What Chess Coaches Don’t Tell You

Everyman Chess 
UK and Europe Release Date:  July 2023

USA and Canada Release Date:  August 2023

Are you a parent of a junior chess player who feels that because you don’t know how to play chess, you can’t help your child? Or are you an adult or junior chess player who has taken private chess lessons for years, but feels you haven’t been progressing?

In both cases, there can be a lot of reliance on a chess coach who has been given free rein with lesson content and direction. They probably have some sort of plan but it is likely to be a plan used for all their students. This is not ideal. More important is a well-thought out, individualized plan, that focuses on a specific player’s unique strengths and weaknesses. Formulating such a plan is crucial for making improvements.

Victoria Doknjas and her son John Doknjas are an ideal writing partnership to tackle this topic. John is a FIDE Master who has already established himself as an excellent and highly-respected author who understands the improvement process very well. Victoria has over a decade of experience navigating the competitive chess arena with her three master-level sons, including also running her own chess academy. Together they offer a unique and informative insight to those wanting to get more out of their chess studies, as well as presenting practical advice in areas including:

  • Identifying important goals and how to work towards them.
  • Understanding how to objectively analyse your games.
  • Maximising the efficiency of software and engines for learning.

Reading this book can broaden your horizons in the essential areas of chess study, and ideally let you better evaluate what your chess coach is teaching you. And if you don’t have a chess coach, this book will provide you with an excellent foundation for serious chess study. 


The book What Chess Coaches Don’t Tell You, by John and Victoria Doknjas, offers a totally new perspective on improvement in chess. This book teaches chess players how to work harder and smarter in order to achieve their goals, using every tool at their disposal. Most chess books teach openings, endgames, tactics, but very few books teach players how to work on chess by themselves. This is what makes this work so unique and innovative.

Over the years, many chess players have come to me for advice on how to improve, and I never know what to tell them. From now on, I will recommend that they read this book! I have been using most of the advice recommended in this book, both for myself and my students, and the results have been wonderful. I can clearly feel that my work ethic has improved, thanks to this book. Having worked with Victoria and John, I can safely say that their method works extremely well, for players of any level. Spending time with these two authors has taught me the importance of analyzing my own games, as well as playing training games, and I believe that this advice applies to any chess player looking to improve.

Also, children and parents who enter the chess world are often disoriented because there is so much information available. This book, however, offers valuable and detailed advice to parents on how to guide their children towards their goals. Victoria, who has 3 master-level sons, is the best person to answer any questions related to parenting in chess!

Overall, this book guides chess players in their improvement, regardless of their level. From beginner to grandmaster, every player can benefit from a steady, structured and detailed workplan.

– International Master Shawn Rodrigue-Lemieux

2022 World U18 Champion


I wish someone had taught me how to use ChessBase when I was younger. I am sure many coaches use it, but when I was growing up, no one taught me how to, even though it was a program used by most chess players trying to improve. That is why I believe that What Chess Coaches Don’t Tell You is a must-read for those who are either just starting out in chess or those who feel stuck and have not made any progress lately. I recommend this book because it can help you avoid making unnecessary mistakes and enlighten you about the things you should know.

Indeed, it is an insightful book that contains crucial information for ambitious chess players and their parents who wish to get the most out of their time and efforts. It offers advice and techniques that enable players to set their goals clearly and work efficiently toward achieving them. Many kids start out in chess and show immense potential. However, oftentimes, talent is not enough; thus, the players have to study chess with either a coach or by themselves, which can be difficult, frustrating and confusing. Fortunately, this book teaches its audience the most effective methods to do so by narrowing down the steps to success, which include how to maximize the benefits of analyzing one’s games as well as how to create a solid and pertinent opening repertoire.

Woman Grandmaster Maïli-Jade Ouellet

2019 Woman Continental Champion


In their masterpiece, What Chess Coaches Don’t Tell You, the dynamic duo of Victoria Doknjas, MBA and Juniors to Masters Chess Academy Co-founder, and her son John Doknjas, FIDE Master and established chess author, have unlocked the mysteries of the puzzling and confusing world of chess coaching.  Victoria’s business savvy, organized way of thinking, and crystal-clear explanations combine nicely with John’s technical and coaching expertise to provide the reader with a valuable road map, which is often neglected or completely ignored in other chess literature.  This book is a must-read for all aspiring chess players and their parents who wish to learn the best practices for and methodologies for developing an effective chess coaching plan.  Coaches and chess trainers will also find it quite useful to fine-tune their teaching methods and gain insight into the best ways to help their students achieve their chess goals.

