Hands On

How to coach online (part 2)

26 Apr 2020

How to be optimally prepared. How to use chess platforms to promote yourself. How to work with the Lichess tools Class and Study. Conrad Schormann picked up more hands-on advice from the ECU sponsored webinar with Jop Delemarre and presents some ways for chess coaches to promote themselves.

A nice extra for coaches on Lichess: See on multiple boards what each student is doing.
A nice extra for coaches on Lichess: See on multiple boards what each student is doing.

Preparation is key. What goes for competitive chess, is also true in chess coaching. When coaching online, preparation does not only concern the chess content you want to provide. First of all, make sure your setup works. And have a backup plan.

As already emphasized in part 1 every online chess coach has to be thoroughly prepared. Here is a list of what Jop Delemarre suggests to do before the lesson starts:

  • Ensure stable internet. Cable internet instead of wifi is a must for everyone who dooes online coaching regularly.
  • Set up WhatsApp groups in order to organize your students.
  • Have a good microphone (and a decent webcam) running.
  • Test your setup with a friend or colleague.
  • Make sure all students have access to the platforms you will use.

We have already looked at the two most commonly used communication platforms Skype and Zoom in part 1. Delemarre considers Skype to be somewhat easier to handle. Having the chat with past information/​documents available at all times is a nice bonus. Zoom on the other hand is more stable. “It’s good to have and use both, ” says Delemarre. Remember our first point? Have a backup plan!

Use chess platforms as a promotion instrument

All major chess platforms observe an increased demand for online chess coaching. Chess.com, PlayChess, Lichess and Chesskid all provide coaching services and/or pages for coaches. The Play Magnus Group is even about to launch the fully fledged coaching platform CoChess (also see our interview with chess24 CEO Sebastian Kuhnert. This environment represents an opportunity for coaches to use platforms as a promotion instrument. You can do more than just write a short presentation of yourself on the coaches pages.

IM Georgios Souleidis for example, headcoach of German Bundesliga club Hamburger SK, complements his Youtube Channel “Big Greek” with simuls and tournaments (“Sparta Arena”) for viewers on Lichess. Delemarre suggests that Souleidis could expand on this by offering analysis sessions to students once the simul or the tournament is finished. GM Niclas Huschenbeth found another promotion approach: He has formed a Lichess team (“Team Huschi”) for his fans who now compete in the Online Bundesliga on LiChess that attracts more than two thousand players twice a week.

Lichess features Class and Study

The new Lichess feature Class has been developed for coaches and chess teachers who are in charge of several groups. All your students need to have a LiChess account to start with. Then you befriend all your students on Lichess and organize them in classes. The feature allows you to observe what your students do on LiChess and how their results and ratings progress.

The main tool to use for online coaching on Lichess is the feature Study. It allows the coach to organize the lesson’s content in an interactive chess book with different chapters, which is called a Study. Games (via pgn) or positions (via FEN) can be entered for further use. First you put together a lesson with training material for the students. Then you invite them and have them work with it in these ways:

  • analyze the positions and write comments
  • play out positions against the computer
  • play out positions against other students
  • do further research with the Opening Explorer tool

Delemarre usually starts a lesson with having ChessBase opened and then shares his screen. Later he may switch to LiChess and go over a prepared Study with all students assembled. For this the option “Enable sync” needs to be activated so that everyone sees the same position. After the lesson the students may continue to work on their own in the way the Study was prepared (see bullet points above).

Over time the number of your materials will grow quickly. Make sure to organize the material from the get-go according to Study Topics. With one or several topics assigned to each Study you will have instant access to whatever you are looking for and won’t need to crawl through tons of material.