Can I Become a Chess Champion Without a Coach?

Can I Become a Chess Champion Without a Coach?

In this age where everything you could ever want to know about chess can be found online, some people are wondering if they can go it alone.

Can I Become a Chess Champion Without a Coach?

Can I Become a Chess Champion Without a Coach?

It’s no secret that there is a plethora of educational chess material out there today. You can find it in book form, on DVDs, as software, or even for free on the internet. With so much information available, you may be wondering if it’s possible to become a top player using only those resources. After all, why bother to pay for one on one coaching if you can get just as good results on your own? But that’s the key question- can you really become a chess champion without a personal chess teacher?

Reasons You DON’T Need a Coach

It’s understandable for a chess player who is just starting out to want to try and go it alone. After all, just taking a brief look around any chess store, it seems like there is an inexhaustible supply of chess knowledge and advice out there for the taking. Plus, recent advances in modern technology have made it so that anyone can play a chess game against anyone else via the internet, and there are even digital chess boards that can analyze your games as you play them! Here are some of the top reasons you may not need a chess coach:

Online Chess Lets You Practice Your Skills Any Time, Any Place

If it’s true that you learn best by doing, then we are in an unparalleled age for the development of one’s chess skills. Thanks to online chess websites, software programs, and even cell phone apps, anyone can play a game of chess no matter where they are or who they’re with, instantaneously! This technology offers a great opportunity to play against countless opponents of all different skills and playstyles, which will have your chess game improving in no time.

Chess Online on Cell Phones and Tablets

Anyone can play a game of chess no matter where they are or who they’re with, instantaneously!

Digital Chess Boards Can Analyze Games For You

If you’re serious about improving your chess game, you can also invest in a digital chess board. A product like this will be able to hook into your personal computer or a chess computer and automatically analyze your games for you, showing you where you went wrong or made less than ideal moves.

These minor missteps are things that may easily go unnoticed by your opponent, so without the electronic chess set, you may not have even noticed that they happened, but seeing the consequences in the analysis will help you avoid pitfalls like that in the future.

They also allow you to connect to other players online and play games using a real chess set rather than tapping away at your phone or computer screen.

Electronic Chess Boards - DGT Revelation II

If you’re serious about improving your chess game without a coach, you should invest in a digital chess board

Self Taught Grandmasters Are Out There

There are many current chess grandmasters who claim to have made it to where they are by being entirely self-taught. GM Eric Hansen is one such player. A member of Canada’s National Chess Team, GM Hansen is now a top level chess player, commentator, and streamer who has never had the benefit of a personal chess coach. He has achieved an impressive FIDE rating of 2629 entirely through self-study.

Wesley So, the Filipino-American grandmaster who recently beat Magnus Carlsen at the 2017 Leuven Grand Chess Tour, was also completely coachless up until 2016. He got to be the number 10 highest ranked chess player in the world all on his own! Now, that’s an amazing result that shows once and for all that it really can be done.

And if that wasn’t enough, there is also Hikaru Nakamura, the current #1 rated chess player in the United States, and among the top 5 highest rated players in the world. He became a USCF chess master at the age of 10, the youngest person to do so at that time, and went on to become the youngest American grandmaster in 2003, breaking Bobby Fischer’s previous record. Nakamura achieved all of this without the benefit of a single chess coach, and still does all of his preparations on his own with only the use of a chess engine for guidance.
Hikaru Nakamura

Hikaru Nakamura

It is also often said that famous chess champion Bobby Fischer reached his peak as a competitive chess player by being entirely self taught, although that is a matter of some debate among chess historians. Nevertheless, there are enough solid examples of self-taught grandmasters out there to show that it can be done!

Reasons You DO Need A Coach

On the other hand, there are many ways in which having your own chess teacher can really give you a competitive advantage. Some things are just easier and faster to learn with the help of a personal chess coach. Here are some reasons why you may need a chess teacher after all:

Getting an Early Start

When looking at a list of the all-time greatest chess players that have ever sat behind a chess board, you’ll notice that many of them started playing the game at an early age. While some were introduced to chess by their parents or other relatives, many were enrolled in a chess school or tutored by a chess coach after they began to show an aptitude for the game.

Without private lessons, it’s very difficult to get a child interested in chess. While it may be theoretically possible for them to learn the rules of the game on their own using self-teaching resources, it will be difficult and probably quite slow. Plus, there aren’t many children out there who would rather be inside pouring over a chess workbook by themselves than outside playing with friends. Chess classes can help alleviate this problem by introducing children to chess in a fun way that makes them want to learn more about it, but without that initial spark, few children would choose to take up the game.

Chess game between a chess coach and a happy student

Without private lessons, it’s very difficult to get a child interested in chess

Personalized Lesson Plans

Another great benefit of having a chess coach is that they can personally identify your strengths and weaknesses and recommend exercises that are specifically designed to provide the most improvement to your individual game. This is something that you simply can’t get from any self-guided course or instruction book. They are also professionals and will have many tips and tricks to help you avoid common mistakes and improve more quickly than you would be able to all by yourself.

Real-Time Analysis and Feedback

While some digital chess boards have the ability to analyze your games for you as your play, they are limited in how much they can explain certain things. With a chess teacher watching over your shoulder, you can expect to be told exactly what went wrong in a game, why it happened that way, and most importantly, what you can do next time to prevent it from happening again.

A digital chessboard is limited and can’t provide the necessary intuitions that can really expand your chess skill and knowledge. Knowing the right move to make is a completely different thing than knowing why it’s the right move to make.

Chess Coach and a Student

A chess coach will give you a real-time analysis and feedback

Coach or No Coach?

Ultimately, most people will be able to achieve better results with the help of a skilled chess coach. While it is theoretically possible to become a champion chess player while being entirely self-taught, it would take an extraordinary person to actually accomplish it.

When it comes to chess coaching, it’s very true that you get out of it as much as you put into it. It’s not as if you will immediately shoot up the rankings just from a 1-hour weekly session with a chess coach. You will still need to do your homework and dedicate considerable time to chess on your own throughout the week to see improvement. It may seem like a coach is worthless if you have to study so hard on your own anyway, but the value in having a chess coach comes from their ability to see the whole board, as it were.

A Chess Coach

The value in having a chess coach comes from their ability to see the whole board, as it were

Since your chess teacher is a more skilled and experienced player than you are, it is easy for him or her to identify weak areas in your game. Because of the unique perspective that they have, they can guide your studies to the topics that will be most beneficial to your improvement. In essence, a chess coach helps you get the most out of your individual study by directing you to where you should be devoting your time and energy. This makes you a lot more efficient and helps you improve a lot faster than guessing about what you should be practicing on your own.

In short, it’s totally possible to be a chess champion with no coach, but it will take much more time, determination, and perseverance than having a coach help you out and guide your studies. For most people, we recommend investing in a chess coach to keep you progressing at a steady rate without the risk of getting frustrated and giving up the game entirely!


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