Virtual Chess Coach – Part I

About the Virtual Chess Coach Program

This program is geared for my improvement (a 35 year old 1278 USCF rated player), but I hope that others in a similar situation will be able to derive benefit from it as well.

I will be modeling this program on the teaching’s of Dan Heisman. Dan Heisman is one of the best chess teacher’s in the United States and if you don’t already know this, then run to and check out his Novice Nook articles at Chess Cafe.

Now not all of us can afford a chess coach, so we will be using books and information available on the web (Heisman’s Novice Nook Articles) to create a virtual chess coaching experience. If you can afford a coach, then there is no substitute for the hands on feedback that they can provide but I’m aiming to make this the second best thing.

Things to know before we go on:

  • This program is aimed at the adult beginner / intermediate player (ELO 1200 – 1700)
  • Our chess philosophy will be based around Dan Heisman (with a sprinkle of Purdy and Silman for good measure)

Absolute Beginners

For complete beginner’s to chess Heisman recommends they start with The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Chess and then go to a basic chess tactics book like John Bain’s Chess Tactics for Students. After doing this you should be approximately 1200 ELO and then this guide will be more useful to you.

The Assessment Phase

We need to assess our strengths and weaknesses, yet we are in no position to do so (how can we assess what we do not know / understand). This is one of the weaknesses of not having the feedback mechanism a coach provides. But do not fret, there is a great book that helps you assess your strengths and weaknesses in chess, and that book is Igor Khmelnitsky’s Chess Exam and Training Guide. After going through Igor’s book, you will have an idea of which areas of your chess need to focus your improvement efforts.

Assessing Your Games

Another area where a coach can provide much needed feedback is in going over your games. Because we’ll be going at it on our own the following process is very important in order to get a close benefit to that of having a real coach.

  • Go over all of your losses.
  • Quickly re-play the game again making light annotations
  • Go over the game in detail, and this time make extensive annotations and analysis
  • Go over the game with a chess engine and compare your annotations with those of the engine

Key things to look for when annotating your game

You should jot these down as part of your annotations and include them in your chess notebook

  • See where you could have improved in the opening
  • Look for missed tactical opportunities (both defensive and offensive)
  • Look for missed positional opportunities
  • Look for missed opportunities in the endgame, if necessary refer to Mueller’s Fundamental Chess Endings
  • Look for moves that caused a shift in the game based on the engine’s evaluation. (any move with an evaluation change greater than .35) and find out the root cause behind the evaluation shift, then go back to your annotations and make sure you address this and don’t forget to add this to your chess notebook.

The games you annotate and go over, should be standard time control games if possible. You should make an effort to play at least 1-2 standard games (>= G/30) per week. You can do this by either joining the Team 45 45 league, or playing ICC’s Standard Tourney or even playing at your local chess club. These games will give you more food for thought than quickly played blitz games, but if you do not have at least 1 standard game to go over, then do go over your well played blitz games (which is better than not going over your games at all).

Thought Process Before Lessons

There are certain bad habits that you should eliminate before you consider taking lessons, otherwise you would be throwing your money away. Most of these stem from careless play or hope chess .

  • Do not leave pieces en prise
  • Do not move quickly and without thought
  • Perform a blundercheck before playing your move


The following books and websites will be used for this program:


Back to Basics Tactics

Chess Tactics for Beginners (Convekta)


Silman’s Complete Endgame Course


The Art of Logical Chess Thinking

Thought Process

Everyone’s 2nd Chess Book


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