The Art of Balance:  High School and Chess

This week, I’m going to take a small detour to discuss something I think many of you have either already experienced or will experience in the future.  Specifically, I will be discussing the concept because I am currently experiencing it – junior year of high school and how it affects chess.

Junior year, or 11th grade, is arguably the hardest and most stressful year of high school.  In freshman and sophomore year, the workload is relatively light – most students aren’t at the point of multiple college-level courses yet, and classes are easier in difficulty in general.  Also, students have “chiller” classes like P.E.

Most of this changes when a student hits junior year.  Firstly, classes become somewhat harder, but the main point is that students take more of these college-level classes.  Thus, homework and studying take longer.  Additionally, in junior year, students have to take standardized tests like the SAT and the ACT in order to prepare for college.  These tests take weeks or even months of preparation, and for many students, the weekends are the only viable time to study for them.  Lastly, students have to start thinking about college, especially what schools they want to apply to, how they are going to manage applications, and maybe even what they will write their essays on.  While one might predict that senior year would be more difficult than any year past, from what I have heard, the answer is both yes and no.  Sure, the difficulty of classes may still increase.  However, by the end of first quarter or about ¾ of the way through the first semester, college applications are done, and from that point, students usually do not need to put as much effort into classes as they did earlier – put in just enough to maintain the grades earned last year, and the student will be fine.  Thus, in short, junior year in high school is very involved and time-consuming, at least more so than any year experienced thus far.

For chess players, this prospect can possibly be daunting.  I’ll use myself as a case study since I am currently in the middle of this junior year.  Up until last year, I would play in every tournament that came around and would just work on homework in between rounds or before/after the tournament.  And, almost every time, I would be able to finish it all while still being able to play in the entire tournament.  Very rarely did I have to take a last round bye or, worst case, skip a tournament due to workload.  Even then, that was only during sophomore year.  I find the situation very different this year.

Last year, I was aware that there would have to be more time put into school this year.  Yet, I still naively believed that I would have time to do everything that school required and play in chess tournaments at the same time.  Oh, was I wrong!  Since the school year started in late August of 2017, I have only played in three actual tournaments, and one of them was the K-12 Nationals down in Florida.  I’ve found that I have had to skip many tournaments either due to school work alone or having to study for the SAT/ACT.  Even now, the USATE is happening this weekend in New Jersey, which I’m skipping; next weekend is another open tournament that I will likely be skipping; and, I’m not even sure if I’ll be able to play in the VA State Championships because it is the weekend before the SAT in March, and this is a tournament that I have attended every year since I started playing chess in 2010.

This brings me to my point about what someone can do once they reach junior year in order to balance school and chess as much as possible.  Although I have only played in three actual tournaments since the year started, I have still been able to play at least a game or two a month through the DC Chess League and NVA Chess League, both of which have matches once a month.  Playing in these leagues has allowed me to at least keep somewhat in touch with the game in the middle of everything else that is going on.  So, upon reaching junior year, if a chess player is able to play in leagues or even clubs that have single-day events, then it could be extremely beneficial.  One day or one night could be dedicated to chess, and the rest of the weekend could be used for doing homework and studying for standardized tests.  In this way, a respected amount of time can be allocated to each area.

As for the future, I took the ACT this February, and hopefully, after the SAT in March, I will be done with standardized testing.  At that point, I hope I can go back to playing in tournaments on a more normal basis.  But, until then, I hope that my experience and thoughts regarding balancing junior year in high school and chess will help those who have yet to experience it.  Thanks for reading, and, as always, I’ll see you next time!

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Winning The Baltimore Open U2100

Having recently fallen back into the <2100 club, I decided to give the money sections one last try at the Baltimore Open last weekend, in case I wasn’t doomed to being embarrassed by 1800-rated kids!

