Chessable Course Creation Guide

Chessable Course Creation Guide​

Creating the course

  1. Go to https://www.chessable.com/newcourse/ (this can also be found on the main menu – Tools > Create a course).
  2. Think of a good name for your course. Please note that for courses that are to be published, the Chessable team often changes/tweaks the course title to help with marketing. 
  3. Pick the course type. The type of the course determines two things: firstly, if it’s a published/public course, a ‘tactics’ course will show up in the tactics section of our courses, a strategy course in the strategy section, etc. Secondly, the course type determines whether the trainable lines are trained in ‘puzzle mode’ or in ‘learn mode’. A tactics course is set to puzzle mode (which means the users are asked to immediately solve the puzzles without receiving any hints). The other course types are set to ‘learn’ mode (this means that users are shown the correct moves beforehand, and then asked to reproduce them).       Please note that in the control panel opening, strategy and endgame courses can have the tactics functionality enabled, after which each trainable line can be manually set to be treated as a tactics puzzle instead. 
  4. Pick the color the course is meant for. If it’s a course for White or for Black specifically, which is typical for opening courses, then picking White (or Black) will automatically set all the trainable lines to be learned from White’s perspective. If the course contains material for both colors, then set the color to ‘both’. This also means that each line in the course will have to be manually assigned a color.

Configuring control panel settings

Once you’ve created your course, it should show up at the top of your home page (of courses you are studying). Another place to access your courses is in the menu: Courses > Created by you.

The first thing you should do after creating your course is go to the control panel. To get there, go to your course’s home page, then on the right side click the link “Go to control panel”:

You should arrive at the ‘course information’ page of the control panel. On this tab you can change the following things:
– the name, course type, and color that it is meant for;
– the course description;
– the intended rating range;
– the language the course is written in;
– the amount of support the course will receive (how often you will update it in response to comments/suggestions).

There is also an important functional change you can make to your course here: the ‘enable tactics functionality’ option – enable this if the course’s main type is not tactics, but you would still like to have some trainable lines that are treated as tactics puzzles (e.g. an opening course that contains a tactics chapter).


Next, go to the ‘manage chapters’ and ‘new chapter’ pages. A newly created course starts out with one chapter titled ‘Main Level’. Change this chapter’s name to whatever the name of the first chapter in your course will be (‘Introduction’ is a good one), and then create as many chapters (each with their own title) as you intend your course to have.

The other pages of the control panel are not so important for now, but there are a few things worth noting:
– the ‘share’ page allows you to share your course with several other users for free.
– the ‘notify’ page allows you to have another user be notified of any user comments that are left on this course. This is useful if you have a friend who is working with you on this material.
– the ‘ensure quality’ page: here the important options are ‘update word count’ (the word count will show on the course’s front page) and ‘automatically choose key moves’. If you are creating an opening course and you’ve shuffled the material around, chances are that key moves are not set properly. The default option, ‘keep current order & mark key moves by their order on page’, usually smooths things out in that case.
– the ‘soft fail’ page: this option will run an engine check of all the trainable lines. The engine adds all moves that are within 0.3 eval of the best move as ‘alternative moves’ (i.e. they won’t be counted as mistakes).
      Staff always runs a soft fail for courses that are to be published. This feature is also available for private courses, but it will cost you rubies because our engine running capabilities are limited.

Creating a PGN

Our recommendation for creating courses on Chessable is to create a PGN file for each chapter that you want to import, add all the annotations and do all the editing in the PGN files, and import them when they are ready. The main reason for doing all the work in PGNs beforehand is that unless you are creating a small (less than 50 lines) opening course, it will be very time-consuming to manually enter each line on Chessable.

Another reason is that it’s faster to edit your annotations to a line in a program that parses PGNs (like Chessbase or Lichess) than it is on Chessable. As an example, take an opening course in which you have 30 trainable variations after the moves 1. e4 e5, and you want to correct a spelling mistake in your annotation to 1… e5. On Chessable you would have to make the same correction 30 times, while in a PGN that is only one change. 

For this reason, we recommend you run a spellcheck on your files (for example using the website Grammarly) and take care of these details before importing.

We also recommend to create one PGN per chapter that you want your course to have. Chessable’s import function allows you to import to a chapter specifically. It is possible to import the material as one big PGN, but you would have to manually move all the different lines to the designated chapters – this will cost more time.

