Chess Lessons with NM Dan Heisman

Instruction - Training - Mentoring - All ages and levels

"Best Instruction" '02 and "Best Web Instruction" '04, '06, '09, '10 & '12! by Chess Journalists of America

For Dan's 64th birthday: Bruce Pandolfini posted on your [Facebook] timeline:

"Happy Birthday, Dan! Thank you for all you've done to advance the educational standards of our very special game. There are no better teachers than you."




Adult Guide Page

Scholastic Lessons - Top Jr Program

Teaching Philosophy

Lesson Preparation

Contact Info


Schedule  Videos Other Articles
Novice Nook Columns My Last Lesson with Dan forum Blogs/Articles

Top Junior Program: A big discount for players in the USCF's "Top 100" lists for each age

Page last updated 30 Apr 2015


I usually have availability if you have flexibility - in the US/Canada, e-mail me your phone #: I will call to answer questions and/or schedule. Outside: Skype "danheisman"

Main Chess Page - Adult Lesson page(s) - In Defense of Chess Instruction - Putting games in your ICC library

Who:                            NM Dan Heisman; FIDE 2285; Dan is a full-time chess instructor and author

What:                           Chess Lessons for all ages and levels Live lessons any age; for internet lessons should be at least 10, or internet USCF Top Junior age 8.

Where:                         Live (Wynnewood) or phone/internet. For US/Canada, I phone (others Skype); we use ICC,, or Skype to share a board; Free deal to join ICC!

Contact Information  610-649-0750;; "danheisman" on Facebook, Twitter, "Dan Heisman" Skype. "phillytutor" on ICC. Other contact info

Address:                       Wynnewood, PA 19096 (email or phone for directions)

When:                          6 days/week: Any day but Tues (but you can call Tues to schedule!), including weekends. Evening: Mon, Wed, Thur, occasionally others - see Schedule below

Fee:                                     Latest rates; Top Junior Program - big discounts for promising juniors. All: money back guarantee. I phone students in US/Canada free; otherwise Skype;


Minimum Info Needed:      Student's name, contact info (phone and/or e-mail) plus phone/Skype call to verify identify (I can call in US/Canada)

"Phillytutor" on the Internet Chess Club (or or Skype) - It's easy - I call you by phone or skype and we share a board

NOTE: For your first on-line lesson you do not have to be an ICC member; if you want to, you can get a free trial membership, download "Blitzin" for PCs or "Lantern" for Macs, and log on at and I will call and help. If not, I can give a lesson using a board or even the "share screen" function on skype!

Non-members: consider this offer:  I will buy you an ICC membership for your first year if you do the following:

  • Adult Non ICC member: Pay for 4 regular lessons (no refund) and I will buy your first year membership, worth $70

  • Junior Non ICC member: (a full-time student, OR you are <22 years) - Pay for 2 lessons and I will buy your first year membership.

Follow this link for an introductory guide to the Internet Chess Club

Instructor - for those who wish to learn - I take any student, young or old, experienced or new, so long as they are willing to take their time and play some slow chess.

Trainer - for those that need aid to get to the highest levels (Some of my students have been stronger than I!)

Mentor - for those that just wish to stop by occasionally and receive support/advice of any type

If you have a particular question that cannot wait until the next lesson, please email me the question or your phone number, or call 610-649-0750

SCHEDULE - I teach 6 days per week! It is my full-time job

Instructing is my full-time job, so lesson times are available:

Best way to set up a lesson? Call 610-649-0750 - in continental US and Canada ask me to call you back.  Or Skype "Dan Heisman" 2nd: e-mail me your phone # and a time to call and I will call you! 3rd best: e-mail me a set of dates & times; I will pick one.

You don't have to take a lesson every week; once every 1-3 weeks is going to be much more effective than once every 3-4 months because of continuity. I give some scheduling preference to students who take lessons regularly: every 3 weeks or more frequently at the same time/day as much as possible. I also take "irregular" students and schedule them ad hoc.

