For large chunks of its history, Chess Life and Review was provincial, very slow to report on international events, and aimed at a very low readership in terms of skill. There was no internet though, and it had something pretty close to a monopoly in the United States, so strong club players (and up) were stuck. We could get the Informant twice a year (pretty late), and some lucky few of us could occasionally get photocopies of tournament bulletins Walter Browne would bring from overseas.
It was this vacuum that Yasser Seirawan's Inside Chess filled in a wonderful way from 1988 to 2000. For most of its run, the magazine came out every two weeks, and it included tournament reports from all over the world, with a special focus on super-tournaments. Sometimes Seirawan himself was a participant in those tournaments, but whether he was or not the reports were timely, colorful, and full of games commented on by the man himself. As an elite grandmaster, he certainly knew what he was talking about, and what was even better was his commentary style.
Seirawan could sling variations with the best of them, but his commentaries were primarily verbal. They were lively, insightful, and highly opinionated. Seirawan was no respecter of persons when it came to annotating a move, and if a move offended his aesthetic sensibilities he could award it a "??", even if it was played (and praised!) by Garry Kasparov. One may dispute Seirawan's judgments, but because of his forthrightness the reader is engaged and will both learn and be entertained.
The magazine wasn't just Seirawan, though it was his baby. Many other players on both sides of the Atlantic helped out over the years, most of all American (by way of Bulgaria) IM Nikolay Minev, who wrote numerous articles from opening theory to chess history to various subtle tactical themes. (Others include GMs John Nunn, Nigel Short and Walter Browne; IMs Jeremy Silman, John Donaldson and Zoran Ilic, and there were many many more.) Nor was the magazine only games and analysis: there were tournament reports (with pictures and crosstables), interviews, discussions of chess politics, news briefs (often fascinating, as we see players who are famous today making their first tiny splashes on the world scene), and ads. (You might think of it as a sort of non-glossy, biweekly version New In Chess.)
That there were advertisements shouldn't be surprising - bills must be paid. But one might not expect them to have survived into the current product. As an American who remembers many of the tournaments, companies and products advertised from the time, they have a small nostalgic value to me, but in all honesty a format that eliminated them wouldn't have bothered me a bit. The format, however, gives us no choice: what we have are PDFs of scanned hard copies of the magazine's issues.
There are three disks in the set: one for 1988-1990, a second for 1991-1995, and a third for 1996-2000. Each issue has its own PDF file, and while the issues are searchable the games can't be successfully copied-and-pasted into ChessBase. Two handy features are a pair of PDFs: one with an index for the whole series, the other concatenating all 284 issues' tables of contents. Not ideal, perhaps, but a decent compromise to having one gigantic PDF that would take a long time to load and search.
Maybe the product could have been better, but even so I'm very glad to own a copy, and I can heartily recommend it to chess fans everywhere and of all strengths (especially but not only to those rated over 1700-1800), and to fans of chess of history.
(Ordering information here; and many samples of Inside Chess articles can be found on the Chess Cafe website - type "Inside Chess" [without the quotation marks] in the site's search box to find lots of sample articles.)