At the top levels of chess the identity of the coach/assistant is sometimes kept secret.

What are the advantage(s) of this?

I found:

That mystery [second] turned out to be the intensely creative Russian master Daniil Dubov, whose influence on Carlsen would later become clear when he leaned on a specific variation of the Sicilian defense against Caruana.

It seems some advantage is to be gained by surprising an opponent with a variation or opening. Is this correct and are there any other reasons?

  • 3
    It is hard to give a more complete answer than "yes, it is correct and I don't know any other reason"...
    – Evargalo
    Dec 1, 2021 at 8:06
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    @Evargalo tbh I suspected that may be the case. If you’re pretty confident I think it doesn’t hurt to make that the answer. That’s valuable because before asking I was about 50/50, whereas now I’m ~100% sure.
    – stevec
    Dec 1, 2021 at 8:09
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    Since it can't be kept a secret which opening variant (and there are still many) some secundant is an expert on, the identity would give away much of the surprise. @Evergalo - you might add this to expand a bit :-) Dec 1, 2021 at 8:44

1 Answer 1


The main function of a second is to provide timely analysis and advice to the principal player, both before and during the match. If the second is being pestered by the chess press because their identity is known then it becomes more difficult for them to do their job properly. It is an added unwanted distraction.

Second, the second will have particular areas of expertise for which they are being employed. The knowledge that the principal is looking for advice in these areas is useful knowledge for the opponent and so keeping this secret is desirable.

  • "analysis and advice to the principal player during the match". Wait, what? I have 0 clue about chess competitions, but this seems very surprising. Dec 2, 2021 at 9:01
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    @EricDuminil A chess match is a collection of chess games (for example, the 2021 World Chess Championship is a match of up to 14 games). By "during the match" Brian means between the games (not during them). Note that some years ago when adjournments were common practice in long games, the second could technically help while a game was 'in progress', but only in the sense that the game had been started but had not yet been finished, although never while the principal player was at the board.
    – stevec
    Dec 2, 2021 at 9:10
  • about the 1st paragraph, but the players themselves (eg nepo and magnus in current WCC) might also be pestered anyway? the 2nd paragraph seems perfectly reasonable (coincidence? 2nd paragraph on seconds?)
    – BCLC
    Dec 3, 2021 at 2:10

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