Many of my lesson times are scheduled for one hour, because that is what most of my customers request. Unless I have someone else scheduled exactly as their session ends, I often go longer than the scheduled time at no extra cost to finish what we are doing. I try not to just cut my student off abruptly, although sometimes that is necessary. Because I often give customers more than an hour, I hope you don't mind if I take a quick message if my other line rings (my other phone line has no answering machine) - thanks!

I HAVE UNLIMITED LONG DISTANCE PHONE SERVICE AND I CALL YOU FOR LESSONS IN CONTINENTAL US AND CANADA! - I should be able to call students, saving those customers additional costs. Because I use the first line, I may have to take a quick break if the 2nd line rings to take a message, so please excuse me!  Also, Skype (Contact "DanHeisman") is available for foreign or even domestic calls. Students, but especially juniors, must be able to speak loud and clear for internet lessons via phone or skype. Headset is preferred over speakers (to avoid feedback).

If interested in lessons and/or want to learn more, e-mail me your phone # and a time to call!

Guideline for whether you want to reserve a regular lesson spot: If you can make a scheduled time 75% or more, then “reserving” a regular (weekly, bi-weekly, etc) time is reasonable. If you can’t, then better to just contact me whenever you want a lesson and it should be fairly easy to fit you in at a time convenient to both of us.

  See Howard Stern's chess interview in the NY Times.

 " have students drinking freely from your fountain of knowledge."
        - one of my adult students.  I like that!

  "Chess has been the thing that has brought (my son) out of his shell!" - the mother of one of my students.  Makes it all feel worthwhile..

   Everyone should consider having a mental hobby. Studies continually show they help the brain, especially as one ages. So if not chess, take up backgammon, bridge, crossword puzzle solving, cryptograms, or something. Lots of older people jog or play golf or tennis. They also need a mental hobby to keep their brain active.

   I have taken two young students to rating 2300 by age 13; I think there is a good chance I could have brought them up Grandmasters if they had continued regular tournaments and lessons with me, but I can't blame them for wanting to become a PhD economist and a professional musician!   :)

Join the "John Collins/Bobby Fischer" teaching lineage:

John Collins was Bobby Fischer's coach in Brooklyn when Bobby was young.
Another of John's famous students was US Chess Hall of Famer IM Donald Byrne.
Professor Byrne was Dan's coach when Dan was in college.
So if you take lessons from Dan, your coach's coach's coach will be Bobby Fischer's coach! Of course, I do not endorse Fischer's views about 9/11, etc...

Dan's Chess Credentials/ Resume

A list of Student Champions of all ages. Adult Kevin (Scott) Kerns won the 2002 New Mexico State Championship. This was a BIG Upset - he was rated 1650 and 3 masters played! Dozens of my younger students have made the USCF Top-100 for their age group and many adults have gained 100's of rating points on USCF, ICC, or their favorite server. It is also now public knowledge that I have been radio personality Howard Stern's chess coach since August 2006.

The only "chess" requirement for taking lessons with Dan (assuming you want to become good in slow games vs humans)

You are willing to play long time-control games against humans (playing some fast games to practice openings also is very helpful) and will try, when there is a decision of any type, to take your time on each move to think about and apply the ideas you have learned. Try to use almost all your time each game. Not only will you play better, but we will have instructive things to discuss each game! For the same reason, you should be willing to record your remaining time (in minutes) after each move in over-the-board games so we can review your time management.

General Info:

Dan's Chess Teacher's Credo. Sign on my den wall, where I give my live lessons: "If you are not having fun, you are in the wrong place!"
Dan's Chess Teaching Philosophy (for new adult students and parents). A key note: I am more trying to teach and enhance needed skills than present you a ton of chess knowledge.

