A Guide to Successful 1:1 Chess Training

What 1:1 Chess Training is best? With a Chess Coach or a Chess Teacher?

Many use them as synonyms. But I believe there are huge differences. And especially if you expect one and get the other, it can lead to frustration on both sides, for the Teacher and the Student.

In this Newsletter, I will show you the difference between the two, explain my Coaching philosophy, and help you understand what sort of 1:1 Chess Training fits your needs best.

Teaching is passing on Knowledge. Coaching is getting the best out of each Student.

Chess Teaching

A Chess Teacher is, in my eyes, a Chess player stronger than their student who passes on Chess knowledge. Teaching thus mostly happens in a classroom style. The Teacher prepares a certain topic and gives a lecture on it. The student listens carefully and learns something new in every lecture.

Those lectures can be the same for many different students. Once the lesson is over, the student tries to absorb and implement the knowledge on their own. There are rarely any interactions outside of the scheduled lessons, and even during lessons, there are rarely inputs on how to use or absorb this knowledge the best way.

Teaching also includes analysis of games played by the student. In this analysis, the teacher shows the student what move would have been better and why.

Teaching is passing on Chess knowledge. Saying, “You shouldn’t trade Bishops here because…”. Teaching is valuable but often leaves the student with many questions. It is relatively simple because chess skills and knowledge are the only things you need to become a Teacher.

Teaching makes up 80%+ of paid 1:1 interactions.

It is not bad, nor are Chess teachers making a living bad people. But I don’t believe it is the most effective and efficient way to help a student improve. Many of my readers and (course) students have or had a Chess Teacher and still feel overwhelmed with their Chess study.

Once the Lesson is over, they have no clue how to improve their Chess.

That’s why Chess Coaching is my preferred way of 1:1 Training.

Chess Coaching

A Chess Coach is a Chess Teacher that personalizes their lessons. A Coach has the job of getting the most out of every single student. 1:1 Lessons are only a rather small part of a Chess Coach’s tasks. They should think about optimal Training for their students when they aren’t in a Lesson, analyze their playing style, think about openings that fit them, and understand when the student has a particularly busy or tough period and adjust the plan accordingly.

Chess Coaching is really hard. I think I’m decent at it, but I have much to learn. Sometimes, I lie awake in bed and think about a concept I could have explained better.

Or I prepare a lesson for 2 hours only to scratch the whole thing because I think it doesn’t fit the student.

Coaching is not only hard for the Coach. It also requires much more from each student. If the student isn’t following the Coach’s training plan, they won’t get results. If students aren’t honest about their struggles, thought patterns, and goals, even the best Coach can’t help them.

But the benefits can be tremendous. Good chess Coaching can transform the student’s way of learning. Not only Chess, but any new skill.

My Coaching Philosophy

I rarely do 1:1 Coaching. Because to me, it is a big commitment. Both sides invest a lot of time and energy to create a partnership that can create marvelous results. But it only works if both sides are doing their best over a prolonged period.

If both sides aren’t fully committed and checking some boxes, in my eyes, both sides waste their time, and the student wastes a lot of money.

So, I came up with commitments for both sides that form the fundamentals for a successful 1:1 Coaching relationship:

Coach Commitment

  • Understand the psychological profile of my student
  • Only do 1:1 Lessons when something can’t be taught in a simpler way
  • Adjust pre-existing material to suit the student’s personal needs
  • Create a Training plan that is simple to follow
  • Help with obstacles, be it psychological or chess, along the journey

Student Commitment

  • Train with the best possible intensity
  • Track the training done on their own (and share it with the Coach)
  • Free at least 6 hours per week for Chess Training
  • Commit to 1 month with the intention of a long-term partnership

This might sound very selective, and that’s exactly the point. Chess Coaching is not for everyone. It is the hardest, most intense way of working on your Chess.

That’s why it can create amazing results. If everyone could do it, the results would merely be mediocre.

But this Newsletter isn’t about me. It is about you and your needs.

Should I get 1:1 Chess Training?

Many readers and course students ask me: Should I get 1:1 Chess Training? And if yes, what should it look like?

Four key factors heavily impact your decision. They are:

  • Time
  • Finances
  • Goals
  • Intensity

I will try to keep this as simple as possible. Here are my suggestions:

  • Time + Finances + Goals + Intensity -> 1:1 Coaching
  • No Time, but Finances + Goals -> 1:1 Teaching
  • No/Little Finances -> Free Material, Books & Video Courses, maybe Group Coaching
  • Low Goals -> 1:1 Teaching can be fun. Forget about improvement and have fun listening to an expert without expectations of results.
  • No Intensity -> 1:1 Teaching is an option, as you can lie back and enjoy a lesson. You can also watch courses, read books, and watch streams, but again without much expectation.

You might be surprised that I recommend 1:1 Teaching, which isn’t my preferred philosophy, to many more than 1:1 Coaching. Why is that?

Because it fits a broader audience. 1:1 Teaching isn’t bad. It is the easier way for both sides. The teacher doesn’t have to prepare much for a Lesson and can use their knowledge and databases. The Student doesn’t have to do homework, follow a plan, or be in a full-intensity lesson.

The problem I see often is that people get a Teacher and expect to get a Coach. This leads to frustration.

If you fully expect to get a Teacher and nothing more, you can be very happy and still make quite some progress. What you will learn in a lesson with an expert will be more than you can learn in an hour of studying on your own.

Just be aware that if you aren’t paying a premium price, you probably aren’t getting a real Coach. A Coach usually has 2-3x the work for each 1:1 Lesson than a Teacher.

As your results will likely be much bigger with a Chess Coach, it is normal that you pay 5x for a Coach.

(Attention: just because someone charges a lot doesn’t automatically mean that they’ll be a Coach for you. Check out my article on finding your optimal Coach to understand how to filter out the good ones.)

Become Your Own Coach

There is one option to get the Coaching without actually getting a Coach.

It is becoming a Coach yourself.

If you learn to write your plans, understand what you need to improve, and schedule your training accordingly, you can get a Teacher and ask them super specific questions in your Lessons.

Instead of sending them five games without annotations, you will analyze your games and then pick five positions you want to look at with a stronger player.

This approach takes up a lot of your time, but it can be rewarding as you learn many skills, and you can save a lot of money that way.

It is what I did for most of my career. 90%+ of my time studying was done on my own. And except my last Coach GM Markus Ragger, no one ever wrote a training plan for me. I did it all by myself.

While writing these words, I realized that my course, Next Level Training, is, in essence, a guide to becoming your own Coach. You will learn how to study different areas of Chess, which resources are worth your time, and how you come up with a personalized plan.

Using the four factors above, I believe Next Level Training is great for you if you have high goals, a little bit of time (30’/day consistently), and are ready to train with high intensity.

If that’s something you want to learn, make sure to check it out.

If not, ask yourself if you rather want to get a Chess Teacher or prefer reading books and studying courses.

There is no one-fits-all solution. Just the right way for your current needs. I hope this Newsletter helped you get closer to your optimal solution.

Keep improving,

PS: This article was sent out originally as a Newsletter. Join over 12,000 Chess improvers and get the Newsletter for free every Friday by signing up here.

I firmly believe that

anyone can improve their chess through the right mindset and training techniques.

I’m here to guide you on your journey to chess mastery.

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