I played in the fast schedule (Rounds 1-2 G/45+inc/30, Rounds 3-5 40/90 SD/30 inc/30) and went 4.5/5 for clear first. Overall the accommodations were pretty good and it made for a good U.S. Amateur Team East warmup. It was also an interesting throwback to my 1900 days, but I have learned a lot since then and it showed in a lot of the critical moments. The clearest example was the losing ending I defended in Round 3 (seemingly forever while down an hour of time) that I don’t think I would have contested as seriously 2-3 years ago. More than any other group I’ve observed, 1800-2100 sections seem to favor who avoids blundering in the wrong moments (and not necessarily the least). I still don’t get it.

Sidenote: so many kids! I was told there would be lots of old people (I think those were the 2000s who dropped off the map in Rounds 3-4), but only one of my opponents was age 16+.

Here are the games:


Round 1: Li – Chong

In Round 1, I won a (very) clean pawn early but time trouble made matters much more interesting than it should have. My opponent actually had a draw at one point, but alas he was low on time too and missed it. Most of the game was pretty squarely in my corner – too bad my technique leaves so much to be desired!

Round 2: Power – Li

The second round was even more embarrassing as I was apparently -7 (Stockfish) at one point. Some of these Caro-Kann lines are the stuff of nightmares and a good example of not blindly regurgitating thematic opening ideas. Even though I was down a few minutes to 20-30 throughout some dangerous positions, I managed to escape. Again, if you get a dire-looking position in the middlegame, don’t worry about your mistakes and keep a level head – my opponent had the win in his sights, but got too impatient at the critical moment.

Round 3: Li – Shoykhet

Unfortunately, my good luck had to come to an end… or did it? In the span of one game, I showed I still don’t understand the Closed Sicilian, then got a won position, then found myself in a lost ending with no time left. Somehow I survived time control at move 40 and then dug myself to equality in 25 moves, ending the day tied with five others at 2.5/3.


Round 4: Gorti – Li

Day 2 ended up a lot smoother because the end was near(er) and I didn’t mess up! I was paired against Atmika Gorti (FM Akshita’s sister), who despite being one of the lowest players was also undefeated. I got to execute the “normal” plans in a very familiar opening – structurally favorable Exchange Caro-Kann – so there weren’t too many surprises.

Round 5: Zhao – Li

Going into the last round, three of us had 3.5/4, including my opponent from Round 3. As the highest rated of the three, I faced off against my last co-leader. In the end, both of them just self-destructed — I was lucky to get a simple, positionally superior position in another familiar opening (Caro-Kann Panov), and my opponent just didn’t get any chances to unravel. On Board 2, Mr. Shoykhet – who had played a great tournament – played a bad opening and was lost early – too bad. The player who wins these sections is often the one that’s able to keep a straight face the whole time!

State of Mind: Fighting Your Inner Demons

As you know, lately I’ve been drowning in school work since the conclusion of the Cardinal Open. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about chess – in fact, today I wanted to share the most informal chess lesson I’ve ever received. Consider this:

Screen Shot 2018-02-12 at 10.48.44
My January chess.com bullet rating graph (NapoleonBonaparteIV)

In my bouts of procrastination, my roommate and fellow Chess^Summit columnist, Beilin, noticed that in a week my bullet rating had atrophied by over 100 points. After watching me play, Beilin commented that I flagged a lot in winning positions, simply because I got too excited when I had less than 10 seconds left in a game. Hmm… time to make adjustments.

Then this happened:

Screen Shot 2018-02-12 at 11.01.26
My current chess.com bullet rating graph (NapoleonBonaparteIV)

In the course of one evening, I regained 100 rating points. It’s amazing what objectivity can do for your chess. By simply ignoring how I felt about the position until the end of the game, I saved precious seconds on my clock and won a lot more. Is this a meaningful lesson for chess in longterm time controls?

Ok, first a disclaimer – bullet is not a replacement for proper chess training. So the takeaway from this article should not be to play more bullet, but rather to realize that the psychological factors in both may not be so different. From there we can start the discussion of this article.