Another important point is that if your course will contain opening lines and tactical puzzles in the same chapter, or opening lines and model games, they should nevertheless be separated into different PGNs because opening lines, model games and tactical puzzles each have to be imported in their own specific way.

You can also add visual cues (arrows, highlighted squares, and such) to your pgn already, which will be included when you import the file to Chessable. This will usually be faster than adding the visuals on Chessable, as will be explained later in this guide.

Once you feel that your PGN is up to scratch – contains all the lines and annotations you want it to have, and the spelling/grammar/style is good, it’s time to import the file.

Importing the PGN

Go to https://www.chessable.com/import/ (this can also be found on the homepage under tools > Import PGN). Here you can either select your PGN file or, after clicking on the ‘Switch to copy & paste’ button, copy and paste the text of your PGN.

After selecting (or copy/pasting) a PGN, a new menu will appear. Select the course you want to import to, and after that select the chapter you want this PGN specifically to import to.

Next, do not yet click the ‘import’ button but first click on the ‘Show more options’ button. Depending on the type of material you are importing it is necessary to tweak the options.

The most important option is import all sub-variations as their own item. This option is normally enabled. What it does is that it will create a trainable line for each subvariation your PGN file contains. If this option is disabled, only the main line(s) of the PGN will be added as a trainable line, and all the subvariations/sidelines will only be added as annotations to those trainable lines.
In short, when importing trainable lines for opening courses this option should be enabled. It should be disabled when importing annotated games or tactics/strategy puzzles.

You can play around with the other options. 

  • “Format of variations/games title” let’s you change how the title of each imported variation is determined. Titles of variations can be changed manually later, so this is not super important.
  • “Import sorting order” will determine the order of the variations within the chapter. The default is to have the first variation in the pgn imported first, but if you would like the main line (last variation in an opening file) to show up first, you can select “add main line to the top”.
  • “Allow duplicate variations” is useful when you want to import the same lines twice, or when you want to enter a ‘preface’ or ‘introduction’ line that doesn’t contain any moves.


If you get an error when pressing the import button, the issue is likely with your PGN. Consider:

  • Is there enough spacing between different puzzles/games?
  • Are the moves entered correctly? (English notation, O-O instead of 0-0, etc.)
  • Are the annotations entered correctly? Text should always be between { } brackets, and symbols (!. ?, ?!, +=, etc.) should use $ symbols – see here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numeric_Annotation_Glyphs
  • Is each subvariation between its own ( ) brackets?

Adding details (editing chapters)

If you’ve followed all the above steps, a solid foundation has been laid for your course. But the devil is in the details.

Editing a chapter

A very useful page for making changes is the ‘edit view’ of a given chapter. You can get there either via the control panel, by clicking on ‘edit variations’:

Or click on ‘edit variations’ in the sidebar when in ‘view mode’ of a chapter:

You’ll now see each line in the chapter as follows:

Here you have the following options:

  1. You can change the title of each variation.
  2. Here you can move the variation to a different chapter (it will then appear at the bottom of the chapter you select).
  3. If your course is set to both colors, you can pick whether it should be viewed/solved from White or Black’s perspective.
  4. If your course is a non-tactics course but you have the tactics functionality enabled on the control panel, here you can set whether the line is to be considered a tactic or not.
  5. & 9: by clicking this box you can select multiple lines, and then (at 9) click the ‘mass delete’ button to delete multiple lines at once.
  6. This button allows you to delete a line individually.
  7. This button allows you to export an individual line as PGN.
  8. This button allows you to set a line as ‘informational’, ‘alternative’ or ‘reference’. An informational line is not trainable but only viewable, but it will still count towards learning the course. A reference line is only viewable and will not count towards learning. An alternative line allows the user to choose whether they want to learn it or skip it.
  9. The mass delete button is used in conjunction with button 5 to delete multiple lines at once.
  10. Finally, these buttons allow you to sort the order the variations appear in. Id and Id will order the variations by their ID number. Title and Title will order them alphabetically. Finally, the ‘custom sort’ button will allow you to drag variations around individually. Important: make sure to click the ‘save order’ button after you’ve finished moving variations around, as otherwise the new order will not be saved!

Adding details (editing individual lines)

To go to the ‘edit view’ of a specific variation, first go to the ‘edit view’ of a chapter (see the previous step) and click on the ‘edit’ button of any given variation. A second way is to simply go to the ‘view mode’ of the variation you want to edit – in the bottom left corner there is a box with admin options:

Click on ‘edit variation’ and you’ll arrive at the same editing page.

