Coach Of The Month: GM Krisztian Szabo

Coach Of The Month: GM Krisztian Szabo

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GM Krisztian Szabo is a Hungarian grandmaster with a history of competing at some of the highest levels in chess. He's also a respected coach who offers lessons on for players of all backgrounds and skill levels, with a track record of improving his students and helping them reach their chess goals. 

Szabo's skills have helped other grandmasters too—he works as the second for GM Richard Rapport and has been an analysis partner for legendary players including GM Judit Polgar and GM Peter Leko. Read on to find out GM Szabo's story, and get some valuable coaching tips from a grandmaster!

Readers seeking private instruction can contact GM Szabo via his profile and can find other skilled coaches at

At what age were you introduced to chess, and who introduced you?

I was introduced to chess at the age of six when my father bought a computer on which one of the games was chess. I was immediately hooked on the game. This is my first memory of chess.

Which coaches were helpful to you in your chess career, and what was the most useful knowledge they imparted to you?

My father later took me to the local chess club, Fehervar SE, where Ferenc Botos was my first coach. Other coaches who helped me were IM Bela Molnar, IM Miklos Orso and—the one who helped with the biggest breakthrough for me—IM Dr. Laszlo Hazai from 2002 onwards, with whom I maintain a direct working and friendly relationship to this day. He led me to realize what a real professional chess career is.

GM Krisztian Szabo sitting at the chessboard, smiling.
"Chess is my life." Photo: Courtesy of Szabo.

In addition to coaching, you've worked as the second for GM Richard Rapport. What are some differences and similarities between chess coaching and being a second?

There is a huge difference between a chess coach and a second. Passing on my knowledge and seeing someone achieve success based on that is an immeasurably good feeling. I love being a coach.

Being someone's second is a huge thing. In addition to Rapport, I would like to mention that in the past I was an analysis partner of GM Judit Polgar and later of GM Peter Leko. It is an honor to help the careers of two of the best players in the world.

As a second, the emphasis is not on imparting knowledge, but on developing the best materials adapted to the player. Being someone's second is exciting at the same time. You play with them, you think, you win or lose—you share the experience.

Coaching and being a second are different, but both are fantastic things. I keep a huge, almost up-to-date repertoire of all openings, so I can also help Richard with those that I have not played myself as an active player.

Which game do you consider your "Magnus Opus"?

My victory against GM Zurab Azmaiparashvili, who at that time was a particularly strong active player, and had also won the individual European championship a few years before our match.

How would you describe your approach to chess coaching?

I like to pass on my acquired knowledge to those who believe in the beneficial effects of chess and who would like to use it for their own development.

What has been your proudest moment as a chess coach/second?

Basically, I am proud of all my enthusiastic students. But if I have to give an example, my Indian student GM Aryan Chopra became a grandmaster at the age of 14. At that time he was the youngest grandmaster. I am proud of him to this day.

My most recent proud moment was when Richard Rapport beat GM Dmitry Andreikin by KO and qualified for the 2022 Madrid Candidates tournament.

A picture of GM Krisztian Szabo with legendary GM Judit Polgar.
A picture of GM Szabo at a recent event with legendary GM Judit Polgar. Photo: Courtesy of Szabo.

What do you consider your responsibilities as a coach, and which responsibilities fall on your student?

I have a pedagogical approach to coaching, with development in mind. My goal is to strengthen my students' foundations and build on them. They learn using my knowledge based on a thematic system. My experience as a professional grandmaster also helps them learn other values, such as respect, humility, perseverance, etc.

What is important for students is that they are interested in the game. Here, I mean that they like to sit down to play, take out a chess board, and solve tasks that they have to think about. The latter is important because it is easier to learn while playing, and if we are still interested while playing? Well, that is the jackpot.

Have goals, know what level you want to reach, and, most importantly, exercise diligence and humility, towards the game and towards ourselves.

GM Szabo is a perfect coach. He is a super opening specialist. With his help I achieved 3 GM Norms.
— IM Sean Winshand

What piece of advice do you give your students that more chess players could benefit from?

Be brave, let your fantasy fly! Chess is an eternal game, it is never too late to start. Playing chess also helps in everyday life. You wouldn't think so, but whether it's in the fact that you don't have to write everything down because you will remember (memory), or in scheduling our days (logic, strategy), chess can be very beneficial.

In addition, if someone already plays chess, feel free to go into new attacks and test yourself.

What is your favorite teaching game that our readers might not have seen before?

What puzzle that you give students tells you the most about how they think?

This is one of the most brilliant positions I have ever seen. Black would have an amazing victory with accurate moves:

Do you prefer to teach online or offline? What do you think is different about teaching online?

I do most of my classes, almost all of them, online. It saves a lot of time for both parties. On a relationship level, I can train with anyone, no matter where they live, and it also provides many opportunities for a more colorful education.

GM Szabo holding the Mitropa Cup after his victory with the Hungarian team in 2014.
GM Szabo holding the Mitropa Cup after his victory with Hungary in 2014. Photo: Courtesy of Szabo.

What do you consider the most valuable training tool that the internet provides?

I would like to highlight in particular; it offers a lot of possibilities. It is the first thing I recommend to all my students. In addition, I have contacted with a few requests so far, and the answer and help came almost immediately.

Lastly, which underappreciated chess book should every chess player read?

For beginners, I would recommend Laszlo Polgar's 5334 Problems, then Blokh's Combinational Motives, and Susan Polgar's Learn Chess the Right Way 1-5 (although I wouldn't call the latter underappreciated). 

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Mick Murray

Mick is a writer and editor for and ChessKid. He enjoys playing the Caro-Kann and Italian Game to varying degrees of success. Before joining, Mick worked as a writer, editor, and content manager in Japan, New Zealand, and the Netherlands.

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