Coach Of The Month: IM Dagne Ciuksyte

Coach Of The Month: IM Dagne Ciuksyte

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IM Dagne Ciuksyte is a Lithuanian-born chess player and coach who now represents England on an international level. She has competed in some of the biggest chess tournaments in the world, including the Women's Chess Olympiad and Women's World Championship. In addition to her competitive playing career, she offers online chess lessons to students on

Read on for tips on improving your chess from an experienced tournament player and coach. Can you solve her favorite puzzle? There's only one way to find out...

Readers seeking private instruction can contact IM Ciuksyte via her profile and can find other skilled coaches at

What is your first vivid memory from chess?

After training for a few months, I went to my first-ever chess tournament abroad and won three gold medals in one go! One individual for rapid, one individual for blitz, and one with the team.

A picture of IM Dagne Ciuksyte.
IM Ciuksyte in Reykjavik, Iceland. Photo courtesy of IM Ciuksyte.

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

Looking back, I'd say I had three stages in my chess career. The first stage was chess sessions at the chess school in Lithuania with the local coaches, V. Lakiunas and V. Gabrilaviciene. The second one was with my long-term chess coach, IM Algimantas Cesnauskas. And the third one was my other long-term chess coach, GM Aloyzas Kveinys.

In the first stage, I built the foundation of becoming an active, attacking player. We were encouraged to be creative in problem-solving at the board. In the second stage, I achieved the WGM title by setting up goals and working hard to achieve them. At this point, I mastered a few successful training skills that I still strongly believe in.

In the third stage, I managed to get an international master title plus one grandmaster norm thanks to GM Kveinys' passionate way of teaching. He would show me games, ideas, and variations while pointing out their long-reaching effects on the game. That way, I took in my coach's lightness of thought, as I put it. 

GM Kveinys
GM Aloyzas Kveinys. Photo: Waldemar Rydzewski/Wikimedia.

Which game do you consider your "Magnus Opus"?

It was Christmas time in Switzerland. Zurich was beautiful, decorated with lights. The mood was magical. And I was doing what I enjoyed most at that time: playing in a chess tournament.

I always look at my game against GM Christian Bauer as the game when I was 100% immersed in it. When we finished, my opponent asked me if I saw this line or the other. Yes, I saw it all! 

How would you describe your approach to chess coaching?

My motto when helping others to become better players is: "If my student were to play in a chess tournament tomorrow, what needs to be improved most urgently to give her/him a chance of doing the best she/he can?"

Being on the receiving end myself many times before, I know what our opponents look for in our play. It is as if I have a list of things I need to check to make sure my student is going to be alright.

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

It is always a pleasure to work with highly and truly motivated students. If a student is engaged in a lesson, she/he is learning by taking an active part. Therefore, my responsibilities are:
a) to facilitate engagement in the lesson.
b) to get my student interested even more in chess by giving them lots of information about chess.  If she/he comes up with lots of questions during my lessons, one of my goals is achieved.
c) to encourage her/him not to stop at what we looked at, but run further and be the leader sometimes.

My student’s responsibilities are:
a) to get the work done between the lessons.  
b) to bring new ideas back to discuss, adjust, and take on board.

It’s always less enjoyable if my student comes to a lesson, never wanting anything more except for me to teach them without their contribution.

IM Dagne Ciuksyte representing the England team at the 2018 Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia.
IM Ciuksyte representing England at the 2018 Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia.
Photo courtesy of IM Ciuksyte.

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

My message to my students would be to start looking at their ways of training and improving at chess, rather than chasing after the sparkles of other chess players' titles. Us mortals tend to do the same things over and over again, living in our comfort zone. That way, we get better at certain things while ignoring the other areas. It is easy to get stuck at the same level then.

To improve, to get to the next level in chess, you need to shake things up a little bit. Try new ways of learning. I have had a bunch of adult beginner students who learned to play chess online. That is where I would think they would make rapid improvement if they made an effort to start using a physical chess board and chess books. Imagine having the set position in front of you in a chess tournament, being there all by yourself, and having to come up with a decision—this is what, I think, drives us to improve at chess the most.

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

As I enjoy working with adult beginners the most, I have a few short games to show my students to illustrate the point that when playing a game, you have to keep a sharp eye on your opponent starting from the very first move.

There have been cases where my opponent would resign on the 8th move because her/his position collapsed before even finishing drinking the cup of tea made in preparation for a long game!

An example of an opponent's sneakiness can be seen in the game below:

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

Depending on what moves my student suggests in this position, it will be obvious if she/he is standing firm in the face of approaching pawns or is scared, worried about losing the game and preparing to retreat even further back.

Any other move than what is in the solution below would risk crossing the red line of allowing the opponent too much space. In that case, the black pieces might find themselves too cramped and lacking coordination.

16… g5! 17.h3 h5! 18.fxg5 hxg4 19.Qe2 Nxe4 20.Rxf7 Ne5!

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

I am happy that I can teach students from all over the world online. Having said that, I also see that in some cases, I could give more if I saw my students face-to-face. Juniors, in particular, would benefit from that. I have a few special teaching techniques for the little ones. Also, making them laugh or at least smile while working on their chess is my aim for a lesson.

Online lessons are good for adult beginners in particular, and even more important for my one-off (guidance) lessons. That way, I can show how my student can work on chess by themselves more efficiently than before.

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

A quick search of chess material makes training more efficient than ever. If you need more ideas for your chosen openings, go to the Games Database and filter out the games according to the specific variations.

Not sure if your tactical vision is up to the required standard? Do Puzzle Rush Survival Mode, and if you reach 40, you have already passed the basic tactics and entered the intermediate level.

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

GM Svetozar Gligoric's I Play Against Pieces left a huge impression on me by simply going through the games and enjoying the flow of play. It is so simple when we don't overcomplicate!

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