When editing a variation you can change a number of things:

  • Changing the annotations – for any given move, you can edit the text in the ‘comments before X’ and ‘comments after X’ boxes (where ‘X’ is the move you’re editing). See the ‘clickable subs and hyperlinks’ page for more details on how to format text.
  • Entering new moves – You can enter new moves on the chess board at the top – this will create a new variation in the same chapter with these new moves, while the old line (that you created the new variation from) remains as it was.
  • Setting/changing key moves – ‘key moves’ are the moves that are designated to be trained. Say you have an opening course where the first 5 lines start with 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3. Only the first line should have 1. e4 as a key move, while the other lines will have a key move further in the line (say, 3. Bc4 or 3. Bb5).

    It should be noted that key moves function differently between tactics (solve) and non-tactics (learn) lines. For tactics puzzles, you need to pick the first and last move as ‘key moves’. If you only pick one key move, then only that move will be trained! For non-tactics lines you usually only need to pick the first move that should be trained – the rest is then automatically considered trainable. Of course, if you don’t want all the final moves to be trained, then you should add a second key move where you want.

    Another note: The moves that are bolded are the ones that are currently set as key moves.

    Finally, not every line needs key moves – the most common example is a tactical puzzle in which you want all the moves from beginning to end to be trained. If you do not set any key moves, all moves will be considered training material.
  • Adding alternative moves – In any given position you can manually add alternative solutions – go to the position in which you want to add one, click on ‘add alternative move’ and then make the move on the chess board. Alternative moves won’t be considered mistakes when someone makes that move when training a variation.
  • Variation name – on this page too you can change the name of the specific variation you’re editing.
  • Moving the line – you can move the variation to another course you’ve created, or to another chapter in the same course – simply select the course and/or chapter that you want to move this line to.
  • More options – there are a couple more buttons to be played with here.

    Variation/game result: this will change whether at the end of the variation you’ll see 1-0, ½-½, 0-1 or nothing at all. This is mostly relevant for informational lines, and most of the time you wan to keep it at *.

    Opening color: this changes whether the variation is to be solved from White or Black’s perspective – the color can also be set on the ‘edit chapter’ page.

Adding details (visual cues)

Visual cues (arrows and circles) are another important part of good Chessable courses. To add them, first go to the ‘edit view’ of a variation you want to add visual cues to:

Go to the specific move that you want to add arrows and circles to. Adding visual cues is done by right clicking on the chess board. Right-clicking somewhere on the board will add a circle where you have clicked; holding the right mouse button and dragging from one square to another will create an arrow between those squares. Holding the control, alt or shift buttons while right clicking/dragging will change the color of the circles/arrows you are making to red, yellow and green respectively.

If you want to remove/re-do visual cues in a specific position, left click on the board to erase all circles and arrows you’ve made there.

Adding details (clickable subs and hyperlinks)

Two more things that make a good Chessable course are clickable subs and hyperlinks.

Clickable subvariations are moves in comments/annotations to a specific move that can be clicked so that they show up on the chess board.

In the above example, there are three different clickable subvariations to 26. Kh2 – 26. Ra1, 26. Ne4 and 26. Nb5. Each of these can be clicked to show the position on the board. There are also non-clickable moves here, such as …Qc7 in the 2nd line (it could be made clickable if a white 28th move was added – two black moves in a row cannot be made clickable without a white move in between them).

You will have to add the clickable subs manually in the ‘edit variation’ view. As an example, this is what the above Spassky-Fischer comment looks like in the edit view:

To make a variation clickable, the moves should be between ( ) brackets. Then, within the ( ) brackets, you can put text between [ ] brackets. The [ ] brackets are not always necessary, but they do ensure that any mention of squares/moves between them will not be clickable. In the above example, in the 2nd clickable subvariation “…Qc7” and “f4-f5” are not clickable because they have been put between [ ] brackets.

One thing to note is that the ( ) brackets also function as a line break of sorts. This means that if you are adding multiple separate clickable subvariations as a comment, you don’t need to manually add line breaks between these subvariations, but they will be separated from each other automatically.

The above example from Spassky-Fischer shows a few very simple subvariations, but things can become very complicated. You can add subvariations to subvariations, and subvariations to subvariations to subvariations. Here’s an example of what that looks like from the same game:

One final note: if you import a PGN with the option ‘import subvariations as their own item’ disabled, then any subvariations will automatically be imported as comments in the above format – with moves between ( ) brackets and text between [ ] brackets. In that case you don’t have to worry about correcting clickable subs manually!

