(Click on the link below. It may take a few minutes
to download audio player/file.)
and Colorado Chess Teacher referrals:
Contact Todd for a recommendation of a good chess teacher anywhere in
recognized by the other top master-level chess teachers in the country
as a leader in the fields of chess instruction, education, and
journalism. He has over two decades of full-time teaching experience in the
classroom, camps, private and group chess lessons, and training other people how
to effectively teach the game and is the most experienced chess master
teaching in the Rocky Mountain region of the country.
grew up in Denver and knows most of the Denver chess players and
Colorado chess players who give lessons. There are many quality chess
instructors in metro Denver and Colorado that he can refer you to for
lessons in your area.
Keep in mind that a competent chess teacher with a good reputation
will not have to travel very far
from home or to a new city in search of new students; his plate will be
overflowing where he lives. Any chess teacher who looks for students
outside his hometown or moves around the country should raise a red flag that
something isn't right. History has shown that these individuals usually
run low-quality programs and need to have a constant influx of new
students to survive.
There a variety of people willing to give chess
lessons across the country (and some know very little about the game!).
Tips for selecting a chess coach
Here is some guidance on selecting a good chess coach in an article
written by Dan Heisman (from Philadelphia), one of the top chess coaches
the county. Dan wrote an excellent article on ChessCafe.com, entitled,
"Finding a good Instructor," where he points out,
"Keep in mind that there is only a weak relationship between the two
skills of being a good player (which requires little or no
interpersonal communication skills) and the ability to instruct
(which requires excellent communication skills)".
Besides good communication skills, two things that are absolutely
required of a top-notch chess teacher - high playing strength and an
established system of teaching with proven student success. It takes
years of experience to achieve both.
Except for relative beginners (anyone deciding whether it is time get
rated is not a beginner), if you truly want to get good at chess and
maximize your time, you really need to look for a highly rated chess
A highly rated player has the proof that he has a decent
knowledge base of the game to draw from. Of course, someone who
can't play chess well has no business charging money to teach kids or
adults how to play the game...you can't teach what you don't know...but,
amazingly, some people actually attempt to do this!
Some strong chess players are more brilliant and creative geniuses' and
some are more methodical and logical. The best coaches I've observed
definitely tend to fall on the methodical side (you can't teach genius
and most of us aren't geniuses!) and tend to have engineering, computer
science, or some other type of technical background. About ten years ago
at one of my summer chess camps, one of the parents observed that almost
every engineering field was represented on the resume of the
instructors...we could probably build anything you would like and could
teach chess well too!
Proven Teaching System
Proven teaching success is where looking at the
player's coaching resume is key if you are comparing coaches. Years of
experience developing an effective, proven, teaching system and learning
how to best communicate the information to the student for maximum
learning efficiency can't be emphasized enough.
Most high rated
chess players will tell you they are great teachers - even if they have
relatively little experience - check their teaching resume to see if
they have actually contributed anything to the field!
A few key questions to ask a prospective coach are:
Has the coach exclusively taught students who won State or
Is the coach held in high esteem by his peers locally
Is the prospective coach desperate to get your business...or is he
willing to give other good referrals that may live closer to you? Ask
for references. (Keep an eye open to someone claiming to having more
experience than they actually have - this happens a lot ...teaching a
fellow student way back in high school or teaching little brother 30
years earlier doesn't realistically add 30 years to the teaching
experience part of the resume!)
A huge indicator of a person's character is does he embellish his resume
to make himself look better...hoping nobody will logically think through
the details. Remember you are considering allowing this person into your
child's life as a role model.
Especially with the recent boom in popularity of the game, a good chess
coach will never have to travel far from (or even leave!) his home to
give private lessons as there are plenty of available students living
nearby that are willing to come to him - if he is good, his schedule
will be pretty well booked with students from his own classes wishing to
also take private lessons.
Communication between student (or student's parents) and teacher are
important. Realistic expectations from the parent are critical and
unrealistic expectations are the most common reason someone looks for a
change. If you have a good coach, there usually isn't a good reason to
jump from coach to coach. If you are ever considering switching coaches,
communicate perceived problems with the existing coach first. In most
cases, the coach can put your concerns to rest - of course, he can't
read your mind and you may have to ask if you have a concern - and, if
the student is progressing naturally, he likely won't be aware of a
potential concern. Experienced coaches will agree that jumping the
student from coach to coach will often be detrimental to the student.
Speaking of rating expectations, the student's rating jumps do not
normally move up in a straight line...it is almost always a stair-step.
To get a feel for a normal rating progression, here is an article I
wrote back in 2003, entitled,
"Observations about Chess Rating Distribution and Progression,"
that still holds true today and shows how a student's chess skills
to Look for in a Chess Coach:
Make sure there is a large rating
differential between the student and the coach.Beginners are fine learning from Class A, B, C, and D rated
players for a while.Once
the student reaches the 1000-1200 rating range, you may want to look
for an Expert or Master level teacher in order to keep the chess
strength differential high.Keep
in mind, however, that in chess as in any other field, the best
players do not necessarily make the best teachers.
