence! :)
A student usually does NOT know what he/she really needs.
This is reality. You can admit it and go forward, or stick with your delusions. The choice is yours.
I recommend that you find a good coach and then rely on him.
Otherwise you’ll end up being in the same situation as most of other chess players. Here’s the most typical scenario: a coach who doesn’t know how to teach, satisfies the wishes of a student who doesn’t know what he needs.
Sadly, this is the most precise description of most chess lessons out there;, and it is also why a majority of players suffer from little and unstable progress.
However, now you have a better alternative! :) You can follow the advice from this article and be ahead of the crowd!
If you don’t have good coaches in your area (or if they are simply too expensive for you) – you may also use my course “Self-taught Grandmaster”. It will act as a substitute for your coach and will allow you to organise for yourself an effective self-training process.