Think of me as your guide as to what you need to do, and not someone dictating information. In his insightful book Chess for Zebras GM Rowson writes "Many players 'work' on their chess as if they were working on an academic subject, but improving your chess is more like improving your driving, or improving your play on a musical instrument, than it is like preparing for an exam. Such improvement can therefore be directed and supervised, but not directly 'taught'." World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik told his classes "Chess can only be learned; chess cannot be taught" and this is why I am just your guide. Over 90% of what you will learn during the period when you take lessons with me should be in-between lessons during homework!

  A general lesson philosophy is that I try to help you learn how to "add positives" (learn new patterns like tactics/opening/endgames and principles) on your own while helping you "subtract negatives" (identify and minimize/eliminate misconceptions and bad habits) during lessons. This most efficiently uses your lesson time. For more on this, read "The Theory of Chess Improvement"

  GM Rowson spends the first chapter of his book Chess for Zebras explaining why studying to gain more chess knowledge doesn't make one a better player. I absolutely agree with GM Rowson. I probably should make this chapter required reading for any player (or parent for those under age 13) before taking chess lessons.

You do not have to do lessons "all out"; if you want to take lessons with me it is not all or nothing. I am glad to give lessons for fun with less expectation for improvement. For example, although slow games are the best practice, if you don't want to play slow games (or do repetitive basic tactic problems or ...), please let me know. You might want to read my Lessons should be fun article. If you don't raise this issue, I will assume you want to improve as much as possible and will suggest homework, regular slow practice, etc. and assume you want to do it. There are three lesson modes (or some combination):

...I usually start with review of some of your games and listen to you analyze puzzles. Tip: When you do a puzzle, take your time and when you are finished say "My final answer is..."

  Most of my lessons for non-beginners consist of going over your slow games (that indicates the "personalized plan" of what you need), but I also have instructive puzzles and a variety of standard lessons, if your games (or you) indicate that is what you need.  Lessons are based on your current needs. Usually homework is reviewed at the start of a lesson (at the start and end of lessons I do questions and at the end I sometimes review homework assignments, etc.), but if requested I can supply a written current lesson plan via e-mail. Standard lessons might include:

  Three "Think" Exercises:

de Groot "think out loud" for game-like positions - see my book "The Improving Chess Thinker"


"Dan-assisted thinking" - "DATSCAN": finding a move together with my student


"Dan vs. Computer" where I do all my thinking "out loud" so that student can see my thought process for the entire game

  Endgames: King & pawn vs King; Lucena & Philidor (Rook); Queen vs Pawn on 7th; "Going to Sleep in the Endgame"; K&2 pawns vs K&1 pawn. (Now best learned via my ICC videos)
  Tactical Motif Overview, Counting
  Positional Overview
  Openings: Common Opening Traps, Break Moves

  Opening Tabiyas (standard sequences): Closed Ruy Lopez; Sicilian Dragon, Yugoslav Attack; King's Indian, etc. These are also now ICC videos
  Mobility and Piece Value (from my book Elements of Positional Evaluation)
  Evaluation Quiz/Positions

  See also my ICC Instructional Videos (full videos available for ICC members; others get a preview) and a fantastic forum/writeup on a typical lesson.

  Novice Nooks and other articles about my teaching and suggested reading (along with the 1st chapter of Chess for Zebras, if you have it) before your first lesson. You don't have to read them all before the first lesson, so I've put an asterisk next to the most helpful ones. (NB: Starting Oct 2014 Novice Nooks may require Chess Cafe membership)

  Finding A Good Instructor

  The Four Homeworks* (later, please read Annotated Game Collections vs. Instructive Anthologies about what type of game books to read first)

  Sunil's Rooks and Right Tackles

  The Curious Case of MrBoejangles

  The Improvement Feedback Loop*

  Getting the Edge

  Tactical Ability requires Pattern Recognition AND Analysis ( article)

  Teaching Chess with the Socratic Method

  The 95% Conjecture ( blog)

