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This article makes the case for a different kind of chess coaching model aligned with my temperament as a highly motivated, self-directed student.

  • I thrive under broader milestones enabling months of self-study rather than constant oversight.

  • Customized assessments & recommendations drive growth; endless lessons breed dependency.

  • Similar frameworks in marathon training, swimming, golf, etc. apply strategic input periodically then trust student realizes potential through deliberate practice over long run.



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When I first started playing chess a few years ago, I had a coach who proved very effective despite only ever meeting with him one time. He reviewed a few of my games and then simply provided a list of targeted resources—Logical Chess: Move by Move, Chess Steps, Chess Tactics for Students—for me to work through independently. Just having expert recommendations on areas needing focus equipped me to drive significant self-improvement between periodic check-ins.

This early positive experience showed me the potential of a coaching model centered not on weekly lessons, but on mentorship enabling student self-development between broader milestones. Periodic assessment, goal-setting, and individually tailored direction motivate me enormously while also building my ability to structure deliberate practice myself over the long run.

I envision an effective coach-student relationship resembling that between a marathon trainer and athlete. The coach thoroughly evaluates abilities, sets training goals, and provides a practice plan. But like a runner logging miles between guidance, I believe responsibility falls to me in the interim to apply the coach’s strategic wisdom through disciplined skill development.

In this article I’ll explain why this rhythm of accountability and independence works so well for me as a motivated student. I’ll recognize this unusual approach poses difficulties for coaches. My goal is finding a coach who shares my focus on using periodic high-level guidance to unlock student potential over time.

Why This Approach Works For Me


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The appeal of periodic strategic guidance aligned with self-study is how much it matches my learning preferences:

  • I do best when given initial direction and resources then independence to apply ideas between broader check-ins.

  • My real development happens away from lessons, when I’m actively practicing weaknesses.

  • Having clear improvement goals and accountability to a mentor motivates me as I create my own study plans.

  • I want insights on blind spots – not constant oversight on every move.

Of course, expecting self-guided growth between coaching may not work for every student. But for my goals and personality, this emphasis on mentorship rather than micro-management makes the most sense.

Challenges Facing Coaches

While this periodic framework motivates me as a student, it poses real difficulties for instructors:

  • Tailoring programs demands understanding students’ different skills and learning needs.

  • Motivating inconsistent practicing requires lots of effort.

  • Explaining complex strategic ideas accessibly can be more difficult than sharing tactics or openings.

  • This lower-touch model likely reduces stable income compared to regular lessons.

I truly appreciate why many coaches choose conventional frequent oversight even if it doesn’t perfectly align philosophically.

Ineffective Approaches I’ve Tried


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Over time, I’ve worked with coaches using certain approaches I came to see as unhelpful:

  • Coaches giving only generalized advice without concrete recommendations to address gaps.

  • Those sticking strictly to one-size-fits all, impersonal lesson plans ignoring personal needs.

  • Approaches focused on memorizing openings or puzzles rather than tailored strategic learning.

These experiences showed me coaching should be about enhancing strengths and improving weaknesses – not installing generic chess content.

To be fair, this is what I asked for in some lessons because I did not know what I really wanted. But since it did not work I have just avoided coaches all together.

Qualities of a Great Coach

For me, excellent guidance shows itself through customized periodic support instead of repetitive oversight.

Specifically, I envision a coach thoroughly evaluating my skills, then providing strategic tips on priority areas needing improvement. I want to get better at recognizing my own gaps and making plans to address them myself between broader check-ins.

Rather than a rigid lesson progression, I need personalized recommendations matching my goals with reasonable breaks for me to integrate the ideas through self-study. Meeting farther apart requires greater responsibility, patience, and eventual independence on my part.

Finally, I want a guiding mentor focused not just on chess tactics but on realizing potential itself. I care less about titles and credentials than about building universal skills through the game. My ideal coach proves themselves through the quality and adaptability of their instruction alone.

Similar Models in Other Sports

The periodic strategic guidance model I envision mirrors frameworks successfully employed in coaching athletes across various sports. In these contexts, coaches provide initial structure, planning, and strategies while students integrate skills through self-directed practice.


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Marathon runners offer a useful example. Experienced marathon coaches design customized training programs for athletes based on performance assessments and goal races. Coaches prescribe target training paces, weekly mileage build-ups, and periodization planning. However, runners themselves implement these plans between guidance through solitary early morning miles and self-recorded workouts. Check-ins only occur a few times across the 16-18 week marathon training cycle.

The coach empowers the athlete to structure much of their own development, providing strategies and accountability anchors rather than daily oversight. As in marathon training, I don’t require a coach reviewing every chess game in real time. I need periodic input setting milestones tailored to my improving aptitude, then trust in my dedication to realize the potential between broader check-ins.


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Swimmers also showcase this effective rhythm. Swim instructors concentrate lessons on stroke mechanics, turns, starts, and race-specific skills on a periodic basis. But developing true proficiency requires the swimmer integrate this knowledge through thousands of non-stop pool lengths before their next lesson with a coach’s diagnostic eye. The coach provides key principles; swimmers bear responsibility for repeatedly activating neural pathways through solo application.

Just as with swimming, in chess I must ingrain strategic concepts between guidance. My coach offers frameworks for evaluating positions, planning imaginatively, and recognizing opportunities. I then cultivate pattern recognition through repetition away from direct oversight. We reconnect periodically to assess integration and identify blindspots.


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Finally, the golf swing overhaul process demonstrates the power of ingraining changes apart from constant intervention. Golfers book lessons with a pro weeks apart to implement significant swing adjustments - flattening plane, keeping lead arm straight. Only through repetitive solo range sessions do new motor patterns replace years of ingrained habits. The coach highlights needs, the player puts in solo work, then they reconvene to evaluate.

I similarly need to break chess habits and instinctive reactions through self-correction based on models taught in more periodic exchanges. My coach provides landmarks, I navigate the terrain in between, then we survey the landscape to redirect as needed. In each discipline, sustaining progress resides with the player using guidance as the compass rather than the map.

The Challenge of Finding the Right Fit


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Despite having a clear idea of what I’m looking for in a coach, finding the ideal partner poses real barriers:

  • In the internet era, countless self-described chess coaches market services online on sites like, Twitch, and social media. While well-intentioned, their skills and compatibility are hard to gauge remotely. Well-liked personalities don’t necessarily translate to ideal coaches.

  • Traditional routes like US Chess referrals or local chess club word-of-mouth also produce mixed results.

  • Formal credentials like Elo ratings or titles signify past chess success but reveal little about coaching ability. As in any field, top talent provides no guarantee of teaching skill.

  • I care more about tailored communication styles and coaching philosophies than credentials. But without an initial discussion, it’s difficult to assess alignment beyond a basic profile.

  • Ultimately the perfect coach need not be a Grandmaster or decorated International Master. While chess expertise matters, true understanding emerges through dialogue and adaptability more than achievements.

I seek a guide invested in realizing my potential more than conveying knowledge itself. Compatibility based on two-way communication remains the top priority.



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In summary, periodic coaching, while less conventional, presents a pathway for optimizing self-directed development for highly motivated students. By setting personalized milestones then empowering skill building in between, it constructs a framework for structuring autonomous excellence. To likeminded coaches, I’m open to exploring implementation ideas.