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I read an article about how Wesley So hired a coach. Well, Wesley is rated 2800 and is far stronger than his coach ever was. I'm just wondering what a coach would have to offer to a player as strong as Wesley, and if it's really worth the money.

In physical sports, coaches can provide plans. For example, in tennis, Nadal is a great player. His coach can give him plans so that Nadal can go out and execute them. The reason Nadal is better than his coach is because he can execute the plan.

But, in chess, the plan is the sport. If Wesley So's coach can make better plans than Wesley So, why isn't he a better player than Wesley ?

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Being a good coach takes a different set of skills than being a great, or world-class player. You can't just say that the coach makes better plans, as that is over simplification and somewhat inaccurate. The point of the coach is typically to help the player identify and eliminate their weaknesses, whether it's tactics, strategy/positional considerations, technique, opening, middlegame, endgame, etc, or non-chess considerations like diet and exercise. The coach will also have different ideas on how a position could be played, and can be useful in bouncing ideas around with, or analyzing opponents weaknesses.

  • I understand your point on identifying weaknesses. – user230452 Jan 29 '17 at 3:56
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Everybody needs training material, preferably specific to the skill to be trained.

You and I can just buy improvement books with hundreds of positions and have plenty work to do, at a high enough level. And we have so many weaknesses in our play that basically any training helps.

When you're a professional grandmaster, you've already done all the books when you were 14. You spend 10+ hours per day improving your chess.

Much material presents itself (you need to analyze your own games and those of the other top players to death, keep analyzing all your openings to find new ideas), but someone also has to collect interesting training material to improve your skills, and that can be a full time job. They need to be good enough to know what kinds of position a player with some set of strengths and weaknesses (even a 2800 player) needs to get better.

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Well, same argument could be made for all the other top athletes in different individual sports. Why does Roger Federer needs a coach? Why did Michael Phelps need a coach? Whether is to point them to the right direction, give them study plans, analize their or an upcoming opponent's strategies, boost their mental skills (a huge part in individual sports, can't stress this enough), the fact is all top chess players have coaches. Just because they are good, they aren't perfect. So they all have room for improvement, that's why the coach(es) exist.

  • I have edited my question. – user230452 Jan 29 '17 at 2:47
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in chess, the plan is the sport.

You seem to be confusing "training plan" with "strategic plan". The coach's job is to diagnose weaknesses and strengths, and design a corrective training plan with exercises and study to address the weaknesses. It is also his job to help develop a playing style that will exploit the player's strengths and minimize the impact of their weaknesses.

This has nothing to do with the actual conduct of a particular game, which is where a strategic plan is used.

I will assume that, with this point clarified, it is straightforward to see how a coach can be better at developing a training plan than the player himself.

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I think making plans and executing them are two different things. Our calculational abilities diminish as we get older, so maybe having someone who can work out the big picture stuff but is not able to calculate as far ahead could be very valuable.

In addition a chess coach may not want or need the thrill of competition any more. For instance, Garry Kasparov retired as world champion and coached Carlsen for a bit, but then Kasparov found activism to be where he wanted to focus his energy. Other coaches may have a family that means they can't focus on chess full-time. Kasparov is still very good at chess if he wants to be. But he did all he could and decided to move on.

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