Taken from years of experience coaching junior players, the Doknjas’ have compiled and presented their best teaching tips and advice for players of all levels and ages to achieve success on their chess journey.  As I explored the different chapters, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were several teaching tools and techniques that I, an experienced National Master and chess coach with 15 years of teaching experience, was missing out on!  I found the FAQ chapter for Parents or Those New to Competitive Chess to be especially helpful, and I will no doubt recommend this book to many chess families seeking how best to navigate the complex world of chess training and competition.

Having known the Doknjas family well for over eight years and watching Victoria and Dave’s sons John, Joshua, and Neil all become chess masters, I can say with utmost confidence that they are experts in the field of chess coaching!  In their work with the Junior to Master Chess Academy and in writing this book, the Doknjas family has established a framework which empowers juniors to move through the chess ranks to eventually become masters.  Moreover, they have experienced first-hand how the study of chess can foster a lifelong passion for learning and self-improvement. Such a learning model extends well beyond the scope of chess and can help students to be successful not just in the game of chess, but also in the game of life.

What Chess Coaches Don’t Tell You is a joy to read and provides valuable insight to chess students, parents, and coaches alike.  This book makes a splendid addition to any chess library and can be used by the casual players as a quick coaching road map or as a comprehensive guide for the serious player. Victoria and John Doknjas’ passion and knowledge of the complex landscape of chess coaching resonates throughout the book and no doubt will inspire many future generations of players to learn and love chess in the years to come!

National Master Josh Sinanan

President, Washington Chess Federation


The book is a comprehensive manifesto for chess players and parents of players. The authors stress the importance of developing an individualized plan for chess improvement, focusing on strengths and weaknesses, and setting specific goals. The book provides recommendations on how to form a solid foundation of chess knowledge and how to be more self-sufficient in one’s own chess studies. It aims to empower chess players and parents to take control of their own learning journey and achieve their goals, emphasizing that there is no “magic” formula for instant improvement, but rather a practical approach utilizing available resources.

The authors emphasize the need to have a clear purpose and the need to work hard to improve at chess. The book identifies the essential components for chess improvement and suggests a consistent, methodical approach to training throughout the year. A sample training plan is provided, with a focus on specific areas of weakness. The book stresses the importance of defining chess goals and creating a plan to achieve them, with the involvement of coaches and parents. The author provides examples of chess goals and emphasizes the need for everyone (coach, player and parents) to be on the same page. The book highlights the importance of writing down specific goals for both the short and long term.

If you are a chess coach, a chess parent or a chess player this book will help speed you, your student or their parents along the journey to chess mastery. Highly recommended as a work of love created by two people who know what they are talking about.

National Master Vladimir Drkulec

President, Chess Federation of Canada


The authors draw upon their many years of experience participating and excelling in the world of tournament chess to share esoteric knowledge that chess players, chess parents and chess coaches need to survive in this highly competitive yet highly rewarding sport.  

As a mom to a junior chess player myself, I found this book to be very useful in that it offers detailed and comprehensive guidance about all aspects of the chess journey.  Victoria and FM John handhold you through what your child needs to do in order to train well and effectively.  They also talk about how to deal with challenges that come up along the way.  They essentially tell you how best to support your budding chess player and the resources you need to be successful.

But this book is not just for families of junior players. It is a must-read for anyone interested in improving and advancing their chess studies. 

Dr. McDonald

Mom of Zachary, 2023 Victoria U10 Youth Chess Champion


A large proportion of parents of young chess players have no idea what to do to help their child improve. Their experiences are empirical, learning as they go along with their child’s development. Mistakes that could have been avoided are made. The way of approaching chess also evolves over time, depending on the acquired experience and mistakes made. We would have saved a lot of time if such a book existed when our child started playing chess. We would certainly have approached things differently and gained time on concepts and learning methods that may seem obvious to an experienced player but represent a real challenge for a parent or a young player with ambition.

