Chess Training can be tough and dull sometimes. Group Training can boost your moral & connect you with like-minded people. This can be extremely beneficial. Not only for your mental sanity but also for your Chess improvement.
So do I recommend working in a group? As frequently is the case, my answer is it depends :-).
Here is a short overview of this article:
- My regret of not working enough in groups
- Pros and Cons of working in groups
- My favorite Online Group Training
My Group Chess Training History
Over more than a decade in Chess, I tried out many different forms of training. Among the most frequent 3 forms: self-study, working 1 on 1 with a Coach, and Group Training, the latter was the least used method for me.
Looking back, this actually is one of the biggest regrets of my career.
Yes, I did have several group training sessions. Starting in my childhood Club in Bern, every Wednesday we had training for the most talented kids.
Upon entering the Swiss Youth Team, I had 2-3 group training weekends per year.
But being teenagers we used these more for hanging out, spending the nighttime playing other games rather than studying chess…
Who can come up with the most stupid idea at 2 AM was sadly much more important than coming up with good ideas over the board. I hope kids these days are a bit smarter than we were…
So for a long time, I associated group training more partying than real chess training…
How I Began To Like Group Chess Training
This changed when I decided to go to Crete in May 2019 for a week of Training with the Quality Chess Academy. Getting Coached by GM Jacob Aagaard and GM Ramesh was an opportunity I did not want to miss.
While there was still time for some jokes, sport & socializing, the main focus of the Camp was Chess improvement.
There were two groups, and I was in the stronger one, ranging from IMs to GM Shankland, former US Champion and Top 50 Player in the World.
The training was nicely balanced. Some sessions were about solving tests, others were a presentation about a specific theme.
What immediately got clear for me was: solving really hard exercises is much easier when others go through the same pain.
You are not alone. And it really sucks to be the one that solved the least positions right. So everyone is pushing a bit harder.
When you would maybe start to see the solutions or stop altogether in a self-study session, you still try to find moves in a group session.
After each test, we could share our views about the position. Hearing several other Grandmasters talk about a position can give you so many additional insights. Everyone has a different style and way to think about Chess.
And if you listen carefully, you can learn something from everyone.
Supporting Each Other
Not only at the camp was it nice to have similar-minded people. I’m still in contact with some of the participants now, even after my retirement. I remember a very particular tournament shortly after the camp.
After losing a second game in a row and starting with a horrible 0.5/3 I got a message from someone I met in the camp saying something along the lines of:
‘Hey Noël, keep your head up. We all have tough moments. I know you can play much stronger. Believe in yourself and keep going.’
That message really helped me stay positive and I came back with two victories, more or less saving the tournament.
As I described in my article on the optimal tournament, having like-minded people around can be super beneficial, especially when things go badly. Even a virtual pad on the back can already make a difference!
And there is no better way to connect to those people than in a (online) training camp for motivated & similarly strong players.
As my motivation started to fade at the beginning of 2021 and I started to contemplate ending my career, it got harder and harder to stay focused in training.
The absolutely best choice then was to join an online group training.
This gave me structure and made the training much more fun & light. Being in a call with hard-working Grandmasters was the only chance to get me going in training.
Pros And Cons Of Group Chess Training
As you understand by now, a big pro of Group Chess Training is the social contact with like-minded people. During training, it is much easier to push yourself if somebody is watching. Or if you can compete with other players.
Actually, already showing up and actually doing some training is easier! If you do it all by yourself, you might get tempted to watch one more Netflix series or enjoy the nice sun outside instead of doing your training.
If a Coach and many friends are waiting for you, skipping that training will not be an option anymore! You don’t want to answer any questions and teasings next time you show up.
In my experience, training games with players you personally know have a different intensity than those with random players on the internet. By losing you run the risk of hearing it over and over again from a friend.
This can push you harder to really fight until the end of the game.
Much Better Prices
Another huge benefit is the financial aspect. As many students will pay some amount, the amount is much lower than in a 1 on 1 training session. This can allow you to join training with Coaches you could only dream of getting for a 1 on 1 session.
GM Aagaard and GM Ramesh are two of the most renowned Chess Coaches out there. A full week of 1 on 1 Coaching would be extremely expensive. But as we studied in a Group, the price was much better and affordable.
