How to find a good chess coach?

Comments: 134

“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 effectivewill 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:


  • Analyse your games and detect what you need to work on.
  • Develop your training plan.
  • Make on-line or real lessons.
  • Give you home tasks.
  • Answer your questions that arise via e-mails.
  • Check your last home task and provide feedback on your work.
  • 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).
  • Think about your overall progress; make necessary corrections in your training plan.
  • Plan your participation in tournaments.
  • 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.

Chess coach

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.   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 emphasize 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 organize for yourself an effective self-training process. Self-taught Grandmaster

<<  Get The Course Now!  >>

Comments: 134

Comments 38

  1. That’s a very good article Igor. I’ve never thought of it in that way. For me though, I’ll just stick to your training courses… they are very effective! I’ve purchased calculate til’ mate and I beat the strongest person at my chess club last Saturday. 🙂

    I do have a question and I’ve searched google and haven’t found an answer yet. In your course, Calculate till’ Mate, you talk about developing your visualization skills. Do you recommend visualizing the board in 2d or 3d? So far, I’ve been practicing doing it 3d, but was wondering if maybe it’s better to do it the other way.

    Thanks and have a wonderful day!

  2. “Chess players study chess randomly. Nobody has a training program. Nobody really knows what and how to study. Most chess teachers are just a bit more experienced players. They also do NOT know what you really need and how to help you.

    A chess player (or a chess teacher) is a job; and the same applies to all other professions, it requires a special system of preparation.

    For some strange reason many chess players don’t understand this. They think that it is enough to buy some chess books, to read them, to have some practice, and “voila” – you are a strong chess player”.quoted from

    “Self-taught Grandmaster”
    thanks so much our teacher GM Igor Smirnov

  3. Thank you very much Igor for this lesson. Very interesting article. A good teacher help a lot a student because he anlyses his mistakes. It is not easy to analyse your mistakes by yourself even if you study books. You need someone to explain your mistakes because if you don’t understand your mistakes you will make the same mistakes at all your games. In addition when you understand some mistakes you change your thinking process during a game.

  4. Gm self taught course is amazing, I bought it , one think I miss I wish that u did analyze of games from people en my games that bought you’re course ! I play on the strongest chess club in my city now I always ask to 2100 2200 player on my club to analyze my games , I’m not yet a title player (hope someday) many times still not understand the analyses of Houdini 2.0 c on my games 🙁

  5. I believe that there are clearly more people who hire a coach in order to improve from low level to level of 1500-1900 and less people who hire a coach in order to improve to higher level.

    I believe that a coach clearly can be productive for some improvement if he only does the first part that you suggest:
    “Analyze your games and detect what you need to work on.”

    Of course it is possible to get more improvement by doing more than it but the problem is that if a coach try to force the student to do something that he does not like to do the student may leave him.

    I believe that a coach can suggest people what to do and not try to force them.
    He can suggest the student how to improve but I do not think that if the student refuse to do it the coach has to try to force him.

    Of course if the coach decided to teach only people who want to become champions and are ready to do things that they dislike in order to become champions then it is his right but there is no justification to criticize coachs who help other chess players to improve when these players do not do their best.

    I do not believe that generally players dislike to work on their weaknesses.
    It is possible that they dislike to work on part of their weaknesses and in this case the player can still get better if the coach help him to get rid of part of their weaknesses.

    1. Realize them the need of change in their thinking system and how their thinking system ineffective during their weakness on particular situations or part of the game.

  6. The student has to know his questions at least, without achiving this level, “the question level” no coach, good or bad can help him.

  7. Self taught grand master course after study seriously the spurt part 1 I hat get 450 points much more then 300 🙂 it cost time and hard study but it really work , and I still improve with your courses thank u so much my real coach .

  8. Yes I’m so happy , thank u so much for anything , finally I found after many years a chess coah that really wanna help amateur players , and give me improve ! I study your courses slow and serious 🙂

    I really hope that I can be someday a professional chess player , I love chess so huge it’s my live my number one favorite game.