This book provides a wealth of information on planning your chess career, optimizing your study time, leveraging chess databases and engines, and conducting thorough position analysis. It also includes a FAQ section tailored specifically for chess parents, making it an invaluable resource for both parents and players alike. The content covers topics that are often overlooked by coaches, earning the apt title What Chess Coaches Don’t Tell You. Regardless of your skill level, this guide offers practical advice that can be applied by players of all ages. By following its guidance, you can elevate your chess game and increase your chances of success. It’s an excellent resource for anyone looking to improve their chess skills and offers insights and strategies that will benefit players at every level.

Wen Chen and Bruno Latorre

Parents of National Candidate Master Vincent Latorre


As a mom of a ‘chess kid,’ I cannot understate just how rewarding this book has been for me and my son. This is a practical, useful, and most importantly, step-by-step book for chess players who want to improve their performance. But this book goes above and beyond the typical chess book. This isn’t just a book for the chess player, it’s also for the chess parents—you will learn how to support your young chess player on their journey.

I wish I had read this book at the very beginning of my son Nathan’s chess journey. We would have less trial and error, and his route toward champion would be much clearer.

Thanks to the authors for being so generous to share all this critical knowledge with the public. All chess players and their parents should read it.

Kate Tsai

Mom of Nathan Yang, 2021 British Columbia Grade 3 Champion


What Chess Coaches Don’t Tell You is an invaluable resource that explains the nuts and bolts of how to achieve your chess goals. Just like how elite athletes train for the Olympics, serious chess players have coaches and daily study routines. This book helps chess players maximize the effectiveness of the time they spend studying chess. I highly recommend it to chess parents and players who want to take their game to the next level.

Derek Yuen

Dad of National Candidate Master Noah Yuen


This book is a fantastic, step by step guide on how to succeed in the world of competitive chess. Few people have the experience and expertise that Victoria and John have – what a gift that they are making their insight available to all of us through this book.

Not only is their advice top notch, but it is also an enjoyable read! Being a competitive chess player is not something they teach you how to do in school. At first, we found it difficult to wrap our heads around the idea. Should you study like it’s an exam, or train like it’s an athletic competition? What is the best way to prepare for a tournament? Which tournaments should you enter? This book answers these questions! With humour and real life anecdotes, Victoria and John are able to explain the mindset, strategies and work required to succeed in competitive chess.

We want to put this book in the hands of anyone who has the desire to take their chess to the next level. Maybe you’re already one of the best chess players in your school club and you’re itching for some tougher competition. Or maybe you’ve been using a coach and playing at tournaments, but feeling unsure about how to enhance your game. If you are serious about chess, this book is for you (and the adults in your life who will be taking you to tournaments)!

Jason and Joanna Imoo

Parents of Joshua Imoo, 2019 British Columbia Grade 7 Champion


This book provides an essential missing piece for chess players seeking to improve their skills in an efficient way and prepare for tournaments. The book emphasizes that the chess game is not just a fight with your opponent, but also a fight with yourself. As seen in the ongoing world chess championship, technical skills are only part of tournament preparation. The book begins with the processes of setting goals and working hard, offering readers a comprehensive framework for improvement. It also includes a helpful FAQ section at the end that further clarifies concepts and strategies. One of the book’s key strengths is its emphasis on both skill and mental preparation. It offers a well-rounded approach that is applicable to players of all levels. Overall, this book is a great resource for anyone looking to take their chess game to the next level. The book is comprehensive, yet accessible, and offers a valuable framework for improvement. Whether you’re a junior or an experienced player, this book is definitely worth checking out.

Lei Guo

Dad of Anni Guo, 2020 National U12 Girls Active Online Chess Champion


This book helps both chess players and their parents understand what is required to pursue competitive chess seriously, detailing the essential elements to study. From making the commitment to do the work required and verbalizing what their chess goals are in order to develop a plan to achieve these goals, to making sure that what they are studying, practicing, and learning on a regular basis covers the core aspects of a solid training regime. For example, analyzing your own games provides some of the most impactful learning that a player can achieve, and the authors do an excellent job in detailing step by step on how to analyze your own games to get the most out of them. Another chapter covers how to create an opening database that would cover your own opening lines when playing as White and as Black, and the importance of reviewing your opening database regularly, especially before a tournament to ensure that you start your games off well. I appreciate the authors not only itemizing the essential work that a serious chess player needs to do, but also going that extra step to explain its importance, and then providing clear instructions on how to get that work done.