Make sure your prospective coach
has a track record of success with students in your rating range.Ask the coach for referrals.
it comes to teaching children, first and foremost you should look for an
instructor who is a good role model for your child.This day and age, it is prudent to screen and do a background
check on anyone who is working with children (ALWAYS
do background checks on any and all prospective chess teachers who are
working for an organization from out of state prior to attending their
again, ask for referrals and check out the reputation of the prospective
instructor because adult chess players, as a subculture of society, can be
quite a bit stranger than the average person you meet in the general public.
of Good Chess Teachers
good chess teacher has a written plan or road map of their teaching
philosophy and what areas are most important for the student's
progression from beginner to the Expert level (95th percentile of
all rated chess players). Ask the teacher what his plan for
your progress is!
A good teacher can
referrals of current and previous students who are in your rating
The teacher should focus on
teaching the student the game, how to think, and how to correctly
evaluate the position and how to come up with the proper strategy.Chess fundamentals should be the focus.The best teachers are skilled at getting inside the
student’s head, relating to the student, and teaching at the
A chess teacher should not focus
on giving out tactics problems, but structure the lesson based on a
are an important part of chess, and they will come up naturally in
the lesson as a matter of course.The student can get a good problem book like Combination
Challenge (Hays/Hall) or Chess Gems (Sukhin) and solve tactics problems on his own time.
Openings (and opening traps)
should not be the focus of the chess instructor's program, especially
for students rated under 1200.
Inexperienced chess teachers tend to teach specific opening lines to
beginners because they don't know what else to teach. Most of the games of players who are rated under 1400 (Class
C), don’t get very far into chess opening book lines, and what the
student does learn about openings, tends to be memorization, not
chess understanding.Does it really matter if you have to think on your own
after eight moves instead of six? Without a fundamental
understanding of the game, opening knowledge won't matter much in
the end (especially to the beginner); the student gets little bang
for their buck and study time by focusing on different opening
Effective chess teachers spend time teaching, not playing against
the student or having the student watch the instructor play online.
Speaking of teaching online, it is usually much more effective to
teach the student face-to-face, in person. Also, it is a good idea
not to allow children to play chess online because most sites have a
"chat" feature and you don't know who your child is talking too (see
warning about chess teachers from out of state below).
Class Instruction for Children
chess classes requires additional skills than just teaching private
students.Not only should
the teacher have the traits listed above (good role model, sufficient
playing strength, and a proven plan of
action), but also be an energetic and exciting speaker, relate well to
the class (getting inside many student’s heads simultaneously), keep
control of the class, and make chess fun for the students. As a general rule, the higher rated and
stronger the chess teacher is as a player, the poorer the social skills
and ability to relate to and effectively teach the children in the
class. Carefully check out the personality of a chess teacher before
hiring him. Strong chess players tend to have social interaction issues
and may act in a quite strange manner to normal people.
Children quickly identify weird acting adults ... always put good role
models in front your students! Your students will learn much more from a
normal, average rated player with a more limited knowledge about the
game who makes learning fun, than a master, with communication and
personality issues who can't effectively relate chess knowledge to young
Todd has trained
and helped out many people in the Denver area and across the country who are new to chess to
run successful chess programs at their schools.Give a call if you wish to have some assistance in running a
successful chess program.
National Master Dan Heisman of
Philadelphia is generally recognized as one of the finest chess coaches
in the country. He gives an extensive list of recommended chess books
for the student
here. From this link on Dan's website, you can click around and find
a wealth of information on pretty much anything chess related on his
OF "CHESS TEACHERS" or "CHESS COMPANIES" FROM OUT OF THE
REGION OR OUT OF STATE (or ones that move from out of state and
establish residency in Colorado):
is a shame to have to bring this up, but as many of you know, the
Colorado Front Range region of the state in the last several years has
been plagued by a number of unscrupulous individuals and organizations
that have committed various immoral and criminal acts (with
prosecutions) passing though the area from other states looking to make
a quick buck here by teaching and/or organizing chess activities. The quality of the chess
teaching from such entities has also been really, really poor.
Their hope and expectation is that parents won’t check into their
background or their chess credentials (teaching resume and rating or
lack of rating!) and that their scheme will fly under the radar, away
from the established part of the chess community (where it would be
from the risk of potential criminal activity, individuals and
organizations that pop-up from time to time from out of state and attempt to teach chess
in Colorado tend to run low-quality programs for several
The individual running the organization usually has limited chess
teaching experience him/herself (often has less than even 5 years of
full-time, hands-on, experience or claims that he has more years of
full-time teaching experience than he actually has) - often the
individual even has no tournament experience himself or even a USCF rating! ; and
The individual (who himself is usually a terrible chess player) attempts
to hire anyone he can find willing to teach a chess class (or classes)
for him where he makes a large percentage of the tuition. People willing
to work for such an arrangement usually have even less chess teaching
experience or no experience at all (of course, when hired, these
recruited teachers are promised quality training – but from who?!).
