You are currently viewing Online Chess Coaching, Starting Your Coaching Journey, And Childhood Chess Playing Memories: The Tim Steiner Interview Part 1

Online Chess Coaching, Starting Your Coaching Journey, And Childhood Chess Playing Memories: The Tim Steiner Interview Part 1

Tim Steiner is the founder of Midwest Chess Academy and has been an avid chess player since 1989 and a chess coach since the early 2000s. Tim is one of the pioneers of online coaching, adopting the virtual teaching platform decades before his peers. Today, Tim leads the future of hybrid chess coaching with his virtual chess coaching camps and classes at UT Dallas’ chess club. 

(Tim Steiner founded the Midwest Chess Academy in 2001. Mr. Steiner has been an avid chess player since 1989.)

A short while back, the Chesslang Team had the wonderful opportunity to interview Tim. In a conversation that lasted well over an hour, we talked about everything from playing chess, tournaments, mentorship, starting your chess coaching career, and more. 

This is the first part of a three-part blog that presents you with the interview with Tim Steiner as it happened. 

Hi Tim,

First of all, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule for this interview. We are super excited for this opportunity to interact with you, so yeah, let’s get started right away!

Firstly, we would like to start with the story of how you first got introduced to chess and some funny or interesting anecdotes from your earliest chess-playing memories?

I think my father taught me how to play chess. He was an avid chess player during his college years and I think (I believe) that he got hooked on the game watching the famous Fischer Spassky match (the world championship match in 1972) and I think he was aware of the game before that as well but it was that moment that solidified its significance for him and then he passed on his knowledge and experience of the 64 squares to me. Funnily, none of my other siblings took chess seriously and took on to the game as I did! It took me a number of years before I could actually call myself a “chess player”, for, in the beginning, it was just a casual affair. 

Talking about fondest memories, well, I think it must have been a tournament. I think for most chess players their fondest chess memories revolve around tournaments and for me, I think it was a tournament in 1990. I remember that it was the Nationals and I finished at number 12 out of 500 participants (even finishing above a few rated Masters of the game), and yeah that achievement and that experience were hard to get out of my memory, and I still remember it very distinctly to this day.

What made this tournament extra special for me was also the fact that I was rated only around 1700 at the time and I managed to champion rated Masters (2000+ rating) of the game.

(Players Young And Old, Taking Part In Over The Board Chess Tournament)

When you were a kid playing chess, how different was the level of enthusiasm for the game compared to now?

As I said it was very light in the beginning and nobody really pushed me into doing it (or say pursuing it seriously, it was just fun and games back then). I remember that my chess club was in the third grade and it was actually a big eye-opening experience for me. Because, you know, before that I had only played with my father and I thought I was pretty good at the game, and boy was I wrong! 

There was one mentor in the chess club who was pretty strong at the game and who used to guide and train the other kids and when I went to this chess club they used to run an all-year-long tournament and I placed dead last (or second last) out of the 20 odd kids that used to play in that club and obviously I was extremely unhappy about it, I went back home and told my dad all about it. He asked me, “how did your chess club experience go son?” and my very first words were, “not good!” So I told him where I finished in the rankings list and I expressed my great unhappiness about it. 

My dad (evidently feeling bad about this whole affair) said that he could help me out with that and help me improve my chess and get stronger faster. 

At that age, I was very concerned about winning games (regardless of how I played them), and I see the same now in the chess clubs I now coach as well. For most young players of the game, it is not really about playing a great opening or creating a masterpiece on the board (these nuances come much later), for most young players chess is all about winning. 

And so yeah, my dad did help me out with my chess understanding, he did teach me a few things, and the next semester I had a much better experience at my chess club. During this semester, I managed to win my way up to the top board (though I lost my game there) and I managed to finish at 3rd position. So within the span of one semester, I managed to climb from the very bottom of the ranking table to the 3rd position and so that was my first real exposure to the world of competitive chess. 

And you know, almost right after that we had to move to a different place and so it took me 3-4 more years to get involved with chess again, and thus began the second phase of my tryst with chess. And it was only during the second exposure that I was finally able to get serious about chess. I think me being older (around 15 years now) and having the capacity to play in serious tournaments and learn the game helped me to finally get serious with chess and pursue it with all my passion. 

Actually, it is all about the kind of exposure that you get. I was fortunate enough to play with a few extremely strong players in my high school chess team and they helped me improve my game and also introduced me to chess books. Before that, I had no idea that there are books written about chess and how one can improve his/her game so that was another big game-changing moment for me. 

I started reading chess books and immediately saw the positive effects on my game, having such strong players as your teammates also helped me tremendously to get stronger quicker. I genuinely do believe that if I did not get that exposure (to the level I got in my second chess club) I would not have considered chess seriously and things might have been very different. I think that the atmosphere around me in my chess club really pushed me and motivated me to take the game seriously and I knew that this was something that I would continue doing for a long time. 

But yeah, talking about the general level of chess awareness amongst the people, the Bobby Fischer wave had died out and the level of enthusiasm was nowhere near close to what we see today. The online community and the influx of known chess superstars have really helped to propel the game into mass media and popular culture. 