Shirley Che

Mom of Woman FIDE Master Rachel Chen


I wish I had read this book several years ago. My son discovered chess in an afterschool club – and within a year – was begging us for chess lessons. As parents who don’t play chess, have busy careers, and have a son who wants to be a Grandmaster, the world of chess is overwhelming to navigate. There are so many coaches, classes and tournaments, not to mention books and online programs – it’s hard to know where to start. If you want to take your chess to the next level, or support your child to success…. What Chess Coaches Don’t Tell You – is the key. By approaching the game, with a systematic approach (i.e., talking with your child about their goals, etc.) and then developing a plan to achieve these goals, you are not only supporting your child in learning chess, but also how to approach any life goal that is important to them. Learning how to learn efficiently – is key to success in any area of life. This book helps you discern what is important to help your child really succeed in chess, in a straightforward but systematic manner. If you are a chess parent, who really wants to support your child in an effective and meaningful way – this is the book you will need. 

Dr. Jennifer Russel

Mom of Wesley, 2022 British Columbia Grade 6 Champion


Back in 2019, my daughter started to take group chess lessons offered by the Juniors to Masters (JtM) Chess Academy which was co-founded by Victoria Doknjas. These lessons are more organized than any other chess lessons I have seen. At the beginning of each term, the students are asked to specify their short-term and long-term goals. Each lesson covers a special topic, ranging from simple pawn endgames to advanced exchange sacrifices. The instructor will explain the critical moments in some judiciously selected Master’s games that are relevant to the topic of the lesson. Then the students will play two training games from the same position, one with White and the other with Black, which typically involve using the ideas just taught. After each lesson, the students are asked to annotate their training games and solve three homework problems which are again designed to reinforce the understanding of the key points covered in the lesson. Meanwhile, the students need to annotate the games they played in the tournaments and solve chess puzzles regularly. To be honest, this routine is quite demanding for a child. Initially I was actually hoping the instructor would teach some secret weapons which my daughter could directly employ in the next tournament to get some easy wins. The group lessons offered no such miracles I had hoped for. In fact, for a beginner like my daughter, this routine brought no immediate benefits as the games back then were often decided by bad moves rather than good ones. But over the years, I have a growing appreciation of this routine. Learning chess is a long journey, which has no shortcut. It is a challenge for both children and parents. So it is important to follow a principled approach and develop the right attitude. My daughter’s chess skills have gradually improved. But more importantly, as she got used to this routine, it became a habit rather than a burden, which leads to more sustainable development.

This book grows out of the practices of JtM In-House Master FM John Doknjas and Victoria Doknjas as chess players and chess coaches. It provides a systematic chess training approach, covering the key elements in the aforementioned routine, the rationales behind them, and much more. You don’t have to be a chess expert to appreciate the insights and advice offered in the book, which are often elucidated using examples in daily life. Even as a parent who does not know much about chess, I find the book fascinating to read. It brings back a lot of memories when I was sitting with my daughter during her JtM group lessons and correcting the typos in her annotated training games. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to all children who have a dream to become a good chess player and their parents who are eager to help but often feel clueless. It is a gem that you should not miss.

Jun Chen

Dad of Shuang Chen, 2022 World Cadet Chess Championships U10 Girls – Top 10


As a chess parent who is not a chess player herself, I have struggled for some time to find ways in which I could support my sons as they work to take their chess practice to a higher level. My predicament wasn’t helped by the fact that most materials I was able to find that were designed to facilitate chess training were focused on subject-matter-specific knowledge and technical, specialized skills I just didn’t have. Discovering this book has been a great help to me since it outlines a clear roadmap to cultivating one’s chess practice, as well as outlining the steps needed to move from chess beginner to chess expert. Full of rich practical wisdom, the book guides non-experts in chess to more meaningfully support the chess players in their lives to stay focused on developing their practice.

As the authors point out, chess parents can helpfully conceptualize their role as that of a “project manager”. I find this a helpful way of thinking about one’s role as a support person since the project manager does not need to possess expert, technical chess knowledge to support their chess player. Instead, they only need to know how to help the player get clear about the goals they aim for in their practice, how to visualize their goals with greater specificity, and how to adopt and sustain a focused, problem-oriented approach to achieving those goals, by identifying the concrete, small steps required to get to their goal.

