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Serious About Improving? - Read This!

ChessDweeb
Nov 19, 2007, 7:12 AM 12

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of getting pounded OTB. So I started searching for an answer. I have a great rating here at this site, but my over the board play is much less impressive. I can't seem to transfer my skills from this site to OTB play. I think this is my solution: NM Dan Heisman parlays chess success with mentoring/coaching. I believe this may be the missing element in my chess ability. I don't have a coach. For those of you that are good OTB, should I spend the time and money on a good coach? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!!!

Everything that follows is from NM Dan Heisman:

Why anyone wishing to improve needs a chess coach, and

Why anyone wishing to improve needs a chess coach: The fact is that no one ever got really good at chess without good chess coaching. This is true for almost any kind of endeavor - ever see Pete Sampras play without them showing you his coach…? Even Bobby Fischer, who liked to compare himself to the Russians by saying he did it all himself, actually went to NM John Collins’ home and studied with Collins and some of the best players in the country. Read any famous chess player’s biography and he will tell you how many years he spent studying at the Botvinnik School, or from IM Dvoretsky, or from Bruce Pandolfini, or whomever.

Chess is like anything else – to improve you need theory and practice. Theory may include reading books, watching videos, etc., but getting lessons is the key here, as it would be in sports (ever hear of a team without a coaching staff?) or music (a high school orchestra without a music teacher and instructor?), or anything else. In an upcoming Novice Nook I answer the question, “What can a good chess coach do for you that going over your game with (the chess program) Fritz cannot?” The answer:

A good instructor can:

1. Look at your games and see what you are doing wrong. Not just pointing out weak moves, but every possible weakness, such as misconceptions about how to play positions, planning and position errors, etc.
2. Talk with you and find out what you know and what you don’t. If you don’t know that both sides should try to attack when castling opposites sides with Queens on the board, he will see that and quickly tell you.
3. Answer questions and explain things to you that you don’t understand. Suppose you read in a book, “Passed pawns must be pushed” and you don’t know when or why, then if you ask a good instructor, he should be able to explain it to you until you are satisfied.
4. Work on your thought process. Listen to you think and make constructive suggestions on how to improve your technique.
5. Suggest a practice routine, including what tournaments to play, how to prepare, and what time limits would be the most helpful.
6. Suggest a way to learn new information and patterns, whether it be through reading books, watching videos, listening to tapes, etc.
7. Work on your time management. Show you when it is important to take your time and when you are wasting your time.
8. Provide psychological support. Teach you that you will not go straight up and that setbacks are normal and to be expected; teach you how to deal with and learn from your losses. Encourage you when you are down and keep you on an even keel if you get overconfident.
9. Help you pick an opening repertoire if you need help. Teach you what moves you will encounter the most frequently and the best ways to learn more.
10. Help you judge your progress and figure out what that means for your future play, practice, and study.
11. Show you themes and patterns that occur frequently so you know how to handle them when they do.
12. Listen to your concerns and desires and help you decide what are reasonable expectations; when you just need to accept what is happening and when you might need to do more.
There are more, but I think you get the idea!
Of course, not everyone can afford an instructor. Bad instructors can be gotten cheaply, but some bad ones are also pretty expensive. Most good instructors know they are good and charge at least a reasonable amount. I have had to raise my prices almost every year because I am always so busy, yet I still make less than half what I did 10 years ago as a software manager, and I get no benefits, so compared to a software consultant, most chess instructors are still dirt cheap! � - and you do not have to take a lesson every week.

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