Now there are actually Group training with Grandmasters such as Shirov, Svidler, Wesley So, Anish Giri, and much more available at an affordable price. Good luck in trying to get (and pay!) private lessons with any of them!
Now you might think: Oh my god, group training is the best thing in the world and everyone must do it.
For now, I have been pretty one-sided. So let us look at possible drawbacks of Group Chess Training.
Do You Like Being In Groups?
First of all, group training is not for everyone. There are people who feel much more comfortable in a 1 on 1 setting. If you don’t like socializing and cracking some jokes during training, then this might be not the right thing for you.
I’m sure you can trust your gut on this. When thinking about a group of studying with a group of 10 people, is your reaction rather “that will be so much fun” or “ugh, so many unknown people?”.
With my history of being bullied as a Child I also always had some fears connected to training with people I do not know. But once I realized nobody is going to hurt me, I could actually enjoy the experience.
So it might be worth trying it out and seeing how you feel.
If you feel uncomfortable after trying it out, stop doing it! There is nothing wrong with you. Some people prefer spending time alone, others in bigger groups. Neither option is always right or wrong. Find what fits best for YOU and stick to it.
Training Is Not Perfectly Fitting For You
As many people are in the same group, you will not get the same attention from the Coach as you would get in a 1 on 1 session. Similarly, the content of the training is not made only for you. Keep that in mind when choosing a Group Training.
In general, improving your tactical & strategical abilities can be very nicely done in Group Training. Other aspects of the game might need a bit more attention on each player.
Not Made For Openings
If you are looking to improve your openings, then group training is certainly not the right place for you! Especially on a non-beginner level, all the players will have different repertoires and opening choices.
It is literally impossible to find an opening that fits everyone.
The only way to do that would be to train in very small groups without a Coach and find an opening that really fits all the participants.
Best Option For Online Group Training
In case you are interested in joining an Online Group Training even after reading potential downsides, I got a recommendation for you.
As I mentioned before, I joined an Online Group Training Program Called ProChessTraining in February 2021.
Please be aware that I am an affiliate to ProChessTraining and I get a commission if you sign up using my affiliate link. By signing up for their Group Training you can bring your Chess to the Next Level and support my work at the same time with no extra cost to you.
Experienced GM’s As Founders
And I absolutely loved it! ProChessTraining was founded by three Indian Grandmasters & Coaches:
- GM Ramesh RB: Founder of ChessGurukul, a renowned Chess Academy whose students have won 45(!!!) Gold Medals in World Events.
- GM Surya Sekhar Ganguly: Member of Team Anand in the World Championship Matches in 2008, 2010 & 2012
- GM Magesh Panchanathan: Experienced Coach & Owner of the Kings & Queens Chess Academy
All three founders are not only exceptional Chess Players, but also experienced Coaches & kind human beings.
Nearly Daily Training Fitting Your Level
ProChessTraining offers extremely high-quality Training for all levels at an incredibly affordable prize. Thanks to 6 different groups
- Freshers <1000 Rating
- 1: 1000-1400 Rating
- 2: 1400-1800 Rating
- 3: 1800-2200 Rating
- 4: 2200-2400 Rating
- Elite: 2400+ Rating
you will train with similarly strong players and get a training that is very well suited for your needs.
With a monthly or yearly Membership you will get access to up to 6 classes per week. You can easily re-watch these classes if the timing does not fit your schedule.
The Classes will be guided by hand-selected Coaches with different styles & approaches. Try out several Classes with World Class Coaches and you will feel what is the best fit for your needs.
Additionally ProChessTraining organizes weekly tournaments or training games for members that want to immediately put their newly learned skills into action.
Starting From Only 50$/Month
Check out the details by clicking this link. You can find the monthly schedules with Themes & Coaches on their Homepage. Creating an account is totally free. Only signing up to a Group will cost you… but only a ridiculous amount!
All of this starts at an insanely cheap prize of 50$ per month for the Fresher group.
You basically get a full month of training for the prize of a single private Lesson… Don’t miss the opportunity to bring your Chess to the Next Level by Joining ProChessTraining. I’m sure you will not be disappointed!
If you prefer to get Coached 1 on 1, then make sure to check out my article on finding the perfect Chess Coach for you. Be aware that one does not exclude the other! Try out different things to understand what fits your needs best.
No matter what way you choose, I hope that you keep improving your Chess. It is simply more fun when we learn new things and improve our skills.