This general ‘nervousness’ I had in bullet is similar to the feeling that haunts us in tournament games because we let it affect our objectivity. We’ve already talked about managing time, so today I want to talk about how our emotions can get in the way of our objectivity in winning positions.

Let’s start with an example from a recent tournament game I shared:

Screen Shot 2018-02-12 at 11.27.53
Samuelson–Steincamp, position after 41. Nc1

Here I have a decisive advantage – the knight on h6 is trapped, and if I can consolidate quickly, White will not have enough compensation for the piece. However, the game isn’t over and I should have lost after 41…Qa8? 42. Nd3 Qb8 because White had the decisive blow 43. Nxf4! +-  Bxf4 44. Rd6+ Ne6 45. Qxf4+ with mate coming soon. Luckily my opponent erred with 43. Nxe5? and after some complications, I managed to win the game.

Honestly, I played 41…Qa8? quickly, without realizing the true dangers in the position. I remember feeling optimistic, and confident in my ability to pull the upset. But my level of excitement should have been punished – in adapting the mindset like the game was over, I stopped playing for one move. And in chess, we know how much of an impact one mistake can make…

Correct would have been 41…Qc2, but after some analysis, I decided here that I needed to have really spent some time here. The act of regrouping isn’t easy here, and I haven’t won until I’ve done so – material alone won’t cut it.

After thinking about this game, I realized I’ve actually made this mistake a few times before. Take this position from my most recent Pittsburgh Chess League match-up:

Screen Shot 2018-02-12 at 11.42.37
Yaskolko–Steincamp, position after 36. h3

Out of a Berlin sideline, I’ve played really well to get this position. I’ve kept the bishop pair, and White is relatively passive in this position. All Black needs to do is keep pressure on the queenside while holding off the kingside expansion.

Already thinking I couldn’t lose this position, I played 36…Ra8? expecting to play …gxf4 at the right moment and bring my rook to the g-file. But just like the last example, confidence like this leads to blindness. I missed 37. g4! and White was no longer worse. In fact, the dramatic switch in initiative proved too much for me to recover from, and I lost ten moves later.

The more I looked through some of my previous games, the more I realized this is actually a really common weakness for both me and my opponents. Take this dramatic example from a game I played in the Czech Republic last year:

Screen Shot 2018-02-12 at 11.51.58
Duda–Steincamp, position after 26…Kf8

White is a lot better after a terrible opening display on my end, and my continuation here was one out of inertia than a belief I could salvage a draw. But my 2100 rated opponent showed how simple it is to lose a game with 27. g4?? Nf3+, and now I’m completely winning. Sure this is a horrendous blunder, but goes to show that once we let our guard down, our brain also tells us to stop looking at counterplay.

This isn’t just an amateur/expert-level phenomenon either, as we’ve seen it creep up in the games of professionals too. I can think of no better than Nakamura’s outing against Carlsen in the 2014 Zurich Chess Challenge. Going into this game, Nakamura had never beaten Magnus, with an unusually poor record of 0-8 (excluding draws), but after 33. Rxh2, that all seemed to be going away as Hikaru had a completely crushing attack:

Screen Shot 2018-02-12 at 12.01.08
Nakamura–Carlsen, position after 33. Rxh2

Magnus was forced into 33…Qg6 34. Nf5 Re8, and after some thought, Hikaru repeated the position with 35. Qg4 (threatening Rh2-h6, trapping the queen) Qb6 36. Qh3 Qg6. And now Nakamura needed to find the win:

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Nakamura–Carlsen, position after 36…Qg6

Trying to block out the emotions, Nakamura pushed through with 37. d6?, missing a critical detail. After Magnus’ 37…Nxd6 38. Nxd6 Rd8!, Nakamura realized that his first rank wasn’t defended, leaving his king open to attack. Hikaru tried to bail out with 39. Nc4, but it was already too late. After 39…Qxe4, Hikaru couldn’t adjust to the new position and played 40. Qh5?, going on to lose the game.

