When FM Ryan Harper, six-time national chess champion, left his bank job earlier this year, he had decided to venture on a new career. His growing love for the sport of chess, going back to his student days at Queen’s Royal College, eventually influenced him to make the change. So he, together with leading player Alex Winter Roach, launched a professional coaching programme with the aim of assisting aspiring youngsters to improve their game.
With his experience and achievements over the board, Harper then became a kind of adventurous pioneer, the first player of his rank to give up his full-time job to devote his chess skills to coaching. “At our stage of development I felt it was an urgent need,” he told Double Rooks. “If our young players are to reach the highest levels, they must be exposed to professional coaching.”
To support his point we see that even super grandmasters have engaged coaches. Young Magnus Carlsen, the highest rated player in the world who many predict will be the next world champion and Hikaru Nakamura, two-time US national champion regarded as among the top six players in the world, have used Garry Kasparov, 13th world champion, to help them improve their game.
Nakamura explained in an interview that he engaged Kasparov as coach essentially to deepen his command of the openings. “That is really the strength of working with someone like Kasparov. It’s his opening preparation because a lot of his wins came from just getting good positions out of the openings.”