Getting better at chess is not easy. It is a long and tough struggle that requires a lot of hard work and commitment.
Unfortunately, many chess players waste valuable training time as their game shows no improvement for years.
These players lack lessons which are straight to the point, well-structured and lead to fast progress and improvement.
But what do effective chess lessons look like? How can your chess training hours bear fruit in the long term?
Is it necessary to have your own chess teacher? Do we find all these lectures in good chess books? And what about chess videos, a training source which has become more and more attractive in recent years?
As there’s plenty of debate on the best way to improve in chess, the following article is devoted to the best chess training methods. What are the pros and cons of working with a coach, reading chess books or watching chess videos?
Chess Training Method #1: Chess Books
“We can learn a lot from other people’s thoughts on the game. The best players have read lots and lots of books. They expand their minds.” – GM Jacob Aagaard
Despite the technological progress, these days chess books are still one of the most common chess training resources for players of all levels.
Huge databases, strong chess engines, and chess training websites overwhelm most chess players with plenty of information.
However, many players have a tough time selecting appropriate material out of seemingly endless sources.
At this point, chess books are a treasure trove for us. Good chess books provide us with well-structured lessons on different topics. Chess books exist on any topic that you wish to have a closer look at.
There are chess books that focus on openings or endgames, strategy, tactics or even psychology. A chess player can choose any chess book which suits them.
One of the main advantages of using chess books for training is that they force you to take your time to work through them. If you’re in search of a chess training method that has a lasting effect on your playing strength, you’ll need to work slowly and thoroughly.
Unfortunately, the opportunity to use books is often neglected, because it requires more activity than something like passively watching chess videos.
Moreover, compared to the hourly rate of working with a personal chess teacher, chess books offer an unbeatable price to performance ratio for grandmaster level one-on-one chess instruction!
Chess books usually cost between $20-30 and offer plenty of material to work on. On top of that, chess books allow you to learn from the thoughts of absolute world class players like Garry Kasparov (My Great Predecessors) or Boris Gelfand (Dynamic and Positional Decision Making in Chess). Most probably, you wouldn’t ever be able to pay for such a giant to be your personal chess teacher.
Chess Training Method #2: Chess Videos
Many busy chess players are confronted with the problem that their bookshelves are full of chess literature, but they can’t find adequate time to dedicate to them.
These players often look for more compact chess training sources which allow them to study training material within a fraction of time it takes others.
For that reason, chess DVD series have become increasingly attractive to the chess community.
Just as with chess books, chess videos are useful training tools for improving your understanding of the game for several reasons.
They provide you with a huge amount of well-chosen topics and exercises which you can use as your training material. Different strong chess masters give you great insights into their approach to the game of chess.
Compared to paying for a chess teacher, chess videos are a lot cheaper. You have chess giants, such as Judit Polgar, share their decades of experience from the very top of elite chess, as well as their stories and killer chess tips all in one course – a privilege for anyone to spend many hours learning from such a legend!
On top of that, a good chess video series is backed up by PGNs, summaries, eBooks and so on. This allows you to quickly review the key points of the videos whenever you want.
At first glance, chess videos seem to offer numerous advantages and accelerate the process of chess training. It seems easy and convenient to kick back in your favorite chair, turn on the computer and watch great chess videos by the strongest chess teachers in the world.
However, there is one essential danger connected to watching chess DVD series. Although it might be enjoyable to listen to videos of strong chess masters, passive learning is not an ideal way of chess training.
If you watch a video series, you really have to work on it actively by constantly asking yourself questions, trying to understand all the moves and guess the following moves before they are shown to you.
Chess Training Method #3: Chess Teacher
How does a chess teacher compare to chess books and chess videos? Why is a chess teacher even necessary? And why do chess teachers always charge so much?
First of all, you can’t do better than have someone work with you during the long and difficult journey of chess improvement.
A chess teacher can be a constant source of motivation for you. If your chess teacher plays chess actively and has an impressive rating, it is someone to look up to.
Secondly, studying chess on your own can be a difficult task sometimes and, even if you like to work on your own, you might realize at a certain point that you need some guidance.
In fact, many players repeat the same mistakes over and over as they tend to follow their own old strategies and thinking methods again and again without implementing new ideas into their game.
While it is certainly possible to improve your chess without a teacher – simply utilizing available tools such as books, videos, engines, databases, blogs – there are some things about your unique chess game that need to be specifically identified and improved through an individually tailored study regiment with a chess coach.
By avoiding formal instruction with a chess coach, these weaknesses often go unnoticed and even worse. You can’t identify a specific weakness if you don’t even know to look for it!
A coach can analyze your strengths and weaknesses in order to help you. The key to success in chess is studying the right things to overcome your current level.
More often than not, quality instead of quantity is necessary to reach your peak potential. 1 hour with a good chess teacher can be worth more than watching 6 hours of randomly selected chess videos.
For example, a very frequent mistake of club players is to bust out an openings book and dedicate precious chess-studying time and energy to the memorization of ridiculously specific continuations.
Other players haphazardly study for 5 minutes at a time with whatever readily-available training material will not help them improve. Both approaches lead nowhere!
Legitimate chess improvement requires a level of discipline that prefers to avoid shortcuts and opts for the steeper path to real knowledge and understanding.
Consider the exercise of solving tactical puzzles, where many lazy chess players will momentarily glance at a puzzle and give up, skipping straight to the answer because they are too lazy to actually solve it.
This superficial approach to chess study will not only fail to improve your chess game, but it will also make you worse by enforcing bad habits.
A good chess teacher can help you evaluate and refine your approach to the study of the game, can drastically improve your performance at the chess board, and save you countless hours of ineffective studying.
For instance, if you don’t like to defend worse positions – a weak spot of many average club players by the way – and stay away from working on this uncomfortable aspect of your game, you’ll never master it.
Here, a good chess teacher can intervene, force you out of your comfort zone and get you working on your weaknesses.
Without a doubt, some chess teachers are more effective than others due to a variety of contributing factors. Some trainers are more experienced, some are better with kids, and some chess coaches are simply stronger players.
We need to warn you that some chess teachers are expensive, first and foremost, and don’t personalize the training material at all.
Clear communication is key when you’re working with a chess teacher. If you don’t like the way your coach designs your chess lessons, tell them! You’re usually paying a lot of money for a chess teacher. Of course, there is not one universal best method of teaching chess.
The best chess teachers are frequently able to pinpoint weaknesses and suggest the most efficient path towards improvement. You also need to ‘click’ with your teacher, feel comfortable working with them.
Here is a quick list of what a good chess teacher should do for you:
- Ask you about your current training habits as well as your short-term and long-term goals
- Evaluate your current level by letting you solve different test positions and give you honest and detailed feedback
- Analyze your games in order to detect your weaknesses and mistakes
- Develop a personalized training plan for you
- Provide you with helpful material to work on the aspects you need to train
- Give you homework and check it
- Give you constant feedback on your training progress
- Help you in setting up a reasonable tournament schedule
- Be available outside the paid training sessions in order to answer any possible questions
- Keep track of what’s going on in the chess world and inform you about additional training material (interesting chess articles, new chess books or chess videos on the openings you play or topics you work on, etc.)
Chess is competitive. If your opponents structure their training more efficiently and are coached by a good chess teacher, they’ll improve their game a lot faster than you.
Finally, you decide how to train. Chess videos contain some dangers like passive learning. However, if you’re aware of these dangers, you can avoid them and greatly benefit from them.
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