It’s not hard to put yourself in Hikaru’s shoes. So close to winning against his rival for the first time, Hikaru relaxed for one moment and botched a two move calculation. As it turns out, d5-d6 is the correct idea, but a 37. Rh1 or a 37. Ka2 needed to be inserted first to reduce the power of Black’s counterplay. 37. Qf1 is also completely winning.

So now we see how dangerous it is to think “I’m going to win” during a game. Just like how I learned in bullet this week, push that feeling to the end of the game and remain calm until the desired result is secured. While this mentality in bullet is to prevent your opponent from having counterplay on the clock, thinking like this will limit your opponent’s counterplay on the board.

Chess Programs: How to Learn Actively

As chess gets popular in the United States, the opportunity to participate in chess camps or school programs also have increased.

Parents and coaches can us the information from this post to encourage students to actively learn in chess.

Chess programs can be grouped by age or, more commonly, chess levels. Here are three common chess levels:

1. True beginner:  learning the rules for the first time
2. Play-at-home level: knows the rules; ready to learn basic tactics and strategies
3. Tournament-play level: competed in tournaments; has been working on chess study; wants to increase chess rating.

Regardless of a student’s chess level, the following five points should be the focus to get the most out of a chess chess program.

 Asking Questions
• Playing Games
• Trying New Ideas
• Teaching Others
• Making Friends

Asking questions

Schools are moving toward more instruction and less interaction. Chess programs should not follow this pattern. Instead, questions during a lecture will bring ideas both for the students and the instructor.

It helps to encourage students to answer instructor’s questions without being afraid of being wrong. Questions can be general ones, like questions about chess world champions, chess history, etc.  Or they can be knowledge-based, such as how to checkmate with two bishops.

Playing games

Like many other activities, chess is a numbers game. Grandmasters generally play many more games than a beginner. Chess programs is an opportunity to play multiple games in a day.

A beginner should learn to not be afraid to play against stronger players. This is the chance to train and ask questions. At the same time, playing against less-experienced players is a chance for your child to teach what they know.

Either way, they can use the camp to increase their chess experiences.

Trying new ideas

In my lessons, I ask students to try out ideas at home (online), then learn from these experiences and apply them in tournaments.

Camp or school clubs are the best time to test ideas. If they want to learn a new opening, they can try it during these programs. Then they can ask questions about it.

Not only is this a low-stake environment (results don’t matter as much as in tournaments), but they can also immediately ask for feedback.

Teaching others

                                    If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.

–Albert Einstein

Encourage a child to teach what they know. We live in an era where knowledge has become more of a commodity, and information can be easily found on the internet.

Not only are they helping others to learn new ideas, they’ll also clarify their own thoughts in the idea. For example, once they have learned how to checkmate with two bishops, showing others the process will only help them to understand it better.

Making new friends

This may be the most important of all. Going to chess camp or club will give a child the opportunity to make new friends with other chess players.

After all, chess is a game that shows off the competitive spirit on the board, and friendships off the board.

When a child  interacts with other kids and works with them to solve problems, it will help them work during the camp, and more importantly, form a friendship for their chess careers to come.

Whether your kids are just picking up the game or are ready for tournament play, I hope this post will help you and them to gain the most from any chess programs.

Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers Upset Defending Champs St. Louis Archbishops

Pittsburgh couldn’t have had a more exciting win last night, toppling none other than the St. Louis Archbishops, last year’s champion team, 8.5-7.5. Chess.com gave Pittsburgh only an 11% chance of winning the match (and even worse at halftime)!

St. Louis went all in on Boards 1-3 (GMs Caruana, Fedoseev, Ramirez), outrating Pittsburgh by more than 150 points on each board. The downside of that was having to play NM Forest Chen (rated under 2000 FIDE/2300 USCF) on Board 4, placing undeniable pressure on all the top boards to compensate. Chen’s score of 1/4 wasn’t the end of the world, but that probably should have been 0/4, and the top boards simply did not perform as they should have.