  9. Sorry I just wonder do u not miss it to play chess tournaments ? I think u can be a top 20 or top 10 player of the world , U have a deep understanding of a chess game u really understand chess so deep , and U can say I know it already , u know anything 😉 🙂 🙂

  10. my only question before getting this course is this, can a person who is 40 years of age willing to work hard using your course become a master. I have been playing for over 20 years, have had many “chess teachers”. My rating is currently 1600, but most experts I play in blitz say I play more like an 1800 player. I have recently thought about going back to playing serious chess, but need proper guidance first. I wanted to start with something that will work since I do not have time to go looking for a chess teacher who can be a coach.

  11. dear sir; My language is tamil but i whould like to incres my chess knolague how can i do it please help me…. i hop your possible replay..
    thank you.

  12. Thank you for replying regarding my question, I have re-read the article and would like to work on all aspects of my game. I am very open and willing to follow the course as you recommend and not make any type of modification. I will keep you up to date on my progress after I have studied your chess course. I do realize that this is not a quick fix and just like anything we do in life, it takes time.

  13. I have already studied two of your course(Gm secret,openining laboratory).I recently bought endgame expert,how to beat title player, self tought grandmaster.Now which course will I study first?Would you please guide me to study the courses serialy.

  14. Now the questions is how to filter out this list and find a coach who can do this!

    I’ve taken LOTS of lessons with trainers trying to find one that does the above or at least very close to it.. and 90% are NOT even close to a good coach. (most show me openings that they play….OR ask me what we should study….?!)

    Igor is there a list of coaches you could recommend to students? (I’ve purchases all your courses but still would like to have a coach in addition to self study as self answer questions in my games is next to impossible even with a guideline and computer it seems, impossible to evaluate meaningfully WHY I made a mistake not so much where the mistake was.


    1. Hi Steven,

      Finding a good coach is a tough task indeed. I know a lot of coaches, and some of them seem better for me. However, since I can’t see their actual live lessons, I can’t really evalute it.

      A small piece of advice here is to:
      1. Talk to a coach before taking his lessons. Send your games to him. Ask what he’s going to teach you. State that you don’t need an opening theory at this point.
      2. Try taking 1 test lesson. Try it with many coaches. Often students stuck with 1 coach for a long time, even if it doesn’t produce decent results, which doesn’t make much sense. During this 1st test lesson ask the coach “what is our training program for the next lessons?”

      I thought of training some coaches myself, and making them RCA certified coaches. This looks like a good idea to me. However, it will require a lot of my time and efforts, while the demand for private coaches doesn’t seem to be huge (as it’s costly). That’s why this project somewhat stuck. Anyway, I’m still considering it…

  15. Hello to all fans of chess! I’m Siranush Andriasian from Armenia.

    Languages: Russian, Armenian, Franch, English

    International Woman Master, current FIDE Rating – 2206

    2006, 2007, 2011: Women’s Champion of Armenia;

    2007: Bronze medal at the European Team Chess Championship

    Represented my country in 3 Olympiads and championships of World and Europe.

    If you are interested and for further questions, don’t hesitate to contact me.

    Thank you) Happy New Year!

  16. Hello I’d just like to ask you Igor something about one book. I’ve just been borrowed a book “Opening preparation” by Yusupov and Dvoretsky from one of my friends who said that this book help me. Would you recommend this book to me, whose main chess training purpose is mastering chess strategy, composing of plans etc.?

  17. I think chess is one of the most beneficial games out there. It teaches you so many important lessons in strategic thinking. I have been wanting to take online chess lesson and get into chess more, you make great advice to make sure that I get pretty good progress.

  18. Thanks for the tips for picking a good chess coach. I’m glad you mentioned that you should find someone that can give you home tasks. This sounds important so that you can continually improve your chess skills.

  19. Igor – do you have any recommendation on a good coach for my son who really wants to be a FM or NM level? I would love to have a private chat with you.

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