National Master Dan Heisman

"The Customer is always right"(but doesn't always make the right chess moves!) 

Most of my customers are adults - but I have many top juniors and welcome students of all ages!

"Best Instruction" 2002, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2010, and 2012 - Awarded by the Chess Journalists of America

Main chess page - Lesson page --- Email to prospective student - Fee page - Quick link to ICC students who will play slow - "Will Click/Won't Click" Checklist - August 24, 2013

The Lesson page is the basics: Where, When, How, etc.

This page overviews Adult Lessons. There are two more pages to be browser-friendly:

Adult Guide Page 2:

Why Lessons? How is Chess Helpful for Adults?

Adult Lesson Guide Page 3:

Getting Ready for Lessons - What kind of games to play - All adult students should read "Program, what Program?"

Thanks for considering me as your instructor!  I am honored to be the point man on your road to more chess enjoyment.
"Good Communication is the Key" 

My job is to communicate to you what you need.  Your job is to let me know what you like and don't. One of the hardest parts of my job is that you are paying me to tell you what you are doing wrong and how I can help you learn to do it right, but I don't wish to come off as negative. So if you think you need more "moral support", just let me know!


For example, suppose I suggest "Play speed games with the same increment/time delay as your OTB play" or "Try not to play games with a time limit between blitz and 30 5" Then you can:

    1) Discuss it with me, and if you find my reasoning agreeable, go along with the suggestion,

    2) Decide you don't wish to follow the suggestion and let me know "I would prefer not to follow that suggestion." I won't be upset - you're the boss,

    3) Decide you don't wish to follow the suggestion, don't, but indicate to me you will, or

    4) Decide you don't wish to follow the suggestion and therefore stop taking lessons because "I don't wish to follow the program."


In this example #1 and #2 are normal and OK. #3 is definitely not the way to go and #4 throws out the baby with the bathwater.

I give lessons both in-person and on the Internet via phone/skype and the ICC - you don't have to be an ICC member to get the first lesson - anyone can go to, download their PC interface Blitzin (preferred) and get a free trial membership. If a non-member signs up for four lessons, I will buy your first year ICC membership!

Our first goal: Find your biggest weaknesses and try to minimize them. For some it is bad thought process. Others play too fast or too slow. Still others need to learn to try equally hard throughout the entire game. Whatever it is, we will find them and work on them!

Much of picking an instructor is chemistry. Here are some tips to help you decide if I am the instructor for you!

For more info, please consult The Mind Reading Fish and The Three Showstoppers

      Probably Will Click with Me If You:
   1) Understand that improvement takes time and work (both off the board and during your move). I have no magic words to make you better; as your guide, when I discover a lack of knowledge which is generally available, usually I will not initially dictate the information you need. Instead I will suggest a way for you to obtain it. After you attempt to learn the material yourself, if you still have questions or do not understand, I will be more than happy to review anything. I want you to learn how to help yourself. Give a man a fish and he eats one meal; teach a man to fish and he eats forever. 90%+ of what you will learn during your lesson "period" should occur between lessons.
   2) Are willing to balance theory and practice (practice = taking your time during slow games; augment practice with some fast games). You are willing to play slow (and some additional fast) games against humans, whether in person or over the internet. In the long run, playing a real opponent is necessary if becoming good against humans is your goal! 
   3) Can take constructive criticism and understand I am doing what you paid me for - to point out weaknesses or ideas you did not know. If I say you did something incorrectly, don't feel bad! Everyone makes many "bad" moves. At the end of a lesson I want you to think "Wow, I learned a lot new things and are aware of others I was doing incorrectly - that is great, because now I am more aware of them and will be a better player!"
    4) Want to work with me to push yourself and learn (goes along with Socratic method). But if my Socratic method sometimes frustrates you, let me know immediately.
   5) Can have a little fun once in a while and get off the subject, or do a fun chess puzzle.
   6) Communicate concerns and problems (such as homework) openly; tell me what you like and don't. We won't always agree (please refer to Program, What Program?), but I am always interested in your concerns. You are the one student, so please feedback immediately anything you don't understand, agree with, etc. Keep in good communication about goals and how you feel about ways to achieve them.
   7) Like an enthusiastic instructor - I often show my emotions when I teach and really enjoy my job. So if I exclaim ironically "Oh No, Mr. Bill! Not doubled pawns!" (when a student overestimates the impact doubled pawns) please don't take it personally - I am reacting to your move (or answer), not yourself! I want you to feel good about learning and don't often use a monotone.

   8) For lower-rated students, be willing to concentrate on the big three: good time management, safety/tactics, and activity of the pieces before getting into everything else.


