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Coach Of The Month: Markus Hansson

Coach Of The Month: Markus Hansson

Mick
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April's Coach of the Month is Markus Hansson, an experienced player and coach who's known for providing high-quality lessons and sharing his knowledge on the official Chess.com Discord server. Find out more about Markus, study some fascinating games, and see if you can solve his favorite puzzle below! 

Readers seeking private instruction can contact Markus via his Chess.com profile and can find other skilled coaches at Chess.com/coaches. 


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

I was introduced to chess by my grandfather at the age of seven. After that, I was heavily motivated to go to chess training in order to beat my classmate, who was really good at that time. The reason I went to chess training was to beat my grandfather and my classmate!

My grandfather introduced me to chess only knowing how the pieces move, which meant that we couldn't play a full game. I don't recall the first time I beat my classmate or my grandfather since I improved at a very rapid pace due to my high interest and the smart moves of my trainer.

I remember on the very first day that I went to chess training, we played a game with my trainer, Mr. Lehemets (2000 national rating), and I went on to win the very first game. I suspect that he didn't crush me because he sensed my competitiveness. After I beat my trainer in the very first game I was over the moon and knew that I wanted to spend my whole life playing chess. I should also mention that I got very strong positive encouragement from my elementary school chess teacher, Mr. Viller, who gave me the best grade possible during the lessons. 

Chess player and coach Markus Hansson playing an over-the-board game.
Markus playing an over-the-board game. Photo courtesy of Markus Hansson.

What is your first vivid memory of chess? 

This would be when I received my national rating. Because I was a highly motivated player wanting to make a lot of progress, I wanted to play at the U10 national championships, but the entry criteria was to have a rating which unfortunately I didn't have.

I remember having already accepted that I wouldn't make it that year due to not having a rating, but my coach called my dad who delivered me the news that I could participate since I got my national Elo, which was slightly above 1200! I did well at the tournament and learned a lot; it was very important for me to make it to the finals.

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

I have worked with 2 coaches, Mr. Eiki Lehemets and FM Rainer Raud. 

Eiki was the first coach who taught me the game and really knew ways to motivate me in wanting to improve. Younger players really break basic principles and struggle with consistency. He pointed out very effectively my mistakes every time and showed me the importance of knowing how to play chess, not just learning opening moves without understanding what was going on in the positions. He was my coach for over 10 years.

FM Rainer, who I started working with a few years ago, became my coach when I moved to another city for my university studies. He has a unique teaching style which I didn't really have much experience with in the past. He helped me to understand that being a coach is being a helping hand in someone's own chess journey. The real push must come from the person themselves. We focused on specific positions that he had hand-picked from various sources, and that really helped me to push from 1900 online to 2400+. 

Which game do you consider your "Magnus Opus"?

I am very proud of this game because it has a meaning on its own. It was my first-ever draw against an International Master in a classical event. I escaped lost positions many times, and even missed a win at the end with just a few seconds on the clock!

How would you describe your approach to chess coaching?

I begin by looking at my student's games to determine their true strength. After which, I follow that up with a personalized study plan which includes custom hand-picked positions from games that we go over in our 1-on-1 lessons. A personalized touch is also very important. Being a coach doesn't only mean being there for the hour. I like to chat with my students in my free time and take a look at their new personal bests, or games, even if we aren't in a lesson. 

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

I feel that as a coach I have to make sure that my students have the fundamentals in the right place. Teaching chess can be like building a house: if the foundation is lacking, then how are you going to build a strong player? If you aren't aware of how to apply principles to a game of chess, you will struggle as you get stronger. I like to provide my students with a guideline on what to work on themselves when we are out of the lesson. 

However, this means that it's also my responsibility to understand what chess means to my student. Do they want to become a GM, or are they just a hobby player who finds chess a great way to pass the time? The most important aspect of chess is to enjoy the game and have fun!

Markus Hansson playing chess in an over-the-board tournament.
Markus has years of over-the-board experience in competitive environments. Photo courtesy of Markus Hansson.

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

I can't stress this enough. I see many people making this mistake. Do not learn opening moves "Just so you know what the move is." You must understand the idea behind the variation and be able to explain it using principles. I recently encountered a student who played a strange move in a game and his explanation was: "I played this because the opening course told me to." The move was correct in a certain context, but in the practical example, it was breaking opening principles.

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

This game was actually played by my student, who was rated around 1200 at the time. This can be informative for newer players who struggle with some of the basic principles:

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

I like to provide this study to my students. It shows a lot about their understanding of the square rule and their ability to think outside the box. This was first introduced to me by my coach, FM Raud. I fell in love with this puzzle immediately. 

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

I prefer to teach online, since that way I am able to help out more people at a time that is convenient for them. Whether it's 9 p.m. or 10 a.m. for me, with the use of internet I am able to connect to my students within seconds. Having a chess lesson can be as easy as opening a laptop and starting a call, saving a lot of time for both sides. 

The only drawback to teaching online could be that the student is not able to have a physical board where we can move the pieces. Also, the social side of a chess club is important, but I like to have my lessons one on one which makes them more personalized. That's something my students really seem to appreciate.

Markus Hansson playing chess.
Photo courtesy of Markus Hansson.

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

I have to bring up the Chess.com classroom feature here since that has helped me a lot in my career. I am able to show positions quickly, and the ability for my students to move the pieces and draw arrows is a huge benefit that Chess.com provides us coaches with.

Which under-appreciated chess book should every chess player read?

I love the book 4x25 by GM Paul Keres and I. Nei, but this book is not accessible to everyone since it's written in Estonian! For an international audience, I'd suggest book called Think Like a Super Grandmaster by GM Michael Adams. It is a modern book and shows the difference between groups of players.

I enjoy the types of books which also grade you on your performance. I find that many people struggle to follow long games and understand the material in depth, as intended by the author. The interactivity makes it easier to follow and see what's going on inside the mind of a super grandmaster!


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Previous Coaches of the Month:

Mick
Mick Murray

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

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