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Bubba Watson proves that coaching is overrated

User Rating: / 24
Written by Administrator   
Friday, 18 April 2014
By GM Daniel Gormally, England.
Best rating: FIDE 2573

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Bubba Watson- a natural talent.

The American Golfer Bubba Watson won his second green jacket in three years yesterday when he won the Masters tournament in Augusta.

The reason that Bubba's story is so fascinating to me is because it's proof that you don't need to have been coached or taught relentless to be good at a game- Bubba is self-taught.

Bubba had a tough upbringing and his mother couldn't afford to pay for coaching lesson's for him, so he taught himself.

This rather reminds me of Magnus Carlsen, who when he first learnt the game of chess, would study alone with a board, without books or a teacher, simply trying to learn the connections between the pieces and some of the secrets of the game.

Of course we don't all have the natural talent of a Bubba Watson or a Magnus Carlsen. But in some situations I think coaching can even be harmful. It can suppress natural ability and try to turn you into some kind of mechanical player, with simply a view to getting better results.

Nowadays of course, there is a massive industry that's been built up around chess teaching and coaching. Go on to any of the bigger websites like Chessbase or, and you are immediately hit with these adverts telling you to buy this DVD or computer engine, watch this commentary, join this teaching programme and so on.

Chess is just one big gravy-train industry now. In a way I can sympathise, as I know myself how difficult (or indeed impossible) it is for a mediocre Grandmaster like myself to make a living from chess, simply by playing. So you need to supplement your living now if you wish to remain in chess, and I myself have written three chess books, done a DVD, and done commentary on top chess events. Everyone needs to make a living.

Taco Bell- can you imagine a Grandmaster working there?

It should be pointed out that most strong chess players are in fact chess professionals. An outsider might look at the fact that there's so little money in chess and expect that 99 percent of chess grandmasters are in fact amateurs, but this is not the case. In fact it's the other way around. No we don't have other jobs cleaning hotel floors or working in Taco Bell. Chess players are notoriously lazy and basically incapable of doing anything else, so chess is what we do.

So fair enough, you need to do the coaching and so on. But what I don't like is when you see on certain sites that people are charging ridiculous rates for online coaching, when the benefits of this coaching aren't exactly clear. For me this is just exploiting a naïve market.

I think coaching can be helpful when you just act a guide, if you are not too intrusive. The danger is when you try to impose your own game too much on the student, and try to turn him into something that he's not.

If you are a natural attacking talent like Tal, you should not be bombarded with advice about how you should play in a more reserved and strategic manner, you should be left to do your own thing. Let your talent shine.

That's why I'll always prefer watching a natural player like Bubba Watson who is unhindered by hours of coaching, in the attempt to turn him into some kind of results orientated grinding robot.

So the next time you play a game of chess just remember that you are the boss, you are the master. Sure, take on board what your coach tells you and what you read in a book, but ultimately it comes down to what you think.

The way you think about and play chess is just as important and knowledgeable in it's own way as anyone else.

Originally published in GM Danny Gormally's blog

Other posts by GM Danny Gormally:
Stupid, meaningless, questions I've thought of. Mostly about chess.
Anand did well to qualify, but he won't win the rematch
World Chess Championship Candidates Starts Tomorrow
Players who have quit, or you never hear about anymore
Could you work as hard on chess as Kramnik?
Bobby Fischer vs. Hikaru Nakamura: Theoretical Match-up
Interesting thoughts of Anand in defeat
London Chess Classic Preview
Losing your motivation
Playing blitz chess online & all the computer cheats
Anand-Carlsen borefest continues
Magnus, is this all he has?
A clash of kings
Do we overrate ourselves?
Computers and their all-pervading influence on modern chess
From Russia with love
The England Chess Team & Jack Wilshire
Should the grandmaster title be scrapped?
ECF Book of the Year?
Is being a chess pro worth it - continued?
Is being a chess pro worth it?
An Elitist Game?
Does hard work in chess pay off?
World Cup Final preview
World Chess Cup Semi-Final preview
World Chess Cup Quarter-Final preview
World Chess Cup 1/8-final preview
Why are Russians so good at chess?
British Champs-2013
Ghent and now the British
I'll never be fat again!
Lessons learnt!
The sad case of Borislav Ivanov: Part II
Does Anyone Have a Cure for Anger Problems?
The Depth of Chess
Fundraising in chess
Nurturing a Chess Prodigy
The Sad Case of Borislav Ivanov
4NCL Impressions: no country for old men - Part II
4NCL Impressions: no country for old men
One move, one line - Part II
One move, one line
Candidates Final Review & Preview of Upcoming World Championship Match
Would Carlsen have beaten Capablanca?

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Comments (4)
1. Written by Peter on 22:13 18 2014 .
Daniel, thanks for the article. However, I do find certain points to be controversial. 
First of all, it seems that you are referring to coaching as to a process of making the most of the player's potential and helping him become a professional. Meanwhile, many adults treat chess as a hobby, so they pay for the fun and the opportunity to talk about the game with a master. Similarly, when you work out, play tennis or go swimming, you pay a lot of money while not expecting to become a pro. Right? I mean, different people have different goals. 
Secondly, "ridiculous prices". Most GM friends of mine charge $20-$100/hour. This is less than a decent lawyer/consultant/golf or tennis coach is making. In fact, a fitness instructor with a murky background and a fake diploma is likely to charge about as much as GM. Hence, I don't think that people are overpaying for chess lessons or being exploited. Of course, there are some freaks and charlatans, but the same can be said of any industry. 
Thirdly, most people could use guidance and an outsider's view on their training process. Also, they need someone to help them during tournaments, both chesswise and psychologically. Furthermore, not all of us are disciplined and educated enough to create professional training plans for ourselves and to follow them. I absolutely agree with you that coaching is not a philosophers' stone that allows a mediocre player to become a GM right away. However, ceteris paribus, a person who has access to coaching is more likely to become a strong player than someone who doesn't. This has been scientifically proven. It's not only about the direct benefits, but also about commitment: if you are ready to invest your money into something, then you are more passionate about it, and your sense of responsibility is higher. 
Do you agree?
2. Written by This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it on 20:36 18 2014 .
Very well said, Peter. Very convincing. I took about 10 lessons from an american GM for 85$ per hour, it was a lot of money, i do not know how much rating points it gave me but it was interesting and fun for sure.
3. Written by A fan of Nigel Davies on 21:28 18 2014 .
If you are a natural attacking talent like Tal, you should not be bombarded with advice about how you should play in a more reserved and strategic manner, you should be left to do your own thing. Let your talent shine. 
I recall Nigel saying in one of his books that most of his students want to play like Tal, even if they have a totally different natural style and level of talent...
4. Written by This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it on 23:55 18 2014 .
As somebody who took lessons for several titled players. I really feel that the only real good advise I got was to play slow games not blitz. I think it is crazy to believe that somebody can teach you how to think. If you did all the things they say. It would take a hour or more to make a move. If I had to guess how a GM got to be a GM. I would say through the thing they say you should do to improve and good hard work.

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