You're so good !
Having recently read a funny thread where this topic cropped up, I was wondering how much encouragement one should expect from his chess coach ?
We all love to be cheered and admired don’t we ? Also, doesn’t it feel good when a (much) stronger player tells you niceties about your play ? I wouldn’t be surprised if the confidence boost also has a direct positive effect on your play, as chess rewards boldness and quick decision making, that is – to a certain extent at least At some stage, a healthy dose of objectivity is more than welcome if you really want to make some significant progress.
Now comes the question of rating. A great majority of chess players are very sensitive when it comes to rating, as it’s the best and undisputed way to get recognition in the small world of chess and your position in the hierarchy of our game (or in the “food chain” as IM Silman appropriately put it).
However, I think coaches should be cautious when it comes to luring new players with what their future rating will be. For example, I think it’s quite unreasonable to promise a young unrated player he will reach, say 2200 in x years, when he hasn’t played a single OTB game just yet… Of course, this is probably good marketing, but is it really honest ?
I always try to take things one step at a time. Rating wise, that would mean I would try to guide beginners towards OTB play, then getting a first rating, then trying to gain 100 or 200 points from there, provided they like the competition, and so on… Now sky’s the limit, but not everybody will reach his upmost potential in the chess world, if only because it requires time and dedication.
As far as encouragement goes, I always try to emphasize any student’s strong points, but without shying away from their obvious weaknesses, at least those that in my eyes, are the most worrying to reach this famous “next step”.
Now some students probably prefer to hear soft words and don’t worry that much about real improvement, provided they can already dream themselves being their mighty chess-self a couple years from now. Is this a chess coach they need, or rather a chess cheerleader? I’m not sure.
Here are two examples of quick analysis from the same game. Which one would you prefer to hear ?
Know thyself – (Greek saying)
Conclusion of the 1st coach after the game : well, you played the opening extremely well (at least 2200 level, almost master level), then you had an oversight, it can happen, but you show good positional understanding, vastly superior to your opponent, especially when it comes to piece activity, so if you keep on doing some TT when you feel like it, I’m pretty sure you’ll make good progress in the middle game. Then we do some endgame training, and the 2200 level is not too far…
Conclusion of the 2nd coach after the game : the opening play was very good, except for Qxd4? but I think you understand why now. Then you missed a couple of tactical shots (cf. f4-f5 to trap the bishop and …a6 trapping your Knight), so we need to work on your tactics, or you just can’t get to 1500 elo, no matter how good your opening play is. I’ll send you a bunch of exercises. Also, when you play a move, try to ask yourself what your opponents’ reply is going to be. That’s a very important habit to develop ! Strong players are almost never surprised by their opponent’s moves, unless they are really bad ;-)
Last, when you play a serious game (and I only want to see serious games for our analysis sessions) make sure you have time to play it till the end and you’re not going to be disturbed. If it’s not possible, better to skip it and play another day.