Finding the right chess coach

Ranveer Mohite
8 min readDec 10, 2020

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Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

There are plenty of coaches available out there. You see them online & you struggle to understand who is the right one for you. If you wonder “how & where to find the right coach?”, please keep reading this article.

Based on my 12-experience & after reaching 2200+ FIDE elo rating, I know a few things can help you make smarter choices when it comes to choosing the right coach.

Begin by asking yourself why exactly you need a chess coach?

Before finding the right coach, you must know what exactly you are looking for. Ask yourself these 3 question before choosing the right coach.

“Do I want to learn chess as a hobby?”

“Do I want to play chess professionally?”

“Do I want to just explore my curiosity & take things from there on?”

Most of you reading this article will probably fall under the third category. That’s okay. My point is the more clear you are, the better coach you can find.

Like if you are just looking to develop chess as a hobby, you can work with a coach who teaches beginners rather than going for super-experienced professional coaches.

If you want to get started professionally, it’s preferable you work with a professional coach from as early as day one, someone who knows the path.

If you are looking to explore your curiosity, you can work with a beginner coach first & then move on to more professional coaches.

If you fail to ask this question, it’s very very easy to waste your time and put your money in the wrong hands.

Define a Budget

Next thing, you define is a budget, especially if you are looking for a seasoned coach. Professional chess coaching is expensive. Initially as a beginner, you may want to spend less. Once you develop a passion for the game, you can switch to more professional coaches.

Coaching for beginners is cheaper compared to coaching for professionals. Some coaches charge on an hourly basis. Some of them charge on a monthly basis.

By having a budget in mind, you can decide which coaches you can approach. The larger the budget, the more experienced & stronger coach you can work with. Simple right?

Shortlist potential coaches

Now comes the fun part where you find & shortlist the right coach.

Search on Google, Facebook — Social media is a good place to start, but far from the best.

Upon a quick google search in my area, the first few results I found were of coaching academies rather than individual coaches.

Reputed academies are a great solution if you are starting out as a hobby and want to make the switch professionally. They have coaches who can guide you along every step of the way, from beginner to expert. I started out in an academy.

But in reality, reputed academies are greatly outnumbered by purely commercial ones. Unfortunately, it’s easier to look reputed than be reputed.

Academies also have a few serious drawbacks.

Firstly, social algorithms dictate which academies show up first. So academies who woo the algorithm will be on top. Secondly, so many great individual coaches I know, don’t have an academy and don’t show up in google or social results.

I’m not saying academies don’t have great coaches.

In fact a lot of great coaches start out as individual coaches & create their own academy later.

While looking for a good academy, always check the profile of a head coach, especially their FIDE account & past achievements. Stalk them!

Related Reading : How to spot a real & (fake) chess coach

But where to find good individual chess coaches? Especially those who don’t have an academy?

Short answer — It’s difficult and word of mouth is how you’ll find them.

Word of mouth & referrals — The problem with finding a good individual coach is that they are hard to find if you don’t know them. But this is also why referrals is the best way to find genuine coaches.

If tomorrow, you were to wipe out my memory & all my social contacts, I doubt how I could reconnect with people who are great coaches. Even after looking at most of their social profiles, I still can’t figure out if they are a chess coach or not.

The best way to connect with these individual coaches is to have someone refer you to them or miraculously get in touch with them.

Word of mouth is the best way to find hidden coaching gems. It’s also the hardest.

FIDE Instructors(FI) — A lot of great coaches are FIDE Instructors. FI training is designed to help coaches become better teachers. The training has the approval stamp of FIDE, the world chess body.

Anyone who has taken the course and cleared the exam is approved by FIDE to teach chess. They have also invested 6 months of time attending seminars, learned from good chess instructors and studied for the exam(which is a bit tough from what I’ve heard it).

This makes FI a qualified coach to teach. Consider FI as an official title which gives one the authority to teach chess. FI also has levels. The higher the level, the more experienced the coach is. If you can find one, you can trust their teaching skills provided they apply what they’ve been taught.

However, there are not a lot of FIs in the chess world. For players who coach, it’s simply a huge investment of time. And unless you ask the coach himself, it’s difficult to find out if he is a Fide Instructor or not.

You can verify if someone is an FI or not, by asking them to share their FIDE profile and look for the title below.

