When I was thinking about how to improve my chess, before my full-time job took the upper hand, I did quite a bit of research on self-improvement as well as improvement through coaching. I want to share with you what I found about chess trainers costs.
How much does a chess coach cost? The average cost per hour of a chess coach is $20-30. This is the minimum to be trained by a qualified trainer (and/or player). That range also includes a lot of FMs and IMs. To be trained by a GM, it will probably cost $50-60 per hour. For training with a top player, the cost can easily reach $100+ per hour.
If you want to get an idea of what a chess coach will do with you, and how much you will spend for a long training program, then keen reading!
Chess is a lonely sport (science and art, if you will). Therefore, chess players of all levels are often incline to think “Hey, I can reach whatever level I want without even talking to anyone!”. False.
Pretty much like in science, chess improvement comes through the exchange of ideas. Think about it for a moment: even the World Champion has a personal trainer. And rest assured that his trainer is not as strong as him when it comes down to playing at the board!
Truth is, a chess coach is what will make you raise the steepest steps. Everyone has a personal “stable point” about her/his level. In other words, we can reach a certain level on our own just thanks to our talent and passion. But after that point, either because you can’t improve anymore, or because you don’t have time to do it all alone, your Elo will pretty much stay constant.
For me that level was 2150-2200 Elo. When I reached that point I realized I could not improve anymore just reading and playing. Amateur players like me have a full time job, therefore a chess trainer is the person who will guide you to make the most out of the few hours you can dedicate to the 64 squares. I did not get any coach, and I am still on the same Elo.
You can choose the program that suits you best. Typically, you will get one or two lessons per week, each one or two hours long.
During the lessons the coach will partially lecture you, about whatever subject you are studying in that period (for example, a certain opening), and partially solve exercise with you. Believe it or not, the latter point is the most important.
Chess exercises, like tactical puzzles or strategic plans, are the single most important way of improving. Even though we all like to read a book about our favorite opening, or to watch the live commentary of a top tournament, that is passive learning and won’t lead you very far.
Real improvement in chess arrives when you get out of your comfort zone (like… with everything!). Exercises will make your chess brain sharper, and even though it will cost you much more effort than staying on your sofa watching whatever tournament, that effort will be transformed into Elo points.
If you have a full time job like I do, then it would make sense to agree with your coach one lesson per week (for example, on Saturday morning/afternoon). As I said above, you can find an experienced trainer for $30/hour, so the training will cost you around $120/month. The best choice would be, in my opinion, to avoid setting a limit and just keep the training going. But if you do want to set a limit, then I would suggest a minimum of 3 months for a training program at 1 lesson/week.
If you have more free time then you can think of increasing the number of hours per week. Two lessons per week is a good option in this case. You could dedicate one lesson entirely to strategy and the other to a specific subject (for instance, tactical training, opening, endgames). In this case you will pay around $240/month.
Keep in mind though that the training lessons are just a tiny part of your program! To make the most out of it you will have to practice on your own during the week, especially with the exercises that your coach will assign you. Do NOT skip those, and results will come.
The good part of practicing with exercises is that you don’t have to spend a single penny for them! They are priced in time and effort.
This is a common question and quite difficult to answer, but I think it’s the wrong question. You can’t study something and put so much effort (and some money) in it, just for the sake of the result. It must be because you are passionate about it.
Even more with a discipline like chess, that captures your brain almost entirely, you can’t give yourself a fixed and restrained goal such as “I need to get to 2xxx Elo in 1 year”. It would actually slow down your improvement!
Keep your mind free from obsessive targets, and just enjoy chess. Enjoy playing it, enjoy studying it, and enjoy improving at it day after day, little step by little step. Results will come naturally, if you put in the effort. Pretty much like with everything else in life!
That being said, I did read some numbers in other places online. Frankly I don’t think they make much sense, but for the sake of complete information here they are. It looks like you can improve in average by 10 Elo points every month of bland training (like the one I described above with 1 lesson per week), if you are older than 15. It does not matter how old you actually are, the barrier is found to be just at 15. Just for kids basically.
If you are a young kid then the growth may be exponentially faster. I will talk about this in another post, but essentially it’s difficult to make any prediction. And please, please, do NOT put any pressure on kids by telling them what Elo they need to have by what age!
Likely not. Even top players have a personal trainer, and it’s not just because they can afford it. It’s because this is the best way to improve.
Even if you are a very motivated person, a self-learner who is used to get your own way just by yourself, chances are this won’t work in chess.
I consider myself a focused and motivated person. I am a self-trained triathlete, and have a PhD in software engineering. I really like to set targets and get to them just with my own strengths: if you are like me, then you know the feeling when you succeed in something without anybody else’s help.
Yet, with chess does not really work that way. When you start playing chess you will probably reach your peak in a few years, just on our own. Sure, the peak can be very high if you are a talent. But it will arrive at some point because, like with everything, the learning curve gets flat at a certain moment.
Mine became flat at about 2150-2200 Elo, after roughly 2 years I was playing. I did not train with a coach, and I am still at the same flat point. Sure, there is a lot of things in life that can make harder playing and studying chess. Job, family, and so on. I have a full time job as software engineer and… I like it! Probably I like it as much as I like chess and, you know what, it just feels great. If you are in a similar situation chess is unlikely to become the center of your life, and yet is the kind of thing that sticks into your mind and makes you hungry about improving.
Finding a chess coaches is very easy today. I have read that 99+% of the lessons happen simply via skype and using any website that supports training (for example, LiChess does it and it’s free).
You can search in any chess forum for a good trainer, keeping in mind the rates I mentioned above. LiChess or Chess.com forum is a good place to start, but even reddit or chess exchange could work. Even web platforms that specialize in freelance jobs might help you, such as UpWork, GoLance, Freelancer. But start with some chess forum first.
If you are really running out of options then you can try dropping a comment below, as a close friend of mine is FM and chess trainer is his job. I am not sure about his availability but can definitely put you in touch!
Chess is very likely to be “just” a hobby for you. It definitely is for me. And yet, it’s such an enlightening, beautifully complex hobby, that we feel the need for being good at it. Being better at it. Getting as far as we can.
It will take effort, and sweat and some pain, but who can’t reserve 2-3 hours per week of their own time for something they love? I plan on getting a coach ASAP, and we’ll see how it goes. And how far can you get for the sake of improving and enjoying chess? As they say: if you’re not ready to do it today, then you’re not ready to do it.
I also want to share with you links to some previous articles of mine that are somehow correlated and might be interesting for you: