Currently I pay for lessons, and I surely see value. I've gotten from the low 600s to being able to give USCF 1200s a run for their money. It's not much, but it makes me pretty happy.

But I feel like a lot of coaching sometimes is just random topics with a lack of structure. I usually bring 5-7 games to my coach and we go over them, followed by extra things I should study to improve my weaknesses. I also bring up stuff I have read, for example in How to Reassess your Chess to get clarification.

Is there anything more I can do to better utilize my coach?


3 Answers 3


Analysing one of your own games with a coach is one of the most important parts of work for a coach. To maximize the analyse-training effect you should always annotate your games before giving them to your coach. The reason for this is, that it makes it more easily for your coach to spot your weaknesses and therefore give you the right material to study. (very important if you don't live commentate all of your games in a meeting while going through them)

For your rating i would prefer a split of training time like this:

  • 65% tactics
  • 10% openings
  • 15% endgames
  • 10% positional & strategical plans

In the beginning this will often look some random topics with a lack of structure, but normally it isn't. (the percentage ratio will change when you get better)

From my coaching experience the book "How to Reassess your Chess" is far too complex and difficult to understand for your level. (i would leave it aside)

Also don't hesitate to ask your coach about topics you find uncomfortable. (e.g. how to play against this opening, how should i behave in positions like this one, etc.) -> He will get a feeling in which topics you are good or need additional training.

For saving time you should do tactic puzzles always on paper/in your mind, because in tactic puzzles it often takes more time to set up the board than to find a solution.


This question is old now, but thought I would chime in on how to find a good coach.

You wrote: "But I feel like a lot of coaching sometimes is just random topics with a lack of structure."

You do not say what the rating of your coach is, but that lack of structure is a major red flag, and the sign of a not-great coach. Long-time coaches/trainers have definite lesson plans that can be tailored to players of different strengths. If they are just winging it every lesson, that is a sign it is time for a new coach.

Another important factor is that while many people want a GM coach, most players do not need a GM to train them, however, most professional trainers do nothing but that for a living, and usually are at least FM strength. In fact, many FMs or IMs can be much better coaches than many GMs, who just wing it since they work hard to have well thought out lessons.

Lastly, there are MANY places online nowadays that you can find very professional coaches for as little as $25/hour since they live in countries where that is a decent rate, but ask a lot of questions about whether they have formal lesson plans or just wing it. You can get a sense about that.

Chess.com Coaches

Lastly, here is my own tip about getting stronger: I cannot recall a tournament game between 1600 players that I kibitzed the postmortem that did not have an obvious missed tactic. I suggest immersion in chess tactics as I will describe in the next paragraph. I once took a 38-year-old friend, so not a super-young mind, from 1000 to 1850 ICC in three months doing this. He then stopped, and never got any better.

I recommend trying to do 50 tactics problems per day, spending no more than two minutes per problem, from the following books (eventually, you can use other books too):

  • “1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate”, 21st Century Edition by Fred Reinfeld
  • “1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations”, 21st Century Edition by Fred Reinfeld

I know there are a lot of tactics books out there, but I love these two books because of how well they are laid out. You start with the mates book because the first chapter is queen sacrifices, so you have two huge hints: Mate, and give up the queen. I skip the last chapter on composed mates for now. As you are doing them, in pencil, mark each one with a number 1-5 as to how easy you found it, 5 being hard. You will read both books more than once. Again, try to do 50 per day. It is hard, but worth it.

I have been recommending this for over 35 years, but the method is very similar to the relatively new book "The Woodpecker Method", which was published in 2018.


I think you are making good use of your coach from the sound of it. Perhaps you are not studying the correct books for your rating. And you should be heavy on puzzles and basic endgames; if your coach hasn't pushed you toward that there may be reason for concern.

  • I am certainly pushed towards tactics. No end games really. I don't hear very much about studying end games. Sometimes they come up in tactics however. I try to do around 20 minutes of tactics a day. Any more and I start getting burnt out setting up the board over and over again lol
    – user14142
    Dec 10, 2017 at 18:47

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