(Fischer solving the 15 Puzzles as Johnny Carson watches. Bobby Fisher’s Effortless Boyish Charm Combined With His Genius Like Eccentricity Made Him An Instant Television Hit. His Popularity Played A Key Role In Propelling Chess Culture In The USA)

Did you have any chess idols growing up? What was it that made you idolize them?

Yeah so as I said when I started reading chess books a friend of mine (actually he was a Master of the game) informed me that the current world champion of the game was Garry Kasparov and he told me that I should pick up a book by Garry to understand the game better. And I thought that yeah, this seems like a good idea so I went ahead and bought three books, they were game analysis from his world championship matches with Karpov, and to be perfectly honest, I did not understand even 20% of what I was reading, and so I told my friend the same to which he very calmly responded that yeah that’s fine, that’s okay, something is probably getting absorbed into your system (maybe at the subconscious level) and I just went, “Are you sure about that!” 

But even though I was unable to comprehend most of the subtle nuances of the game and all the intricacies of the opening theory they were talking about in those books, I really enjoyed the pre-match stories and the lores that usually surrounded these world championship matches, it was something that really fascinated me. In fact, I can say that the stories and the legends that surrounded these absolute champions of the game are what really pulled me in, as my chess level was around 1300 around that time I could not process the games that they played (or understand the reason behind the moves they made), but the stories really sold me. 

And talking about Idol, one person that distinctly stands out would be Michael Brooks, he was an International Master, and yeah, he was everything at that time. I would get super excited about his games and I just had to follow everything that he did. So yeah, talking about idols and heroes, for me, it was Michael Brooks. 

(Michael Brooks has been an International Master since 1989 and has been the Missouri state champion six times, losing only five times since in tie-breaks. Brooks is part of the U.S. federation where he is ranked in the top 100 players. His current FIDE rating is 2405.)

And I also consider myself extremely fortunate to get the opportunity to play against him around 15-16 times, but yeah he was a total rockstar! He was the strongest player around for like eight states (I am not even kidding) and he was always traveling, so everyone was extra excited whenever Michael was in town and he was a real exciting fella. 

He was the focal point of chess for me, you know, talk to him, play him, and just follow his whole career arc (and at one time he was even a top ten player in the United States by rating) and the best and most fascinating part about his story (according to me) was the fact that he was also self-taught. He managed to achieve all that he did just by playing and studying (on his own) and that was something that really pushed me to improve my game as well. 

When conducting my research for this interview, I read that you used to play ice hockey as well. So tell us a bit bout it, how did that whole episode transpire? 

So as you can see, this is my brother’s home and we have been a traditional hockey-playing family. All around this room there are tons of hockey-related mementos and pictures. So yeah, we are a hockey family first and that’s how I actually learned how to be competitive and so chess was a very natural progression for me. And I also played a ton of ice hockey during my childhood, I was on an all-star team, traveled a lot, and was actually pretty good at it too. 

And one key thing that I realized pretty early on was that even though I did not have any particular prodigious talent, what I did have was the ability to put in serious effort and I know how to compete, and that’s what I bring to chess, and I think that I do those two things better than most people in the chess world.

(Mr. Steiner Showing Us Some of His Ice Hockey Mementos And Photographs)

Part 2 of this interview will follow shortly. Coming up in part 2: we talked about some chess coaching tips and the building of a hybrid coaching academy with Chesslang that enables coaches to scale their businesses with location independence. 

So make sure you follow us on our social media platforms and check our website for updates on part 2 of this interview.

As Chess continues to grow in popularity and many new players begin their chess journey each day thanks to the various online playing platforms, chess coaching has become a viable career option for many chess players. 

Chess coaching is a great way to earn money through chess and at the same time help the next generation of players by sharing your knowledge and experience with them.

We are proud to launch the new white-labeled mobile app for YOUR chess coaching academy. The new mobile app from Chesslang is free to download and enables you to rapidly grow your business with an online presence, a state-of-the-art coaching and management platform, and a fantastic lead generation tool, all combined into one awesome package. 

The new white-labeled Chesslang mobile app for YOUR chess coaching academy is out now on Google Play and Apple App stores.

Get the FREE* mobile app for your chess academy by registering here:     

For more exciting content around chess and coaching, make sure that you follow our social media pages. 

*app store fees not included*

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Q. Why Should I Use Chesslang?
A. Chesslang is the world’s first chess coaching and management platform trusted by thousands of chess coaches worldwide. Chesslang has all the features to start a chess coaching academy and grow it quickly with location independence. 

Q. What are the top features of Chesslang?
A. Chesslang is an all-in-one chess coaching and management platform with a built-in video calling facility, a centralized database, and an interactive chessboard that allows students and coaches to make moves on the board simultaneously, recreating the magic of offline classrooms. 

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A. The integration takes only 5 minutes with simple instructions. When you choose Chesslang, you can build your chess coaching website in lesser time than it takes to complete one blitz chess game! Simply reach out to us and we will integrate a completely white-labeled platform under online.<yourwebsite>.com.

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