The good folks in Serbia have produced another excellent issue of the Chess Informant, and perhaps the best news is that it seems to be a consistent product as well: one pretty much knows what to expect again when buying and receiving the latest issue.
Informant 124, which covers the goings on in the chess world from February through May of this year, is labeled the "Veni Vidi Vici" issue, and while I get the historic allusion to Julius Caesar I have no idea what this hast to do with the book's contents. For that matter, I don't understand what any of these code names are supposed to signify. Informant 123 was the "Hawaiian" edition, 122 was "Mechanics", 121 "Midnight Sun" and on it goes for a few more issues into the past. I don't see an explanation for this anywhere, but as this is pretty much the only complaint I have - and it's more a curiosity than anything else - it's good news for those of you thinking of getting a copy.
As I've reviewed every Informant since 111 on this blog, regular readers already know the basics of this periodical even if they haven't purchased one for themselves. The historic core of this periodical is a big helping of games deeply annotated with languageless symbols but without any text, and that is the case here as well. As is standard nowadays, there are 200 such games (with an index of players but, alas, not annotators; most of the work is done by [very competent] staffers), plus nine combinations, nine endgame puzzles, nine endgame studies (plus the study of the year for 2013, with a short accompanying text), summaries of the tournaments, the presentation of the best game of the previous volume (Caruana-Carlsen from Wijk aan Zee this year) and the best novelty of the preceding volume (Ivanchuk's 15.a4 from his game with Vachier-Lagrave, also from Wijk aan Zee). The latter is followed by an updated ECO style page of the relevant theory.
Now time for the "new" style material, all in English and comprising 185 pages, well more than half the volume. This is what makes distinguishes the contemporary Informant from your parents' version, and makes it a worthwhile buy for serious players.
First, Alexander Morozevich takes a very close look at the Taimanov line recently sported by Dutch superstar Anish Giri. After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 Qc7 6.Be3 a6 7.Qf3!? Giri has been playing the provocative 7...Ne5 8.Qg3 h5!?, with decent results. Morozevich discusses the logic of the move and its pros and cons before launching into a deep exploration of 9.Nf5 and 9.0-0-0. His coverage of this is more thorough than anything I've seen from several other sources, including some specially dedicated to the Taimanov and to giving "special", inside information. This blows them all away.
Second, Pentala Harikrishna's "The New Romantics" looks at some games by the openings mavericks Richard Rapport, Baadur Jobava, Vadim Zvjaginsev and David Navara. The first game, between Rapport and Ahmed Adly, is romanticism on steroids at the beginning: 1.b3 a5 2.e4 a4 3.b4 e6 4.Bb2 d5 5.a3 dxe4 6.Nc3 Nf6 7.g4 c5 8.b5 h6 9.Bg2 Ra5 and so on. Crazy chess!
Next, three different authors, Sarunas Sulskis, Rafael Leitao (both veterans of the "new" Informant) and Michael Roiz (a newcomer) dig into the action from the Grand Prix finale in Khanty-Mansiysk. Sulskis looks at "strategic highlights", Leitao examines the best opening ideas and Roiz looks at sacrifices from the event.
After this, it's Mihail Marin's column, "Old Wine in New Bottles". This goes back to the start of the "new" Informant, and its continuation is deserved. This time he takes a look at some new tries in the old-fashioned, direct approach in the Giuoco Piano with 5.d4. In particular, he examines Nakamura-Giri, where the American met 5...exd4 6.cxd4 Bb4+ with 7.Nbd2 (rather than the boring 7.Bd2 or the fun but probably just bad 7.Nc3), and also has a look at Jobava's pet line starting with 6.e5. But there's much more besides, including some interesting material with 5.d3.
Next, Mauricio Flores Rios (author of a terrific recent book on pawn structures) has a column called "Patterns", but contrary to what the title might suggest the subject of his column is Hikaru Nakamura and the run of great play that has pushed him over 2800. He looks at five of his games plus one ending, the latter supplemented by a similar and similarly instructive ending between Carlsen and Caruana (won by the latter).
Next, Ivan Sokolov looks at some highlights from the Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir with a heavy emphasis on the games of the winner, one Magnus Carlsen.
Emanuel Berg has a look at a pair of Dragon Sicilians, one won by White and the second by Black; both feature the Yugoslav Attack.
Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant takes a look back at the Women's World Championship, won by Mariya Muzychuk.
Dragan Solak takes a happy look back at his victory in the Dubai Open, which he calls his career-best win.
Then it's time for a familiar name, but a new one to the stable of Informant authors. Karsten Mueller, reknowned as an endgame specialist, has indeed scored an endgame column with this publication. His inaugural piece is called "The Two Faces of Opposite Coloured Bishops", and shows the drawish "face" when it is purely the bishops (in addition to the kings and pawns) that remain on the board and the anything but drawish "face" that can arise when there are further pieces on the board and the strong side has some sort of attack or initiative.
Finally, Vassilios Kotronias has part 300 six in his incredibly detailed series on the 2.c3 Sicilian from Black's standpoint; he has practically written a book on this over the past few issues of the Informant. This time around his attention is drawn to the line 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c3 Nf6 4.e5 Nd5 5.d4 cxd4 6.cxd4.
And that's it! As I've said before, it's not a periodical for lower-rated club players, but anyone rated over 2000 with a bit of ambition or a willingness to put in some elbow grease will be well-served by this volume. If you're really ambitious, then maybe 1800 or 1900 is enough to make it worthwhile. (But I feel more comfortable saying 2000 and up.) If you're in the target audience, it's definitely worth your while.
More info from the publisher's website, here.