  "Final Answer": Determining When to Make Your Move ( article)

  The Three Show Stoppers* - This one is especially important for players rated under 1600

  The Mind Reading Fish*

  The Seven Percent Solution*

  Some students find parts of the more challenging lessons frustrating because lessons often push you on the edge of what you don't know! That is to be expected. When you are playing, you are usually keeping within your capabilities and that is comfortable but, during a lesson, a good instructor pushes you to expand those capabilities. When doing so you are right on the edge of what you can and cannot do, and that can sometimes be momentarily uncomfortable. But that is normal and if you are learning, consider it as a good experience. Overall, your lessons should be fun and challenging!

  Students: Never do a homework (that I or other instructors) assign that is not fun! In the long run you won't improve as much as if you practice exercises that are fun. Don't be afraid to tell your instructor if an assignment is not fun!

Rate Dan (and/or read reviews about me) on the Instructor Review Page. Note: When you write a review, please try to be honest and balanced. Use the same name/handle you used for your lessons. State what you like best and any aspects of which you think others may need to be aware. It would be nice to get all 5's, but that just would not make the results realistic or believable. They are meant to help you and others!

Dan's Posters of "The Big Five of Instruction" and "Top Guidelines"

Preparing for a lesson (please read before first lesson)

Anyone taking lessons should review my Chess Cafe articles including my Novice Nook columns (see the list above which you can read before the 1st lesson). In particular my non-personalized suggestions are in "An Improvement Plan" and "My Top Tips for Improvement". If you want more, check out my Chess Guidelines page.

If you are new to the Internet Chess Club (ICC) and are using a PC, unless you are a Dasher expert, please download their "Blitzin" software. For a Macintosh, I suggest the third party software Lantern for ICC. In a pinch I can use instead of ICC, but my puzzles are all stored on my ICC library, which can also be displayed to non-ICC members via Skype.

Please do not use a speakerphone for lessons; it creates echoes and feedback and can be very difficult for me to hear. If you don't want to hold the phone (I wouldn't!), then you can purchase a reasonably-priced headset either for phone or for a USB one for Skype.

Please bring 1-2 recent slow games to each lesson. If at all possible, play human opponents near your playing strength.

These games do not have to be played since the previous lesson, but at least fresh enough to reflect your practice of our recent lessons.

If you record the game, play it over at least once quickly before the lesson to check your notation.

ICC members should put games in your library. Type "help libraries" (or click that link!) to find out how. 

Here is a quick overview on how to put a PGN file into the ICC library using ICC's Blitzin program:

1. Pull-down the menu “Game” and go to “Open PGN”

2. Find the PGN file on your hard drive and double left-click on it to open it.

3. Left click on the game you want to upload to the library and then right-click and select “Upload to library”. It’s done!

To put an OTB game into your library using ICC's Blitzin program:

1. At the top of the page use pull down menu "Game" and then choose "Match" to create a match against yourself (your ICC handle). Set the time control to the actual one in the OTB game, e.g. 90 5 for a 90 minute game with a five second increment or time delay.

2. Using your mouse, enter the game as if playing against yourself. 

3. At the end type:  
Libkeepexam WhitePlayersName BlackPlayersName Result 
...where “result” is “=” for draw, “+” for White win, “-“ for White loss and hit the "enter" key.

e.g. if Fred Brown plays Tom Smith and Tom wins, type "libkeepexam Fred_Brown Tom_Smith -"

If you need help, the ICC has a "help" channel with volunteers. To get help in Blitzin either type "tell 1 xxx" where xxx is your question and a volunteer for channel 1 will answer you. Alternatively, you can pull down the "Help" menu and fill in the "Ask a Question" form, which does the same thing.

To print out an ICC game with the times for each move: Locate the game in your history or library file and then right-click on the game and choose "smoves". That places the game with times in your main console window. Then select the moves and copy and paste into a program that can print.

