Let's say you have a 2 hour session. What questions would the serious player studying with a chess coach ask? Could you provide some examples?
The main advantage of a coach is the feedback. Neither a book nor software can explain where your weaknesses are. A coach should be able to review your games and explain where your weaknesses are and provide reference material to help your improve. Once you know your weaknesses, you can use books and software to help yourself improve. However, some chess concepts are too subtle to be explained to all but the most motivated.
I definitely agree with Mike: feed-back is the most important thing you can get. Try to identify flaws in your thinking process. For this, you can also go thru some of your games explaining to the coach how you were thinking at that moment, not only letting him analyze your games alone. Perhaps if you can select some of your games and put your thinking process "on paper" before meeting the coach would be even more useful. Filling up the gaps should then be your homework.
I'm sure however that a good coach would know how to make best use of your time together :).
Your coach will approach you with a proposal, based on his experience of what works best for your situation.
- He will complete an assessment of your standard of play by examining your games.
- He will likely explore your thinking process with you as you describe how you selected some of the key moves in your games.
- He will diagnose problems with your thinking process and/or your understanding of the game
- He will prescribe a training regimen that will either correct your weaknesses, or reinforce your strengths, or both.
- He will offer to meet with you again after a period of training on your part to carry out the regimen
- If you have a 2nd meeting, he will review your progress, and either prescribe more remedial work for defects in your play that persist, or diagnose the next set of weaknesses to work on, and prescribe training to correct those.
This is a fairly common formula. Some coaches vary from it by:
- Using a programmed training course with only minor customizations
- Emphasizing endgame theory and tactics more than average
- Playing games against you to observe your thinking process in real-time
All of these approaches are valid, and may be more effective at reducing cost, overcoming specific weaknesses, and improving diagnostic accuracy.