A couple of weeks ago I was at the Australian Junior Championships, along with many other chess coaches, and was chatting to Carl Gorka.  “Is Ian Rogers here” I enquired?  “Yes” Carl replied, “I’ve just been watching him coach some of his students …. it’s funny you know but Ian tells his students what they should have done whereas you ask them what they should have done.”

I’ve never really thought about this much but certainly my approach has always been rather than teach my students the solution to a puzzle I try to teach them how to solve the puzzle.  It’s like the old saying about giving a starving man a fish and you feed him for a day, but give him a fishing rod and you feed him for life.
The first thing you need to find the winning idea in a position is the correct attitude.  Your task is to out think your opponent …. to see an idea he hasn’t considered or to analyse deeper than he does.  If he does a sacrifice for instance your first thought should be “can I find a flaw in this sacrifice”?  Most people just launch into the analysis of a position but I encourage my students to first try to understand the position and the ideas that are there.   Often I get them to think backwards from their desired outcome, for instance I ask “How are you going to win?”   The answer might be “by checkmate”.  The next question then is “On which square shall you checkmate the King?”  After they tell me that I ask “And which piece is the most likely to give checkmate?”  So, as you can see, if they ask these questions their mind can better focus on precisely what they are trying to do.   Another handy question to ask is “where do you want your pieces?” so again I am encouraging them to think in general terms rather than just analysing.
Perhaps you would like to try this yourself?   Have a look at the position below – a rook ending where White has a extra pawn but Black has reasonable defensive chances (White to play).  The questions you could ask White are:
1. How are you going to win?  (e.g. checkmate, win Black’s rook or queen a pawn).
2. What is stopping you from achieving this type of win?
3. How can you remove the obstacles to this winning method?
Now see if you can find the best play for White.

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