If possible, please do not send me any games for review prior to the lesson (want to send just because you are proud of a nice game - sure!). I assure you that I get just about as much out of it going over it with you "in real time" as I do studying it beforehand, and you likely benefit more.  This also avoids the touchy subject of paying me for time you cannot track. If you do have to send a game, don't e-mail me an attachment. Much better is to just select the text and copy and paste into the e-mail message. That will save me a lot of time!

If you have a problem which was exhibited in several games, e.g. "I keep getting a cramped position" or "I have all my pieces out but I don't know what to do", etc. then please put in your ICC library 3-4 recent games that you feel exemplify that problem. I can look for patterns and suggest solutions.

One of the main goals of a lesson is to concentrate on what YOU are doing that needs help. Therefore one of my goals is to not spend too much lesson time doing things you could be doing for homework, unless you ask. This includes playing games against my students, going over lots of tactical problems, studying opening lines, etc. If there is anything you don't understand, by all means bring it up at a lesson. I would rather spend time with you seeing how well you are applying what you learn rather than teaching you generic things you can easily pick up from my writings, etc. That is why 60-70% of my lesson time is reviewing your slow games. However, if there is something you need to learn during the lesson for any reason, I will teach it to you directly.

To check out your tactical prowess, you can take my Tactics Quiz (read directions carefully...) or, more ambitiously, do the interactive tactics server Chess Tempo and let me know how you did! Besides reading my Novice Nooks, you can also visit the excellent training websites: World Chess Academy and/or Exeter (England) Chess Club

Remind me of any homework (see The Four Homeworks) you have completed or with which you need help. For many players, this usually includes reading Novice Nook articles, working on tactics, reading a game collection book, etc.

Write down any questions you have and ask me at the start of the lesson.

If you wish to be good against humans, practice against humans and not computers. Also, avoid intermediate time controls.

The Four Homework Assignments

Most of my students are assigned four types of homework:

1. Play as many slow games (45 5 or slower = 45+ minutes for the game with a five second time delay/increment) as possible, augmented with some 2 5 speed games to practice openings and time management. Always look up your openings after the game to see where you could improve next time.
2. Do tactical (or other) problems appropriate to your level, like John Bain's Chess Tactics for Students (for more information on all homework books and how to obtain them, see my Book Recommendations page)
3. Read as many annotated master game books as possible, starting with instructional books like Logical Chess Move by Move and Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played both by Chernev, etc. Read them quickly (20-40 minutes max for each game) and go to the next game, and then the next book.
4. Read "talky" chess stuff like Novice Nooks, Pawn Power in Chess, Amateur's Mind, etc. appropriate to your level.

As you finish each book or assignment, let me know and we will work together to identify the next one in that type.

Breakdown of How to Best Use your Chess Time to Improve (all are rough approximations and vary by student and need):

Play ~55% of your chess time; Study 45%:

Of the Play time, use 85-90% of your time to play long time control games slowly and 10-15% for speed games with the same increment as your important slow games. Play about 60% of your opponents slightly stronger than yourself. Review the game afterward with your opponent, strong player(s); database, engine, etc.

Of the Study time, use approximately 50% of your time doing appropriate level puzzles (tactics, positional, endgame), 30% instructive annotated games, 15% "other", and 5% learning opening tabiyas and looking up your openings


Everyone is different and has different needs. During a lesson I try to treat everyone according to their age, needs, and personality. However, with regards to the logistics of the lesson, I can't do it a personalized way for everyone - that would be too confusing and I would not be able to remember who works which way. So I have certain consistent ways of logistically doing things for everyone so I don't get confused. For example, for online lessons I like to contact the student first on the ICC to see if they are ready for me to call them on phone/Skype. If they reply on Skype instead of ICC that gets confusing because I am not looking for their reply in that media. If someone calls me to start the lesson before signaling me they are ready, that is similarly confusing. I prefer answering questions by phone/skype rather than email although for shy students and some types of questions email is fine. I prefer going over games "live" during a lesson rather than having a student send me the game first.

