77 Days of Chess: An Introduction

77 Days of Chess: An Introduction

WCM beccrajoy

Starting today (the 19th of August), I will be undertaking 77 days of intensive (by my standards) chess training. In this post, I hope to give you an idea of what I’m doing and to answer some questions you may have.

Why 77 days of intensive training?

In December, I’ll likely be participating in a tournament that will decide the 2020 South African Olympiad team (and the national champions). For 27 days before the event, I’ll be on Trek (a 365km hike/cycle/canoe, accompanying a group of 15-year olds), and I’ll have no time (or resources) for chess training. I’m hoping that the 77 days (11 weeks) of intensive training before I “leave civilisation” will be sufficient preparation for the event, and that Trek will serve as recovery from the training, instead of just being a lost 27 training days.

View of the mountains on Trek

Where I'll be in the run-up to the tournament (Photocred lau_footman)

Why blog about it?

In order to keep myself accountable and to have a record of my progress, I’m aiming to write a blog post every week. In these posts, I’ll give an update on how the previous week’s training went, and I’ll share anything that I think might be interesting in terms of the material or the training. I hope readers will be able to learn something from the 77 days, help keep me motivated and on track, and perhaps even be inspired to follow through with their own training goals.

How is the training structured?

I started off the year working on a variety of materials, and although I made good progress with a weekly goal for how many hours I would spend on chess, this method stopped working during my June/July vacation, and I still haven’t got back into my “studying rhythm”. I also tended to spend more time on the easier materials.

For the above reasons, I’ve now selected the material that I’d like to cover before I go on Trek, and I’ve broken each material down into achievable weekly goals (e.g. one chapter per week, 5 videos per week, etc). Since I’m a procrastinator, I’ll also set daily goals at the start of each week, so that I don’t try cram a week of training into a weekend. This should ensure that I get through all of the material in time, and that I get a better idea of if I’m on track with each and every training material.

When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time

Photocred: quotefancy / Tyssul Patel

What training materials are being used?

I will be using books, videos, and chess software to study the following topics:

  • Openings: I haven’t studied opening theory since 2010, so I am spending time on opening theory and practice, especially during the first couple of weeks.
  • Endgames: I am trying out Jesus de la Villa’s 100 Endgames You Must Know, since chances are that I don’t already know them.

  • Tactics: Aside from Chess.com puzzles and puzzle rush, I don’t do much tactics training. I’ve decided to try the Woodpecker method on the first 222 problems of the book (classified as easy). I’m not sure how easy the “easy” problems will be, so I will add some of the intermediate problems to my set as needed.

  • Middle game/other: I would like to finish Yusupov’s Build Up Your Chess: The Fundamentals 1 and Chernev’s Logical Chess; I have 10 chapters and 9 games remaining, respectively. I’ll also be looking at Grandmaster games arising from my openings, and covering Nicholas Pert’s video series on Typical mistakes by 1600-1900 players.

I will also cut down on online blitz, and try to get in more OTB and slower online games, in order to get more analysis material.

How likely is it that all the material will be covered in 77 days?

I have tried to make the weekly goals both challenging and achievable, and I think I will be able to complete everything in 77 days. Nevertheless, there are a couple of things that may hinder my progress:

  • Some of the material (like the Woodpecker method) is new, and I can only hazard a guess at how long it will take me. I may therefore have set unrealistically difficult (or easy) targets, and I will adjust them as I go along (but only if absolutely necessary, not just if I’m feeling lazy).
  • My schedule from week-to-week is never the same, and it is even more unpredictable over the next 77 days, as I will be moving, juggling multiple jobs, and doing varying amounts of research work. I haven’t accounted for this in my weekly breakdown of the materials, so I will do my best to stay on (or ahead of) schedule, so that I can recover from a week where I don’t have much time to devote to chess.

I’m also hoping that the inflexible deadline of my Trek departure date will serve as additional motivation not to fall behind on my training. I’ve left what will likely be a week between the end of the 77 days and the start of Trek, so I can potentially extend the 77 days (but preferably not, since I’ll have plenty of other things needing my attention during that week!).

Thank you for reading – I hope the above gives you a better idea of what “77 days of chess” is all about and that, if you are interested, you will follow my journey. Feel free to contact me or comment below if you have any questions, suggestions, comments, or if you would like to commit to your own 77 days of training. I look forward to reporting back early next week!

Photocred Hanny Naibaho on Unsplash