Five Qualities Of A Good Chess Coach

Five Qualities Of A Good Chess Coach


What's up, guys and gals?

Just another "lazy" Saturday for me. I'm coming off a crazy January month as far as tournaments go... which was going fine, though it ended catastrophically.  February should be a chill month for me. I'm sorry to my loyal followers and readers that you have been lacking my content! 

You may think that this is a self-promotion blog... and indeed, I am offering chess lessons at a reasonable rate (contact me if you are interested!). However, the intention of this post is for me to communicate to my readers (and maybe other potential coaches who are interested) five tips on being a good and potentially successful chess coach. 

Before I begin, I would like to communicate that chess coaches do NOT have to be superstar players! As mentioned previously, I offer coaching online, and yet I am only rated 1700 USCF! (though I have been as high as 1800 ), and yet (again), I have four regular students! My point here is that I do not want anyone to feel like A) if they are looking for a coach, rating matters and B) If you want to be a coach, you need to get your rating higher. It is true that the higher rated you are, the more students you may get, though what matters the most is how you present yourself and the chess instruction to the student. I hope that following these tips will help improve your coaching "game" no matter your rating.  

On to the tips:

#5: Don't worry too much about the lesson time spent

Just because you charge $XX per hour, does not mean that your lessons need to be exactly 60 minutes! I think a coach already has good quality when he is willing to spend a little extra time with the student, if he needs to finish the lecture, the student has a question, etc. True, you don't have to go half an hour over the limit, though nothing wrong with spending an extra 5-10 minutes or so with the student. 

#4: Take and ask questions

Being a good coach and maintaining a solid coach-student relationship is about engagement, which we will see in a future point. Chess coaching does not need to be the stereotypical "Coach lectures student for one hour, the student listens, blah blah blah..."... A good coach will ask the students questions (do you understand, give them a puzzle, ask if the student has questions, etc), and conversely, the dedicated student will pester the coach with questions of his own (no, I don't understand the position, can we look at this problem together, I need your advice), etc. 

After every lesson, I always ask my student, "Alright, do you have any more questions about chess in general?". True, I may need a cheesier quote, though at least it shows that I care about the student, and will answer any question to my ability.

#3: Spend time outside of your lesson

Now a coach who keeps their student's statistics is a really dedicated one! :-)

Now that's a really dedicated coach if he tracks his student's statistics like that!

If you want to be a successful coach, you're going to need to be spending time outside of the hour or so you have with your student. It's a given. Finding homework problems takes time, analyzing the student's games would be well done in advance, etc. I also feel that every coach should have nearly unlimited email consultation available. True, the student does not need to spam the coach, though it once again proves a good relationship when the coach is willing to answer questions via email outside of the lesson. And if they need to, the coach can elect to talk to the student about that topic during their session.  

On top of all of that, the more time you spend outside of the lessons, the more productive your lessons will be, the more your students will be noticing, the more they will be praising you, and maybe, the more students you will get! The formula works well!

#2: Guide students, don't dictate them

It can be easy for the coach to tell the student what to do, and be ticked off if the student does not do their homework. It should be a given anyway that the dedicated student will do their homework and follow their coach's advice to the best of their abilities. However, a piece of advice I hear a lot, it is the coach's job to guide the student, not tell them what to do. The student and coach may have only one hour or so with each other in person, and in the end, it's up to the student to do what he needs to do at home. If you have a student who never does their homework, I would advise you to A) bear with it, or B) find a different student.

P.S. If you are a student, do what your coach asks you to do!

#1: Engage with the student! 

I feel that above all, this is the most important quality of a good coach. No matter your rating, people will regard you highly if you can engage with the student. To engage literally means to occupy, attract, or involve someone's attention. Those words speak for themselves. Here is what I mean:

NON-ENGAGING COACH: Here, 19. Bf3 is a novelty. After 19... Bh3 (19... Bxf3 20. exf3 (20. Nxf3, e4 21. Nd2, e3 22. Ne4, Rxe4 23. dxe4, d3)) 20. Qxa7 (better is 20. Rfe1, Qc7) 20... Bxf1 21. Kxf1 Re7 22. Qa4 is fine for White.

ENGAGING COACH: Here, 19. Bf3 is a novelty. 19. Rfe1 was played in a previous game which ended in a draw. After 19... Bh3, targeting the Rook and light squares (Black could take the Knight, though White would recapture with his pawn rather than his Knight. 19... Bxf3 20. exf3! (Capturing with the Knight would give Black counterplay. 20. Nxf3, e4! 21. Nd2, e3 22. Ne4, Rxe4! Sacrificing the exchange. 23. dxe4, d3, and the passed pawn will prove dangerous.)) 20. Qxa7!?, sacrificing the exchange for light-squared grip on the Queenside. (interesting is 20. Rfe1, Qc7 with a good game) 20... Bxf1, snagging the exchange 21. Kxf1 Re7 22. Qa4 is an interesting position for White.

Do you see what I did? I literally copied and pasted the notes from the non-engaging coach to the engaged one, though added emphasis and comments on the moves. I did not shy away from variations, though I did make sure that the student could understand why the variations were played. Of course, this would make better since over a board! Brownie points to who can find which game I am referring to as well as the notes!

I had a blast writing this. I hope this was helpful, to both the coach and student! There are obviously some necessities to be a good coach. You need to know how to use skype is you offer lessons via that software. You also need to know how to play the game and present it to people. Again, it helps to be very good and knowledgable, though I don't see a problem getting students in the long run if you follow those guidelines and you can market yourself. has many great coaches. Of course, I'd be happy to take on new students, though if you are looking for a coach, find one that suits you!

As always, feel free to leave a comment, and let me know if you have further questions or points. Have a wonderful weekend!