Coach of the Month: WGM Petra Papp

WGM Petra Papp is a qualified trainer and experienced chess player who offers online lessons for students of all levels. With a FIDE rating of 2336, she is able to offer high-level insights and tactical advice to take her students’ games to the next level, while never forgetting to make chess fun and exciting. Read on for tips on how to improve your chess, fun games and puzzles, and personal stories from this Hungarian chess coach.

Readers looking for private instruction can contact WGM Petra Papp through her profile and can find other qualified coaches at

WGM Petra Papp, pictured here with GM Garry Kasparov, is a three-time winner of the Hungarian Women’s Rapid Championship. Image courtesy of WGM Petra Papp.

At what age were you introduced to chess and who introduced you?

I was four years old when I learned to play in my family, but I didn’t know the exact rules; I just played random moves. I was around 10 when I became more interested in the game and went to a chess club.

What is your first vivid memory of chess?

I remember walking through a big door in my first chess club and wanting to play with other kids. I also felt amazed looking around the class and seeing that everyone was playing chess.

Which coaches have been useful to you in your chess career and what was the most useful knowledge they imparted to you?

I had several coaches, not only individually but within a team. I cannot name them all; I have to stick to the coaches I’ve worked with the longest.

I am grateful to Jozsef Herpai. He helped me from beginner level until about 1800-1900 and was also the first coach of GM Peter Leko. We solved a lot of tactics together. During this time, Valer Miko and FM Laszlo Csuri also gave me instrumental lessons. I am also grateful to GM Krisztian Szabo and IM Laszlo Hazai. They taught me how to work on different openings and gave me a good repertoire. I also had training sessions with GMs Viktor Erdos and Lajos Portisch, which helped me understand chess better.

In the national team, general managers Gabor Papp, Robert Ruck and Tamas Banusz gave excellent lessons on specific openings.

I must also mention my husband, GM Sergey Grigoriants, who for about 10 years gave me smart ideas and taught me more about chess.

[WGM Petra Papp] is an amazing teacher and has helped me become a much stronger chess player. I learned to be more strategic and develop my tactics.

Which game do you consider your “Magnus Opus?”

One of my favorite matches was against GM Nana Dzagnidze. Before this match, I decided not to play for a draw against a much higher rated opponent. Earlier in the same tournament, I played for a draw against GM Vasyl Ivanchuk; after 7 hours I lost because I played the whole game for a draw and made a lot of inaccurate moves.

So I think it’s not a good strategy to play the simplifications and hope to draw, even against a better rated opponent.

As a result, in this game I tried to keep more pieces on the board, as I usually do against weaker opponents, and tried to play principled. I sacrificed a pawn for initiative and resisted simplification despite the pressure. Also, I think it’s a good game to show how to use the pair of bishops.

How would you describe your approach to chess training?

For me, it is essential to be flexible. In the first lessons I try to see what the student is like in terms of chess, then I try to help him improve through this approach. If there is a weakness or a hole in their game, I try to fix it. Assigning homework is also important.

I sincerely believe that a good coach can help a student in the long run, so neither party should be impatient. Hard work always pays off.

WGM Petra Papp, WGM Anna Rudolf and WGM Ticia Gara at the 2012 Olympiad.
WGM Petra Papp (right) has performed at several Olympic events, including the 2012 Olympiad in Istanbul, where she is pictured here with WGM Anna Rudolf and WGM Ticia Gara. Image courtesy of WGM Petra Papp.

What do you see as your responsibility as a coach, and what responsibilities do a student have?

For me, it is essential that the students think during the lessons, so I ask a lot of questions and explain the logic behind the movements. I follow my students’ online games when I have free time, and I always conclude what I should show next time in class.

Of my students, I generally ask that they try to slow down in their games; they must be responsible for their movements and play with a plan. As general manager Mikhail Chigorin said, “Even a bad plan is better than no plan at all.”

I ask students to regularly play chess on the board or online and solve many tactical positions. I believe that until about odds 1900, the biggest mistakes players make are usually miscalculations.

WGM Petra Papp is a fantastic chess coach and is so enthusiastic about the game. Her teaching style is flexible, pleasant, and she is always so positive and pushes me to be the best player I can be. I’ve already gained around 200 rating points working with her for just over a month, and I look forward to getting even stronger in the long run.

What advice do you give your students that more chess players could benefit from?

You should think about every move, not play randomly. As I said earlier, remember Chigorin’s famous quote: “Even a bad plan is better than no plan at all.”

What’s your favorite educational game that our readers may not have seen before?

I like this game between GM Vladimir Kramnik and GM Peter Leko in 2004 at the World Championship in Brissago – a great game winning Marshall with the black pieces.

WGM Petra Papp holding the Hungarian Women's Rapid Championship trophy.
As a multiple-time Hungarian champion, WGM Papp, with a wealth of tournament experience, can prepare her students for highly competitive events. Image courtesy of WGM Petra Papp.

What puzzle you give students tells you the most about their thinking?

Do you prefer to teach online or offline? What do you think is different about online education?

I like to teach online more. I think I can show a lot more material than above the board, where it takes a lot longer to set up the positions.

WGM Petra Papp has greatly improved my knowledge of opening theory.

What do you think is the most valuable training tool provided by the Internet?

I use a lot. I like the Puzzle Rush tool, Vision and the endgames practice in particular.

Finally, what underrated chess book should every chess player read?

from Averbakh Chess Endings: Rook Endings.

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