Of course, it’s hard to argue against playing GM Fabiano Caruana and GM Vladimir Fedoseev, both rated over 2700 FIDE. But to truly help the team, they really needed to run up the score against their (significantly) lower-rated opponents, and they didn’t quite get enough. The Pawngrabbers had a clear, if not easy, goal of picking points off NM Chen and holding down Caruana and Fedoseev a bit. This left GM Alejandro Ramirez as the deciding factor, and unfortunately for the Archbishops, he did not do so well last night.

Crucially, Pittsburgh managed to avoid the early disasters from the last two matches and kept the match close in the first half, losing the first matchup 1.5-2.5 and tying the second 2-2. They completely turned around the match by sweeping the third quarter 3.5-0.5, and picked off the last 1.5 points from a selection of good positions.

As a result, Pittsburgh is still 3rd in the Atlantic Division (behind Webster and Minnesota), but has widened its lead over its nearest competitors, including St. Louis. There are still a few tough matches, but last night’s victory bodes well for the Pawngrabbers’ playoff prospects.

Highlights of the night, in no particular order:


1. Awonder Liang defeats Fabiano Caruana

Awonder, somehow, remains undefeated outside of Super Saturday, scoring 3-1 for the night. Evidently, Awonder was not content with beating GM Hikaru Nakamura last weekend – he had to beat Fabiano Caruana as well.

He’s actually looking a lot like Candidates material…

2. Alexander Shabalov defeats Vladimir Fedoseev

GM Shabalov has been less consistent, although his worst performances are scoring even against slightly lower-rated players. When he is on form, he is easily one of the most appreciated players, at least among the chess.com commentators! Shaba delivered a surprising demolition of a 2731-rated Fedoseev in Round 3:.

3. Atulya Shetty defeats Alejandro Ramirez

Atulya scored a solid 2-2 for the night, and was well-rewarded for smoothly outplaying GM Ramirez from a seemingly equal middlegame. This game gave Pittsburgh a little peace of mind, bringing them to the safe 8 points.

4. Safal Bora swindles Alejandro Ramirez

Getting swindled by Forest Chen and difficulties over Caruana and Fedoseev did not make for a great night, but Safal was resourceful enough to snag what ended up a critical half point from a beyond hopeless-looking position. You never know when a lucky half point is going to decide a match!


The Pawngrabbers are all the better for this monumental upset. Our next match will be in one week, on February 14 against the Montclair Sopranos. Don’t forget to tune in on https://www.twitch.tv/napoleonbonaparteivfor Isaac’s live comments!

-Beilin Li, Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers co-manager

Knight Endgames – a Crash Course

Knight endgames are supposed to be like pawn endgames. That is true for the most part, but they are only similar. They are not the same, and in this article I would like to point out a few important differences. As usual, there will be puzzles at the end, so keep reading!

In general, king activity is extremely important, as is knight activity. That’s fairly logical and goes without saying. For instance, take a look at this position from one of my old games:

Walton, John (1856 USCF) – Brodsky, David (2100 USCF) Marshall U2300 September 2013

Walton

Black to move

Black has a powerful knight on d3, while the white knight is very passive on d1. Black is simply much better here, and I went on to convert my advantage. That should be fairly intuitive and logical. Now for a more complex example from another game of mine:

Katz, Gabriel (1942 USCF) – Brodsky, David (2032 USCF) New York State Scholastic 2013

G. Katz 1

White to move

Black appears to be a clean pawn up, but the white king comes and ruins black’s party. The game went 35.Ke2 Kg8 36.Kd3 Kf8 37.Kc4 a6 38.Kc5

G. Katz 2

White to move

Boy, is white’s king more active! Black has to be careful not to lose the a6-pawn outright. I played 38… Nc7 and after 39.Na7 Ke7 40.Nc6+ Kd7 41.Ne5+ Ke8 42.Nc6 we agreed to a draw as anything other than repeating with Kd7 would have gotten me into trouble.

