A game review during a lesson, is very different from a review that takes place during a chess tournament, with emotions at their highest. Post-game review at scholastic tournaments is what I will focus on here.
My Best Advice
This post is intended to give advice for inexperienced coaches (and parents serving as coaches). The most important tip I can give? Know your students! Everyone deals with winning, losing, and tournament pressure differently. Adjust accordingly … or your students will tune you out.
A Common Scenario
Your student just finished their tournament game and is back in the team room to review it. How can they get the most out of the review and take those lessons into future contests?
The Carrot and The Stick
Sometimes a student will do just about anything to avoid reviewing a particular game. This is likely because they are ashamed of one or more mistakes they made and are worried about their parent or coach’s reaction — especially if they have repeated a previous mistake. It is YOUR JOB to reduce this pressure and reassure them.
Earlier I said my best tip was to know your students. My next-best advice might well be: know their parents!
I often tell my students that no matter what mistakes you made in your game, I have made those same mistakes myself! And it’s true.
You can always find something positive to say about a student’s game, and you can always find something for them to improve next time. You have to read their emotions to get a feel for how you should conduct the game review.
Always remember that you are a human coaching children, and not a chess computer. Spitting out variations is rarely the most helpful approach unless you have a very strong student who also responds well to this kind of analysis.
Game review is more art than science. More persuasive essay than mathematical proof.
Dealing with Losses and Wins
If your student just lost a long, tough game, this is not the time to get into the minutiae of their errors! Broad strokes will do. The art of a chess game review is in what you emphasize.
Maybe they played too fast at some point and missed a tactic. OK — ask them to show you the correct sequence and remind them to slow down in critical moments. Then move on. Don’t harangue them for ten minutes about it.
Perhaps your student won a game they are pleased with, or upset a higher-rated player. They may not be fully “present” after experiencing such a high.
This is also when they are least likely to accept your critiques, so find one or two main “things to remember” and refocus them for the next battle.
Don’t expect to uncork brilliant coaching points during a tournament — the performance has arrived and rehearsals are over. At this point you are managing psyches and emotions — of students and parents. Be kind, be honest, and be understanding. There are always more tournaments, and your game reviews may play a bigger role than you think in determining if your student plays next time.