Probably Won't Click with Me If You:
   1) Are looking primarily for a cheerleader (but positive feedback when you do something right is very important!)
   2) Dislike the Socratic method (I usually ask leading questions instead of just telling you information)
   3) Dislike playing any slow games, or don't wish to learn to take almost all your time for a slow game. Similarly, if you play too fast in slow games and don't wish to slow down or play too slow and don't wish to speed up (see The Goldilocks Principle)
   4) Are looking for an big improvement in a very short time - would you play violin well in 2-3 violin lessons? If you are looking for a quick fix, ask for a few lessons with tips; I will be glad to do as best possible!
   5) Know exactly what you need and the instructor is just there to supply it to you (but of course your insight is needed and welcome). For example, if you primarily want to study opening lines.
   6) Take constructive criticism of your chess play personally. IM Jeremy Silman in Chess Life - "If you want to take chess lessons and can't take criticism, perhaps you should take up something like solitaire or tiddly-winks."!

   7) Prefer doing everything by e-mail and don't like to discuss questions and ideas on the phone/skype. Or if you like to write long emails to your instructor in-between lessons because you are too shy to ask questions or make comments during lessons. I much prefer a friendly and direct phone conversation to long e-mail exchanges. Sure, for requests for written information, etc. e-mail is OK.

When are you ready for lessons? This is a hard question to answer, but I do have one: 

If, when playing slow games, you are ready, willing, and able to take your time on each move and try to find the best move, you are ready for lessons because we can discuss better ways to do that - and other things!

There seems to be 3 type of intermediate adult students, as differentiated by their attitude vis using their clock time: 

1) Those who play slowly (unfortunately, sometimes too slowly!) and try to analyze the best they can,

2) Those who initially play fast in slow time controls, but once you teach them how important it is to slow down - and how to slow down - they slow down and start to analyze better, and

3) Those who are looking for "magic bullets" (tips) on how to find good moves in complicated analytical positions when only analysis works 

This 3rd group is usually disappointed that lessons cannot provide the missing "magic bullet" and continue to play fast and weak, either giving up on lessons or trying to find another instructor with that "magic bullet". So if you don't want to try to play slow when you are playing long time controls, I probably can't help you that much.


I guess it is in vogue these days for some instructors to call themselves "Mentors" instead of instructors. If that is so, then I certainly would consider myself a mentor! Why?:

If this is not mentoring, then I am not sure what is...! 

Adults who have gained the most rating points from lessons

Occasionally I get asked which adults gained the most from your lessons. This is a tricky subject since I do not track the metrics and some are playing USCF, some ICC standard, some on other servers, etc. Several of my adult students have gained over 500 rating points within a year or two, but more likely is 200-300 in a year for low rated students and 100+ for ones already higher rated, assuming regular lessons during that time. Most notably Kevin "Scott" Kerns, a mid-1600 player, won the 2002 New Mexico State Championship (!) ahead of several masters and experts after only a few lessons, scoring 4.5-0.5 against 5 much higher rated players, but Scott and I agree that was a kind of minor miracle! Craig Klein went from about 900 to 1660 in a little over a year! So here is a list of adults who have done very well in a short period of time. Use the link to look up ratings. For USCF, type in the last name first; click on the name again for the entire history. On the ICC, type "finger NAME" and look under standard ratings. USCF: Neil Brennen, Edward L. Daley, Kevin S. Kerns, James Joseph Reilly, Craig C. Klein. ICC: kingpatriot, bmw2002, perdix, softpawn, jimul, goirish, petros-son, craigcklein, mantra, wtm, bkeel, grenadier, mrboejangles.  

Here are some e-mails from adults: 

"Hello Dan:
I just wanted to up date you on the tournament results. I played in the U1400 (Reserved) section, and I won all 4 of my games!! A perfect 4.0 score. This tournament was the Tarrant County Chess Championship so I won the Reserved Championship Trophy. I am very pleased with the results. The last game my opponent and I both had 3.0 points that made the game even more fun.

I told myself before the tournament that I would simply follow the opening guidelines (move every piece once before you move any piece twice, castle early!!, knights before bishops etc.) and not try any "fancy" tactics that weren't clear to me and of course play real chess as much as possible; although the short time controls (rnds 1&2 G/45 rnds 3&4 G/60) made it tough and I made my share of mistakes. 

Thank you for the great lessons and I'll be talking to you soon."


"Hi Dan, 

Broke 1600 on ICC standard play. Thanks, Fred

PS. I think I've gained about 300 points since starting with you 5 weeks ago. Thank you!" 

[Note from Dan: If I could do this for everyone just think what I could charge!]



I won my simul game against Hikaru Nakamura.  I am very excited about this and had to tell you.  It is in my library if you want to look at it. "

Adult Guide Page 2

Adult Lesson Guide Page 3
Chess Lesson Page
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