What’s the overall conclusion? Just like in pawn endgames, king activity can be really important. In the previous position game, king activity was more or less the equivalent of an extra pawn.

In knight endgames, calculation is also important. Big time. Calculation in knight endgames can be more complicated than in pawn endgames, as there are generally more branches of the calculation “tree”. Knights can hop, fork and gobble loose pawns. Things can get messy, and intuition alone won’t guide you. Of course, there’s the “technical” side of knight endgames, where one side has everything under control, methodically improves their position, and strikes at the right moment. In my experience, however, those don’t appear very often.

With pawns on the same side of the board, positions that are easily winning in pawn endgames aren’t winning in knight endgames. Don’t despair, however, as in many of those positions your winning chances in a knight endgame are much higher than in, for instance, a rook endgame. Also, not all positions that are knight + pawn vs. knight are draws, as a lot depends on where the pieces are. Outside passed pawns can be very powerful as long as they’re supported. They can be excellent distractions, but they aren’t of much use if they drop immediately!

A complex example

This game combined outside passed pawns, active knights and kings, grabbing pawns, calculation, and many other aspects of knight endgames.

Brodsky, David (2314 USCF) – King, Alex (2365 USCF) Marshall Grand Prix March 2015

King 1

White to move

In this game, my two connected passed pawns on the queenside ended up serving as distractions. They won’t queen, but they keep the black king and knight occupied. It’s time to go for the kingside pawns. I played 37.Ne4! with the threat of Ng5 forking the f- and h-pawns. After 37… Kxb4 38.Ng5 Kc5 I was at the crossroads.

King 2

White to move

I had to choose what pawn to take. Black’s next two moves will most likely be Kb6xa7, while white should grab as many pawns as he can and bring his king into action. 39.Nxh7! was stronger, because after 39… Kb6 40.Ng5 Kxa7 41.Nxf7 white’s knight is much better placed on f7 then on h7, and white is just winning. Black can avoid this by playing 40… f5, but white can decisively run his king up with Kf2-e3-d4-e5. Instead, in the game, I made my life harder than necessary (seems to be a hobby of mine) by playing 39.Nxf7?! which still (barely) wins. The game went 39… Kb6 40.Ng5 Kxa7 41.Nxf7 Ne6! 42.Kf2 Kb6 43.Kf3 Kc6 44.Kg4 Kd6

Puzzle 1

King 3

White to move

The semi-forced moves are over, and now it’s up to you to find how white wins! The win isn’t really forced; you need to find the first couple of moves, and then the rest falls into place.

Now, I have a couple more puzzles to keep you guys busy. As usual, I’ll publish the answer on Sunday in the comments. Enjoy!

Puzzle 2

Karthik P

White to move

Is 27.Re7 a good idea?

Puzzle 3

Rohde 1

White to move

Calculation time! What move(s) is/are winning for white? Give yourself a few minutes to think and decide what you would play in an actual game.

Until next time!

Finding the Right Coach

Until recently in the timeline of chess finding a quality coach to work with either required fortunate proximity, fees or travel restricting the average player, or pure luck and who you knew. With the advent of the internet and the growth of the game in schools and social clubs across the world, as well as the current chess boom which I greatly hope continues, there has never been a better opportunity to find a guide on your chess path. Whether a casual player looking for a few lessons to grow a bit stronger or an ambitious player looking for the tools to become a champion, a coach is an irreplaceable asset and can become a lifelong friend and mentor on and off the board. The time and money invested in coaching whether temporary or long term will pay dividends in the enjoyment of being a better player and further understanding this game we love.