Adult Lessons (most of my ICC lessons are with adults...):

  Guide to Adult Chess Lessons - Very Helpful!

List of ICC Students who will play slow (30 5 or slower) games on ICC

  The Buy-In!
  Recommended Books
  Articles Page (lots to read here if you wish)
  Links to all of my award-winning Novice Nook Columns at Chess Cafe

All adults who come in person or communicate by phone during lessons will be given the critical "deGroot" think out loud exercise to test their thought process within the first few lessons. Here is what student Mike Rosensaft had to say about this in-depth exercise:

"I can actually point to the exercise as a time when my chess thinking became a lot more ordered and deliberate. One of the biggest lessons in chess to learn is time management. You have to have a thinking process that efficiently considers your alternatives. The de Groot exercise really helps you to improve that thinking process. Being able to identify tactics or knowing how to win a king and pawn endgame are both essential lessons in chess. The de Groot exercise, however, is not just a lesson to memorize or a pattern to recognize, but helps you better develop an entire way to think about chess."

Another adult student wrote:


Thanks for the lesson. The check went out in today's mail. You really did a great job of helping me get a better understanding of how I am actually playing chess. At best, I've been playing "Hope Chess." It was like getting a bucket of ice water dumped on me. I thought I was playing "real chess." I thought I was playing slow, looking for the best move, trying to identify checks, captures and threats. In one short lesson you proved to me that I really wasn't doing any of those things very well. Do other new students of yours have simular false perceptions of themselves?

Thanks again. I look forward to our next lesson. In the mean time I will work on those things we talked about."

Scholastic Lessons 

To become a scholastic chess student, it makes sense that a student should be willing to 1) play regularly in scholastic (or open) tournaments AND 2) try to play slow on each move and use what was learned in lessons to attempt to find the best move. Otherwise it would be like trying to give batting lessons to someone who does not wish to play in Little League! The good news is that scholastic clubs and tournaments are for everyone and not just the "good" kids so anyone can take lessons so long as they are willing to do this "practice". If you can't make a lot of tournaments, that is fine, but you need to play regular slow games of some type.

 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) of parents (Tons of good links, info!) - Parents should read this.

Top Junior Instructional Program for serious scholastic players

Progressing Through Chess
Levels of Interest in Chess

Articles on Chess Development:

  Read and print out articles from my Articles page; e.g. Guide to Philadelphia Scholastic Tournaments, Top Tips for Everyone, Guide to Team Tournaments, etc. or my award-winning Novice Nook column
Recommended Books, such as Chess Tactics for Students
 US Chess Federation's List of Recommended Articles on the Benefits of Chess
Chess Doesn't Have to Be Your #1 Hobby (But it helps!)
Guide to Chess Lessons and Fun
 Guide to Chess Homework - "Would you pay for Violin lessons and then not practice?"

Lesson Fee Page- Includes best ways to pay (check, PayPal, ICC chekels), discounts, Top Junior Program, senior citizen rates, etc.

Compare my fee to the cost of taking music lessons from a nationally-known music instructor!
Money back guarantee if not satisfied - must notify me at the end of the lesson.

My cancellation policy is on my fee page, but one note: If you have to cancel on less than 24 hours notice and are in the continental US or can call inexpensively, please call 610-649-0750, leaving a message if possible (you can also e-mail but, if only doing one, please call first).  Sometime I don't check my e-mail before a lesson, and arrange my schedule to be home for a lesson which has been cancelled without knowing about it! It is only after a student does not show up that I check my e-mail to see if I missed something.

Contact Information:
Address: Wynnewood, PA 19096
    Phone: Call for questions or to set up lessons: (610) 649-0750 Skype "Dan Heisman"
E-mail Dan for complete address for live lessons or sending payments to his home

Main Chess Page