Moreover, as the authors point out, the support person needs to understand that success in chess very much depends on cultivating a sustained effortful, deliberate practice, as well as understanding the sorts of basic life skills that are needed to establish and sustain such practice. As someone who has successfully taught college-level philosophy classes for almost three years, I can attest that technical know-how of the subject-matter doesn’t by itself teach you those skills required to direct your energy and attention to sustain a prolonged practice. Instead, harnessing the motivation and focus required to develop one’s technical knowledge very much depends on seeing how each item of technical knowledge lines up with one’s individual developmental goals.

I think that the book does a great job of identifying those subtle, but essential life skills and character traits that are essential to cultivating one’s chess practice but that are not directly targeted by a training regime that is narrowly focused at the technical aspects of chess. It also does a great job of identifying the concrete steps that are needed to support the development of those skills. In this regard, I enjoyed the central analogy between chess problems and real-life problems that the authors structure the book around. I like the authors’ underlying idea of using chess problem-solving as a means to cultivate the skills one needs to do more methodical, rigorous, lucid real-world problem solving.

Ultimately, with this understanding, chess parents can meaningfully support their chess players’ practice. I have found that by consistently implementing the advice in this book, I was able to help my sons more consistently stay on track by making their nebulous goals more clear, concrete, and specific, as well as by identifying – with as much specificity as possible! – the series of steps they needed to pursue in order to take their practice to the next level. Moreover, the book shows that asking the right questions gives you great power as a support person. The book gives excellent examples of questions parents can use to help chess players hone their capacity to reflect on their practice (e.g., by asking chess players to focus on analyzing positions they are most uncomfortable with). Furthermore, the book describes ways that parents can get involved by letting their child teach them their chess games. As an instructor, I can attest that it is by teaching others the material that students learn best! Lastly, the book nicely lays out how the parent can act as an important go-between, by asking chess coaches for more personalized, individual feedback. Receiving such feedback tailored to one’s specific play style, as the book points out, is crucial to improving one’s practice.

So far, I spoke from my perspective as a support person. However, I think the book has much to offer to chess players themselves. For players, the guidelines to improve practice include useful reminders to never learn chess positions and theory by rote memorization, but instead always to strive for understanding. The authors provide concrete advice that you can use to move from mechanical memorization towards achieving an insightful grasp of chess, such as their advice to analyze and annotate your games by visualizing them as a story organized around “critical points”. The authors nicely show how once you’ve visualized the game this way, you can substantially improve your pattern recognition, and your capacity to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of the variations you are pursuing. I think they make a good case that approaching game analysis in this way allows you to develop your capacity for self-reflection and self-correction, both of which are essential skills needed to move to an insightful grasp of the subject.

For me, the takeaway point of this book is that doing well in chess does not just require specialized technical knowledge, but also requires the cultivation of certain character traits, like the ability to learn from mistakes, self-correct, persist in the face of challenges, convert challenges into opportunities for further growth, and learn to value effortful deliberate practice as a way of shaping not just one’s chess play, but also one’s character over time. By providing a means to understand chess as a holistic life practice aimed at cultivating these character traits, the book seems to me to be a much-needed guide for any chess parent. It nicely shows that even if you lack any chess expertise as a support person, you can still help the chess player in your life insofar as you understand and implement some of the principles required to guide and sustain their deliberate, effortful practice of chess.

Elena Holmgren

Mom of Emilian Holmgren, 2023 Victoria U14 Youth Chess Champion


What Chess Coaches Don’t Tell You is a book intended for someone who wants to improve their chess game, or help their child to improve. It provides an outline for what a player has to do to train. You can play for hours and not improve much, however, as this book highlights, by setting your goals and following set paths to achieve those goals, these are the best way to get you where you want. This book outlines what work you need to do to put you on the right path. From game analysis to creating your own personal game database for study – the book details the steps you need to take. It really takes a lot of work to become a good chess player. This is a fine guide to follow.

Sandra Vettese

Mom of International Master Nicholas Vettese


Easily the most detailed and comprehensive handbook one can get. My only regret after reading it is not having it earlier in my chess life!

Harrison Liu

2020 Burlington CC Championship Open Champion