FI title at the bottom left — verified FI account

The chess strength of the FI matters, especially if you are looking to grow as a professional. Higher the std elo rating and the senior the instructor, the stronger as a coach.

All in all, you can trust someone with an FI title to teach you. But don’t let the title blind you. Some good coaches don’t have the FI title but they are exceptional teachers.

Chess websites & services websites — A quick question. Where are you most likely to find a good coach? On a chess website or a general services website? “Do business where business is done”. Thank you LinkedIn.

Lichess and chess.com accounts are where you will find individual coaches. In lichess, getting started as a coach requires one to have a title. So you’ll find coaches who have titles. This ensures lichess has less coaches but they have only titled coaches. Some of the good coaches I know don’t have titles.

On chess.com, both titled and non-titled players can become coaches. So you’ll have a wide range of options to choose from. Whereas lichess only covers the top end.

All in all, both are good places to find a coach rather than a general service website. At least, coaches on these website know what FIDE is!

On the other hand, with so many coaches registering daily on these chess websites, it’s difficult to verify if they have good coaching skills or not?

That’s where the next step becomes so important…

After you shortlist a coach (or coaches), do a little research on them.

This is an important step. It’s here you’ll realize who really is a good coach. Please don’t skip it as it’s the key to finding the right coach.

Check their FIDE profile — I can’t emphasize how important this is, so I’ll repeat it again.

Check for their FIDE profile.

You can access their FIDE profile by going to fide.com, selecting ratings tab & putting their name(first + last name or reversed) or FIDE id.

Ask them for their elo rating. Mostly they will tell you their FIDE rating. But if they tell you their chess.com or lichess rating & give you the link to it, end the discussion. I’m laughing writing this because it’s so trivial detail, but a very important one.

FIDE is the official chess governing body, others are just chess websites.

Chess.com is not the official chess body, even though it has the name which should qualify it.

FIDE elo matters and it takes sweat to increase it. Chess.com & lichess are just websites & it’s easy to inflate your rating there, with computer help.

Look at their achievements — Track record matters, as a player & as a coach. A lot of coaches claim to have helped so many students. If they did, ask them which students they helped them. Get in touch if you can with such students.

Also assess how strong the chess strength of the coach is. Especially if you are looking to play chess professionally.

I agree teaching is a different skill and some strong players don’t have it.

But strong players are the ones who apply the knowledge at serious tournaments, handle nerves and know the difference between theory and practice.

My point is try to assess how good are their teaching and playing skills?

Define “Beginner, Intermediate & Advanced” — Everyone is flying out banners teaching beginners, intermediate & advanced students. And everyone has a different definition of that.

From the coaches I interviewed, surprisingly all of them gave different point of views.

The point is someone who coaches intermediate students will define advanced differently than let’s say, Vishwanathan Anand.

For some, beginners means people who can barely move pieces. For others, it means everyone below FIDE elo 1400. All things are defined differently.

Ask them to specifically mention what you’ll learn at the end of the course and if possible, how much elo rating strength you will gain. But remember rating gain doesn’t depend on the coach. It depends ONLY on you.

Choose the coach based on your outcomes and style preference

A wise man once told me -

“A graduation teacher won’t be suitable for a kindergarten student.”

In coaching, there are different styles & strategies. Usually a coach who is a GM will refuse to work with complete beginners. And if you just want to play chess as a hobby or are looking to explore it, a GM is not the best coach for that.

That’s why it’s important to be clear on what you want from the start itself.

From my experience in teaching chess, teaching beginners requires a lot of patience, even more than the game of chess does. It’s like explaining numbers to someone when you can breeze through calculus problems.

On the other hand if you want to climb the professional chess ladder, work with someone who is a stronger player cum coach. Anyone with a higher chess perspective has a wider knowledge of chess. Working with them will allow you to quickly adopt their perspective and thought process, helping you to gain strength faster.

The wider the strength(rating) gap, the more patience is required to teach. The closer the strength gap, the easier it is to teach for the coach. Remember this.

I hope this this article helps you in finding the right coach, right from scratch. Share it with someone who you know is looking for a coach.

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Ranveer Mohite

Hello there! I’m a chess content writer. Here I write on a wide range of topics, from chess, online writing, etc. Connect with me at https://ranveermohite.com