Hyperlinks: Chessable allows you to add a hyperlink to a different trainable variation (or a different chapter in the same course) if you use the correct formatting. Here’s an example of a hyperlink to a different variation:

Clicking on ‘game no. 106’ will take the user to that variation.

The formatting for a hyperlink is not very complicated. In the above example, it is [Game No.106](variation:5444538). The text between [ ] brackets can be replaced by any other text – it’ll be the word(s) that become clickable. The variation number between ( ) brackets should be the one that you can also find in the URL.

Linking to a chapter uses a similar formatting: [text](chapter:#), where ‘text’ can be replaced by any text that you want to be clickable, and # should be the chapter number. Please note that this should be the chapter number from the URL. For example, when you are viewing a chapter of your course, the URL might be https://www.chessable.com/course/29726/1/ – here the chapter number is 1. It is important to note that the chapter number is not automatically the same as the order of chapters – Chapter 1 might have number 13 or 20 or 6.

You can also find this information on how to do hyperlinks, as well as how to do a few other formatting details, under “formatting help” which is located below the “Comments after …” box.

Course publishing standards

Anyone can submit their course for publishing, but we do hold our public courses to high standards. These include, but are not limited to the following:

  1. Language – the English (or other language you chose) should be of high standard: the style should be good and the course should contain few to no spelling or grammar mistakes.
  2. Originality – Your course should offer something new. We will not publish two courses on the same subject unless the 2nd course offers new things (e.g. two courses on the same opening – the second one could offer new lines, new analysis, new recommendations, or could be more tailored to lower or higher rated players).
  3. Quality – the material you are offering should not contain many significant mistakes – wrong solutions, annotations that don’t make sense, incorrect opening lines, etc.
  4. Clickable subs, hyperlinks – your course should have clickable subvariations enabled and, where relevant, applied. The same goes for hyperlinks between variations and chapters.
  5. Enough explanations – puzzles and trainable lines should not be scarcely annotated. Especially for opening courses it is important to annotate every single line. Chessable does not distinguish between main lines and sidelines – a trainable variation is a trainable variation. A good rule of thumb is to add some explanation at least every 3 moves, and also indicate some ideas/plans at the end of every variation.
  6. (opening courses) Visual cues – these are less important for tactics courses, but a requirement for opening courses. Our users very much appreciate the use of arrows and circles. As with the previous point, visual cues should be added at least every 3 moves or so and also at the end of every variation.
  7. (opening courses) Annotated games – We require all of our opening courses to contain a chapter consisting of annotated games. They don’t have to be deeply annotated, as long as they are not without comments either. They also don’t have to be GM games or follow the exact lines recommended by the opening course, as long as they are instructive and relevant to the course.
  8. (opening courses) Quickstarter chapter – if it’s a large opening course (200+ lines), we will ask you to make a selection of 20-40 of the most important/most played lines of your course and put them in a separate ‘quickstarter’ chapter at the start of the course. This is to help those users who do not have the time or patience to go through the entire course before feeling comfortable enough to start playing the opening.


If you want to go the extra mile, there are a few more things you can do:

  1. Add a historical introduction with notable (annotated) games played in the opening the course is about.
  2. Add a chapter with puzzles of tactics and ideas that are typical to your opening.

Troubleshooting/ Frequently Asked Questions

Clickable subs
Q: Why isn’t my subvariation clickable?
A: It has to be formatted completely correctly:
– the subvariation has to be the same move number as the move it is annotated to;

– the move has to be possible/legal in that position;
– if the variation starts with Black’s move, it has to be formatted as e.g. 1… c5;
– the formatting can’t contain chess symbols (e.g. ♕ or ♔) but has to use standard algebraic notation;
– there always has to be one space between the move number and the move (e.g. 1. e4 instead of 1.e4);
– make sure any castling is typed as O-O and not 0-0.

Q: Why is this move/square clickable when I’ve put it between [ ] brackets?
A: Probably you’ve added some extra ( ) brackets in your text – they will override the [ ] brackets. If so, consider replacing the ( ) brackets with something different, such as hyphens.

Hyperlinks
Q: Why is a much longer string of text hyperlinked than I have formatted?
A: You’ve probably added a hyperlink within a part of a clickable subvariation with square [ ] brackets. Remove the subvariation’s square brackets (or at least make sure that the hyperlink is not inside the subvariation’s square brackets) and see if this solves the problem.

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