This page is about famous chess coaches. If you are interested in private chess lessons, check out Private Chess Lessons.

Cecil Purdy

Cecil Purdy’s back cover for his book The Search for Chess Perfection has the words “the greatest chess teacher of all time” written in uppercase at the very top. And at the bottom is written, “belongs on every chess bookshelf ― Bobby Fischer.”

The book is a compilation of Purdy’s best articles from his time as editor and writer of Australasian Chess Review/Check/Chess World, a magazine he published from 1929 to 1967. For every year he was a writer, an article is featured to create a compendium of the highest quality.

In a letter from 1985, John Hammond states Bobby Fischer claims that when Bobby Fischer visited a friend’s chess library which consisted of over 3,000 volumes, Bobby remarked, “You haven’t the best chess book ever written in this collection; I’ll send it to you.” And he sent him the book, C.J.S. Purdy: His Life, His Games, and His Writings.

A book worthy of Bobby's Fischer's approval.

His book the Search for Chess Perfection maintains a perfect score on Amazon and the reviews are glowing. Others have intimated that it’s Purdy’s high ratio of words to moves that so greatly appeals to them, in addition to his advice on surveying the board for viable moves.

Three covers for his well-received book, My Search for Chess Perfection.

Purdy began playing chess at the age of 16, which is quite late for anybody with professional aspirations yet he became Australian Champion four times, and, in his greatest achievement, became World Correspondence Chess Champion in the inaugural tournament.

For someone who started as late as Purdy did, these accomplishments speak volumes as to his pedagogical prowess.

Mark Dvoretsky

Mark Dvoretsky is probably the most famous chess coach in the chess world. Unsurprisingly, one of his pupils, Artur Yusupov states, “in my opinion, he is the best coach in the world.” Dvoretsky has since passed away but not before writing many books on chess improvement. His four-part series, School of Chess Excellence, has phenomenal ratings with each installment being rated over 4.3 on Goodreads. Likewise, his School of Future Champion series is also rated highly.

Dvoretsky's Secrets series is held in high regard.

His list of pupils includes Valery Chekhov, Artur Jussupow, Sergei Dolmatov, Victor Bologan, and Vadim Zviagintsev, among others. He was an award-winning author with many strong players singing his praises.

It should be noted that English Grandmaster, James Plaskett, made the following comment in the book Can you be a Tactical Genius?

"Incidentally, since this is an instructional book, I should say apropos the much-vaunted training school of Dvoretsky that, effective though his techniques may have been, do not forget that players such as Speelman, Adams and Short went further than the likes of Yusupov, Dolmatov, Dreev, Chernin, Zviagintsev et al - and the British, I know, have followed no precise programmes at all. Dvoretsky's approach may have led to his pupils becoming too technical, as they trotted out their Slav and Petroff defences. Dolmatov, for instance, was a very imaginative player before he was drilled by Mark, presumably along the lines of a five year plan."

It is, of course, the student’s task to make such judgments which should be based on the results he has achieved, the comfort with which he might study, and lastly, the confidence a coach’s teachings bestow upon him.

Dvoretsky was also a good player. Most notably, he was Moscow Champion in 1973.

Dvoretsky's School of Chess Excellence series is also held in high regard.

Mikhail Shereshevsky

Mikhail Shereshevsky was one of the best Soviet chess coaches according to Artur Yusupov, GM pupil of Mark Dvoretsky (another famous and accomplished soviet chess coach). Shereshevsky wrote two endgame books, Mastering the Endgame and Endgame Strategy, that are considered classics and have even gained the approval of world chess champion, Magnus Carlsen.

Shereshevsky's books on the endgame have even earned him praise from the current world champion, Magnus Carlsen.

In the introduction to his new book, The Shereshevsky Method, Shereshevsky mentions how there was very little in the way of methodology in his days as a student. In his own words, “For the majority of trainers at that time, the process of training consisted just of studying openings, analysing contemporary opening theory, and analysing games played. Indeed, that was what we did with Boleslavsky, but just on an exceptionally high level. Things like the classics, endgame theory, the technique of calculating variations, special exercises designed to eliminate weaknesses – these were subjects we did not even discuss.”

It is unsurprising then that Shereshevsky champions a system in which the construction of an opening is detailed, emphasizing durability and soundness, and practical endgame play is expounded upon.

A young and happy Mikhail Shereshevsky.

Another one of his books, The Soviet Chess Conveyor, is also brilliant but not as widely recognized as his tomes on the endgame. In it, Shereshevsky lays out his thoughts on opening study for first category students, how players should approach the classics, and how they should treat the study of endgames. As former world champion challenger, Boris Gelfand, states “Some passages may seem to you extremely original, some other you may find discussible, but I promise you are going to enrich your understanding of chess tremendously.”

“In the 1990s, Shereshevsky practically abandoned chess and went into business,” writes Andrey Filatov, president of the Russian Chess Federation. Filatov managed to bring Shereshevsky back to the game by offering him a position to coach at the SIRIUS center in Sochi.

Igor Smirnov

Igor Smirnov learned to play chess at the age of six. His father taught him to play and also acted as his rival for the first two years of his life. In his book, A Promoted Pawn, Smirnov claims that he suffered greatly from his many defeats at the hands of his father but that he was able to transform his pain into something positive as it provided him motivation to improve. Motivation is crucial to success.

Smirnov hated losing to his father.

While Smirnov started slowly, after he was able to beat his father and join the local chess club, his improvement began to quicken, however, he suffered this time from inconsistent results. The reason is, as Smirnov states, that players often train in a random manner. Instead of getting a structured education like a doctor or lawyer would, chess players jump around in a way that appeals to them emotionally but not logically.

This is why Smirnov is such a strong exponent of a thinking system, one where a player uses an organized process to come up with good moves, and a chess school, or a fundamental chess curriculum.

Smirnov with a very happy fan.

Smirnov shot through the ranks and became an International Master at the age of 13 and achieve a rating of 2450, but he would stay there for five years. It was only when he began to psychology deeply that he was able to find a way out and finally become a Grandmaster.

Smirnov found that many players made the same mistakes he had and so he set out to see if he could help players by teaching them the principles and methods he had discovered. To his astonishment, his students had amazing results and he decided to dedicate his efforts to being a chess coach full-time.

Typical Smirnov marketing though it might actually be true.