Studying chess can prove a difficult task sometimes and, as much as you like to study by yourself, you might realize at some point that you need some guidance. It could be that you reach a moment when you can no longer see any improvement, regardless of the time you invest in studying or that you need help and advice creating a suitable repertoire or that you simply need a stronger and more experienced player to explain some important chess concepts. In any case, the help of a coach can be enormous.
An outside person with a good chess understanding can help you identify the weaknesses in your play and tell you what you need to study, can provide you material or indicate model games.
However, choosing the right coach for you can be tricky and we believe there are a few things you should pay attention to:
Although this does not necessarily indicate that a teacher is good or bad, having years of successful teaching behind tells a lot about a coach. It is important that he/she knows how to communicate his/her ideas and make you understand the concepts he/she is teaching.
This usually improves with experience, but it is also true that there are players who have a natural gift for it and can be great teachers with absolutely zero previous experience.
2. Attention to your chess needs
It is very important to find a coach that is open to creating a personalized training program for you. By studying your games, he/she should be able to identify your weaknesses and work with you on the aspects that you need to improve. Every chess player is different, so a standard working plan doesn’t usually work.
Your coach must create one according to your level and needs.
This point is important if you are looking for a coach to teach you a specific thing, such openings, instead of someone to give you a global understanding of the game. There are teachers who specialize in only one area of the game, so it might be a good idea to check this information or directly ask your future coach about it.
4. Playing strength
When choosing a coach, make sure that he/she is a stronger over the board player than you. A difference of 200 points, for example, should do; this shows that your teacher has a better chess understanding and should be able to identify your mistakes and help you improve.
5. Active player
Having a coach who is also an active player is usually a good thing; it means that he/she has not lost contact with chess and is up to date with novelties, tournaments and new interesting games.
6. Published works
This is another thing you can look at when hiring a chess coach. By reading his/her works you can get an idea of the teaching method and guess if he/she is a good fit for you. If you find that the ideas expressed are clear and easy to understand and you also like the style in which they are presented, then you will also probably like working in private with that particular teacher.
It is important that, once you meet your coach, you see if you can create a good connection with him/her. You should be able to talk to him/her, ask questions and get his/her opinion on different chess topics. If you realize that interacting with your teacher doesn’t come easy or you don’t understand what he’s trying to say, it is probably better to look for a different one who you can connect with.
8. Teaching style
Selecting a suitable coach does not only limit to his/her chess knowledge. Each teacher has a different way of presenting the information and motivating the students. Make sure that your teacher’s style is what you are looking for and motivates you to study more and get better.
9. Teaching method
After a few lessons, you should already realize if the information you received is new if it is what you are looking for and if you think this is the way for you to improve your play. A good teacher is someone who identifies your weaknesses and focuses the teaching plan towards improving them. If you feel that this is not the case and the teaching method employed so far is not suitable for you, talk to your coach about it or find someone who will be able to help you in a better way.
If you can get it, the reference from previous students is always good to have. You can get information about how the lessons go, about the teaching style, the methods and many other useful tips that can help you decide if that coach can be suitable for you.
However, once you have decided on your coach and have started taking lessons, don’t expect him/her to do everything for you. A coach is someone who guides you, helps you take the right direction in your study and helps you create a good opening repertoire. In order to get good results, it is important that you continue studying by yourself and not expect him/her to do miracles. A good coach is important, but even more important is your will to study. Thus even if you don’t have a coach, you can still improve without one [and here is how].