I only began working with a coach 7 months ago, but in that time I feel like I have learned a new game from the ground up compared to what I knew before. I have also seen more progress and overall understanding of the game week by week, much more than I would have if I had continued on my own. I am fortunate enough to have a FIDE Certified coach who is a remarkable player, has been teammates with a world champion, and truly cares about his students development and enjoyment of the game. I am equal parts honored and challenged to grow having a coach like this.

Geographically speaking I live 2 hours away from the nearest chess coach, so being able to reach out to my coach in Chennai via Skype and instantly begin learning would not be possible any other way. So where do we go with this technology and what can we do to find a teacher?

By and large on of the most popular ways, and the fastest growing way, to study chess is online. You can receive personalized lessons from a teacher of any level without leaving your home and have more time to study and less to travel. There is only so far you can go without a coach and while the amount of content in terms of books, YouTube content, and shareware are astounding, nothing can compare to the one-on-one experience and growth a coach brings. There are many sites out there where you can locate a coach, but the two most people rely on are USCF and chess.com‘s robust rosters.

SC

In the above example, you can see chess.com staff member and NM Sam Copeland. On this site you can see if they are titled, what their ratings are, and can usually find their rates and availability. You can send direct messages and use this information to look up their games and learn some more about them. I suggest seeing a player’s style if you can. If they play a style you want to learn or find fascinating, you might have found a solid match. My coach and I came into contact through Twitter and after some discussion, going over schedules, and viewing his credentials I knew I was in good hands. I was able to find a few of his games and enjoyed his playing style and felt confident I was going to be growing as a player. Finding a coach is a two-way interview, it requires give and take on both sides. You want to grow as a player and have a coach that can teach on your level and build you up to your goals. Likewise, this is a big commitment on the part of your coach, so their time needs to be rewarded with the progress and dedication they expect of their students.

It seems every day more social media platforms emerge, each full of countless coaches and players of varying strengths offering lessons. The sensory overload of ads, promoted content, and oversaturated pages can get in the way of finding the right coach for you. Some things you will want to consider when searching for a coach are:

Your Level of Commitment – If you are a casual player you don’t need to seek out a GM or other titled player. Furthermore, you do not need to pay the fees often associated with high-level players and coaches if you just want to improve enough to beat your friends or have a fighting chance. That being said, if you are committed to the game and want to elevate yourself to the next level, you will likely need to find a certified or other recognized coach. Sites such as the ones mentioned above show you the caliber of player and coach you will be working with. You need to be honest with yourself and your current level, and this is true of your coach as well.

Your Coaches Level of Commitment – If your to-be coach is a touring player with pupils on several continents, they simply won’t have the time to give you all the attention you may need or desire. It is also concerning if your coach has no other students or has gaps between students, not in all cases but in most this can be a bad sign. A good sign is if your coach follows up on you between lessons. My coach often sends me tactics puzzles or interesting topics between lessons, something I love.

Finances – Chess lessons can be quite expensive, but with the growing market the prices are trending down for the most part. Now, this ebbs and flows based on economies, popularity of chess, and conversion rates. For instance, the USD goes further than some other currencies so conversion rates may be helpful if learning from a teacher outside the US. I wish I could say there was a “standard going rate”, but much of this depends on factors in and out of a coaches hands. I would recommend “shopping around” and being honest with yourself and your financial situation. You do often get what you pay for, but based on your level of play and goals this may vary.

Your Schedules – My coach and I are in different time zones, a separation of 9 1/2 hours to be exact. Depending on your job, family situation, and other obligations it may be difficult to find your desired coach. Discuss their schedule and needs and compare them with yours to see if you can make it happen. Don’t try to force yourself or your coach to be on the same schedule, it will only impede the relationship and the learning process.

I recommend checking out the links above and seeing if there are any coaches you find interesting. Remember to be honest and patient when seeking a coach. Like any other relationship professional or not, it needs to be a natural fit and cannot be forced. A student seeks a wise and patient coach, a coach seeks a patient and committed student. If your commitment matches theirs, you should have a long and mutually beneficial relationship.