While this business model usually doesn't last long, unfortunately it
really damages the reputation of the chess community as a whole. The chess community is
relatively small and word gets around quickly when incompetency appears.
Parents DO figure out the teacher doesn't know the game (and often the
classroom is often out of control - keeping the kids focused is a
teaching skill that is easier said than done and an important skill
set for any teacher).
problem for those running this type of business model is that it is
difficult to find a quality chess teacher foolish enough to go in for
this type of arrangement since they already have the chess instructional
skills and experience to teach on their own and have no reason to pay
someone else or ride under their banner for the privilege to teach.
The goal of the person trying to hold chess events
who tries to hire
other instructors to work for them is nothing more than an attempt to
get rich quick by making overrides on another's time. After developing a poor reputation in one
city, they usually move on to the next one. Being able to teach a
technical subject well requires more than just teaching a few classes
here and there...it is a skill that is developed over time. If by
chance a company
does manage to successfully recruit someone to work for them, the overall
quality usually decreases quickly due to the problems listed above. It is
important to remember that quality chess teachers don't work for other
people - they work for themselves! Check out
these companies (and the particular chess teacher very carefully so you don't end up paying for a high-priced
babysitter to watch your kids play chess!
end result of these situations is the consumer ends up paying a higher
price for far less quality then they would by hiring someone who is
locally with more teaching experience and historically with a much better
program and reputation. There is a network of Colorado-based instructors
who have a proven track record of running solid programs. As with most
things, it is better to go for quality, not quantity – you will be
happy you hired a chess teacher who is confident enough in his/her own
teaching skills that they work for themselves and not others.
Never pay money to anyone who doesn't have a United States Chess
Federation (USCF) Rating rating (or a low USCF rating) for chess lessons of any kind
(private lessons, classes, camps).
To check out the chess strength (or rating) of a prospective teacher, go to the USCF
website and look up the player's rating at this
link. If the search
on his name doesn't appear in this database, he doesn't have chess
tournament experience. Go ahead and hire him as a babysitter - if his
background check is acceptable to you - but don't kid yourself into
thinking he knows anything about the game. If you need help checking
someone out, give me a call and I'm happy to assist you. If a "chess
teacher" shows up at your child's school and you can't find his name in
this database, notify your Principal who would certainly want to be
aware that someone is charging money to the parents of their students to
teach something they aren't at all qualified to do. No Principal wants
bad programs at their school as that would reflect back on them. (Don't
you think your school
Principal would want to know if, say, a Spanish teacher only knew how to
count to ten and the days of the week in spanish?)
Chess Teachers (or "Chess Companies") who
don't volunteer or hide their individual and teacher's names, do it for
a very specific reason - they don't want anyone to look them up and
expose their lack of skill level and qualifications - chess ability is a
measurable skill - look up the name in the USCF database. Before paying
anyone to teach you or your kids chess, look up their rating to see if
they even know how to play! Always check out the teacher's resume (if he
doesn't have one, run!!). Chess is a complex game - there are many wrong
ways to teach it and, unfortunately, some people will prey off you, if
you don't check them out first .
Teaching chess effectively and correctly so that the
student doesn't develop bad habits is a very important skill. Children
who take lessons or classes from non-rated or low-rated chess teachers
are usually far worse off than those who are starting from scratch
because the bad habits they are taught are hard to change. I have taught
many elementary school children over the years who are better chess
players than these supposed hired "chess teachers"
The bottom line is it is impossible to teach something
you don't know and chess knowledge is measurable and easy to check out.
In the course of the class or when the students are playing against each
other, they will ask questions. A weak chess teacher will answer
most of these incorrectly and not be able to quickly and accurately
recreate specific chess positions when disputes occur between the
students when they are playing - hopefully you won't actually be paying for this bad
If you need help checking someone out, give me a call
and I'm happy to assist you.
Todd has referred hundreds of students
over the years to other quality chess
instructors with good teaching skills living in Colorado who are in it for the long haul
and teach good local chess programs. Should you have a question
pertaining to a particular program in the state, give Todd a call at
303-770-6696. He will be happy to discuss your options.
Colorado and Denver area chess
instructors for years have acted respectfully toward each other by not
soliciting each other's students. Most coaches are of good moral
character and don't try to acquire students of others for themselves
should the opportunity arise - unfortunately for everyone involved,
exceptions to this rule do occasionally pop up once and a while.
here for an
article on how a student will normally progress up the rating scale and
what realistic expectations should be expected.