Coach of the Month: Jack Rodgers

Coach of the Month: Jack Rodgers

| 18 | Other's latest Coach of the Month is the multi-talented Jack Rodgers. Jack is a FIDE expert-class player who has coached elite schools and private classes for eight years. As well as being the Australian chess team captain and manager, Jack is a chess journalist (who does some great work on this very website), recording artist, actor, and marketing professional. Read on to learn more.

Readers seeking private instruction can contact Jack Rodgers via his profile and can find other skilled coaches at

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

I learned how to play chess when I was three or four years old. My father (who had an Elo rating of around 1000) taught me how to play, and I used to practice against both of my grandfathers.

How did those games go?

Games against my dad were probably the highest-quality games I got to play as a kid. Although he wasn't a competitive chess player, my dad loved to bring both of his knights out as quickly as possible. They are the trickiest pieces to defend against for a beginner. Facing the knight pair this early in my development was probably more beneficial for my chess than we both realized at the time.

My dad now follows my tournaments and also gets his daily blitz games in on, where he is around 500-rated (for now).

What is your first vivid memory from chess?

I distinctly remember playing on a giant chessboard when I was in kindergarten. I had just learned the four-move checkmate and was beating each of my friends one by one with it.

An image showing both Jack Rodgers and GM Hikaru Nakamura with the word ''Draw'' in the middle.
Jack has a blog series on detailing his encounters with some of the world's most well-known chess players, including his matches against GM Hikaru Nakamura.

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

I would cite my high school chess coordinator, David Foong, as a key coach early in my chess career. Mr. Foong taught me all the fundamentals of chess, including opening strategies, weak squares, open files, forks, pins, skewers, and how to win technical endgames. Most importantly, Mr. Foong inspired my passion for chess through his encouragement.

The second coach who was extremely helpful to me was FIDE Master Joost Van Ruitenberg. Although Joost worked with me for only a short time, this was my first glimpse into dynamic, romantic opening setups. In the Australian chess scene, I am known for being an expert in the Trompowsky opening, and Joost was the first to introduce me to this, with his amazing king walk in the following game:

Which game do you consider your "Magnus Opus?"

Although not one of my highest-rated wins, this game was the first time I ever used "The Raptor" variation of the Trompowsky. It reflects my unorthodox style really well and uses piece activity to launch a scintillating attack.

How would you describe your approach to chess coaching?

My chess coaching style is holistic and personal. I believe that every player's needs are unique and, like in chess, I work backward from my student's end goals. 

I not only get to the bottom of a student's key weaknesses but bring a conceptual and psychological approach to my coaching. 

Passion and positivity are at the forefront of my offering, and I actively encourage players to use the improvement methods that they enjoy the most. Enjoyment inspires improvement.

Jack Rodgers and Levy Rozman, with a score indicating a 5-3 victory for Rozman.
Jack has also faced off against IM Levy Rozman, also known as GothamChess.

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

My responsibility as a coach is first and foremost to ensure that my students have very clear SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based) goals for their own chess journey and to provide them with the necessary steps to achieve these goals.

I take on the responsibility of giving chess players structured approaches to the way they think about the game so that they are well-equipped to deal with any situation.

A student's key responsibility is to work hard outside of lessons. Lessons should be considered supplementary and a progress accelerator for those already working hard.

Solving puzzles, looking over master games, and most importantly... playing and analyzing one's own games are crucial for improvement.

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

One piece of practical chess advice that all of my students have heard time and time again is, "If you're not planning a pawn break, you don't have a plan." This advice is for anyone who has ever come across a position where they have no idea what to do.

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

Certainly, a game that not many have seen since it is one of my own! However, this game which I played in 2014 against the impossible computer on clearly shows the benefits of central control (space advantage), activity over material, and ultimately, how to develop a plan that successfully attacks the king.

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

I find that this classic endgame puzzle always shows me exactly how a student approaches positions. When students realize that they are seemingly "losing" on both sides of the board with the running h-pawn and the weak passed c-pawn, it's fascinating to hear them justify their strategy to try and draw the game.

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

I taught offline in schools for many years, and while this is the best format for group classes, in a one-on-one environment, online is far and away the better medium.

With immediate access to the range of tools that provides (Puzzles, Puzzle Rush, Opening Explorer, etc.) and the ability to instantly import games into analysis boards and Classroom, you don't waste any time that would normally be spent setting up the board.

A picture of Jack Rodgers in a white shirt playing chess at an in-person competitive event.
Jack, the 2016 Sydney Champion and 2019 New South Wales Champion, has a wealth of experience in competitive over-the-board chess.

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

A tool that I regard as paramount to my own chess success (as well as my students) is the Opening Explorer

The ability to be able to pull statistics from your own games as well as games by players like GMs Hikaru Nakamura and Magnus Carlsen means that you can assess areas where opponents are outplaying you and fill in the gaps.

It is also the perfect preparation tool for classical tournaments if you know your upcoming opponent's username.

You also stream, contribute to's news writing team, create music, and a lot more! Do you feel that chess coaching has helped you in other areas of your life? Or, conversely, are there ways that this wide variety of experiences has helped make you a better chess coach?

I feel that both of these questions ring true. Chess has helped improve my memory, ability to concentrate, and strategy (which I used to a great extent while working in the marketing industry), and overall helped me satisfy my competitive thirst at least for the last 12 years.

The varied experiences I've had definitely have helped to make me a better coach as well, and I often encourage younger students to simultaneously take up a sport while training for chess. The "fighting/passionate" mentality that I gained from other sports has made me a better player and coach. Learning to lose well is one of the most important skills in chess and in life; I'm a firm believer that loss fuels growth.

Chess player and coach Jack Rodgers holding a magazine featuring an interview with himself.
Jack has been named as the captain/manager for the Australian Men's Open team for the 2022 Chennai Olympiad.

Writing for's news team has been an incredible experience so far but, if anything, has given me a slight disadvantage when it comes to actually playing. In the Australian chess scene, there has been a heightened awareness of my games and writing, so people have begun to familiarize themselves with my approach to the game. As I am a coach first and a player second, this doesn't bother me. If anything, it motivates me to play more creatively!

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

Although perhaps not underappreciated, everybody should read Zurich 1953 — 15 Contenders for the World Chess Championship by GM Miguel Najdorf. With 22 rounds and hundreds of annotated games, this book is quite possibly the greatest collection of games from a single tournament ever compiled. You can learn something from every single game.

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