Today chess.com did an interview with Carlsen's coach.

Someone like Carlen or Anand, why do they still need coaches? Their Elo is higher than their coaches, they can use engines to analyze the games, and they can beat their coaches in practically every game, obviously they know more openings than anyone in their room.

I understand that someone hires a coach to get better, or in other sports you do that to stay in shape, but this is chess and there are computers if you need help, i guess all the coaches use them, so why hiring them? What is their major role? Do all GM's have coaches? (including the ones who died, Fischer, Capablanca etc).

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    Kasparov trained Carlsen for last year championships! Training with engines does not make anyone a true GM.
    – pbu
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 13:42
  • 1
    Just as a quick note, chess amateurs often overestimate the capabilites of engines
    – David
    Commented Jul 31, 2019 at 11:25
  • why do basketball players need coaches?
    – BCLC
    Commented Jan 21, 2022 at 9:43
  • Does this answer your question? What do top players' get from coaches?
    – BCLC
    Commented Jan 21, 2022 at 9:43
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    @BrianTowers does that apply everywhere on stackexchange? or is this a chess stackexchange policy? math.stackexchange.com/questions/1592620/… 'You can find some good discussions and arguments on meta for why older questions are sometimes closed as duplicate of newer ones.'
    – BCLC
    Commented Jan 21, 2022 at 12:48

2 Answers 2


I don't know which person you are referring to, or if the exact word "coach" was used, but GMs like Carlsen don't really have coaches in the sense you are probably thinking of; they have seconds, who have the following functions:

  1. Opening research. This might mean performing general research, or looking for particular weapons that are likely to be useful against the upcoming opponent, in this case Anand. Doing quality opening research takes a lot of time, and the player is better off paying strong GMs to do some of it for him them spending all the time on it himself. Also, they can spend time during the match doing further research based on the games already played, which the player doesn't have time to do.
  2. Adjournment analysis. This is not really relevant anymore, but in the old days many games would be adjourned overnight, and the players' seconds would analyze the adjourned position all night and present him with their analysis the next day before the game resumed.
  3. Training games. If a player has an opening idea, he can try it out against other players and see what sort of situations result from it before using it in a live game. This is often more relevant than playing games against a computer.
  4. Moral support. Don't underestimate how much nicer it is to have a team of compatriots that can cheer you on when you do well or pick you up when you do badly. They probably also do other things together like exercise.
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    I think they are also regular coaches, in the sense that they design a training program for the GM, identify weaknesses, select exercises to work on them, and so on. I'm sure that Carlsen's training camp involved a few hours of solving positions per day, and someone has to select them first. Commented Nov 10, 2013 at 8:57

Coaches at that level are analysers rather than teachers.


  • prepare openings for a specific opponent,
  • investigate opponent's weakness,
  • help to analyse games during tournament after each round to find mistakes,
  • perform official things such as registering, following results,
  • mental encouragement
  • ...

High chess rating and practical abilities don't mean that GMs don't need teachers and coaches, there are many people with average rating that they know openings, strategies and theories even better than GMs. They can improve skills of their students (Grand masters!).

  • Then why aren't these folks good at chess?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 5:11
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    They are. Many of them have ratings over than 2300. But competitions are another story. Real matches need fighters with high ability to be good every day.
    – masoud
    Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 6:44
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    @Pacerier Understanding and practical play are two different things, especially as a player gets older. Even though Karpov is now rated "only" 2617 compared to his peak rating of 2780, do you think he lost understanding, or practical ability as he aged? Look at Dvoretsky: He was "only" an IM, but he was the most highly-regarded trainer in the world before he died. His understanding, and ability to develop training that improved a player's weaknesses, was unmatched. Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 16:26
  • @Pacerier Also, being a good player and being a good coatch are two different things. In soccer, many star players were poor coaches, whereas many great coaches were lower than average players or in some cases even non-players. Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 15:33

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