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    Entries in Informant (9)

    Friday
    Oct182013

    A Quick Review of Informant 117

    Chess Informant 117 (February-May 2013), reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.

    I thought that the changes had stabilized with Informant 116, but the newest issue of this classic publication is significantly different from its recent predecessors. Quite a few of the recent changes have been scrapped, and even some of the most long-lived features of the Informant have been eliminated as well. So let’s have a look.

    Let’s start with the outside of the book. When my copy came in the mail it seemed smaller than usual, and it is. The pages are slightly shorter and less wide (though a close look suggests it might be white space rather than content that was cut out), and there are 64 less of them in the new issue. Unfortunately, the price is the same for both - $40.98 for both issues 116 and 117 - so it isn't clear what is going on there.

    As has been the case for a very long time, the current issue starts by re-presenting the best game and the most important theoretical novelty of the previous publication. What is new and somewhat startling to me is that the voting statistics are gone. This seems to me a change for the worse. It was nice having a list of the 20 vote-getting games in each category, as other fine games and deep novelties deserve to be singled out for the reader’s pleasure and instruction.

    Next comes “Garry’s Choice”, which here as in general sees former World Champion Garry Kasparov focus on a contemporary game in which the opening strikes him as being especially fascinating. This time around, he takes a very close look at the remarkable Saemisch King’s Indian between Peter Svidler and Alexander Grischuk in the London Candidates earlier this year.

    After that GM Mihail Marin’s “Old Wine in New Bottles” column also returns, with the appropriate tag line “Every New Idea Is Actually a Well Forgotten One”. This time around he takes a look at “Spanish Knights” – knights on f3 and g3 (or f3 and e3) that can be used for attacking purposes. He dates the idea back to at least Adolf Anderssen in 1869, who used them on the way to a spectacular win against…I’ll let you research that or get the Informant to find out.

    Next up, a new column: “Stand Up and Fight”, by GM Adrian Mikhalchishin, who looks at the development and decline of various opening plans over the time period from 1974 to 2003.

    Next is “Have No Fear” by GM and 2012 World Junior Champion (and 2013 runner-up) Alexander Ipatov, who was profiled in an earlier issue of the Informant. This is another new column, and the subject matter is a series of rook endings from his games.

    Another new column: “Bossa Nova”, by GM Rafael Leitao, who takes a look at some of the interesting opening ideas – mostly Vladimir Kramnik’s – from the London Candidates’ tournament.

    “Interception” is yet another new column, this one by GM Sarunas Sulskis. In this issue he looks at some highlights from the European Individual Chess Championship from May of this year.

    Also looking at that event is a special edition of “CI Labs”, with GMs Ivan Ivanisevic and Miolos Perunovic presenting an overview of the theoretical developments from that tournament.

    Next is a short column by IM John Bartholomew called “Inspiring Moments”, which takes a quick look at some interesting moments from both the Men’s/Open and Women’s U.S. Championships.

    Continuing to span the globe, the Informant’s next contributor is African champion and GM Bassem Amin contributes a column called “My Way”, in which he recounts his adventures on the way to tying for first place in the Reykjavik Open in February.

    In previous issues there were many theoretical articles in the “CI Labs” section; this time there’s only one longish one (plus the earlier overview piece on the European Championship, mentioned above), by GM Andrey Sumets, on the Closed System against the Gruenfeld: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.e3 0-0 6.Be2.

    Finally, in the “Guest Column”, IM Andrew Martin’s look at a game between Fabiano Caruana and Peter Svidler (from the Tal Memorial, I think) is borrowed from the British Chess Magazine.

    Almost all of the foregoing columns are new. What’s gone from issue 116 is the “Top Three” column (commented games by three 2700+ rated players), “One Country” (commented games by four leading players from the profiled country) and most of the “CI Labs” articles. (Further excisions will be noted below.)

    At last, we come to the traditional heart of the publication: the games. As always, the games – 201 in all – are annotated using their characteristic languageless symbols. (This is both a great space-saver and was a boon back in the days before English had achieved its current status as the lingua franca.) Two brief comments: the number of commented games has shrunk over the years; a little surprisingly as the total number of games has exploded. Second, a large number of the annotations are done by a small group of individuals – probably staff members. I’m ambivalent about this. It isn’t ideal, but it’s understandable. They cut costs in this way, and many of the top players who used to annotate their games for the Informant have already annotated them for New in Chess and/or ChessBase. What difference does it make who annotates the game? Doesn’t the wise use of a computer level the playing field when it comes to post-game analysis? In some ways it might, but what gets lost is what the player was actually thinking during the game, both tactically and in terms of plans.

    After the games (and the player and annotator indexes) there are sections on combinations (nine puzzles), endings (nine), problems (six) and studies (nine), followed by a list of tournament results for the time period covered by this issue. Gone is the “excellent moves” section, which was of fairly recent vintage, and the “Best of Chess Informant” dedicated to a particular top player, which had been around for quite some time.

    By way of evaluation, briefly, starting with the non-theory columns: I'm a fan of Kasparov's, Marin's, and Mikhalchishin's columns, while I think the Bartholomew and BCM columns are dispensable. As with the axed "One Country" column, they seem primarily aimed at flattering the readerships of particular countries, but (a) I don't think that's going to work and (b) that's not what made the Informant great in the first place. Just the opposite: it was the universalizability of its symbolic notation that made it such a great resource for everyone around the world. I find the Informant less interesting, not more, when it recaps U.S. events that I followed live, saw covered in Chess Life, New in Chess and on various websites. What I would have expected from the Informant in the old days was to see the most interesting and important games from that tournament covered deeply - often by the players themselves - but that's not what the "Inspiring Moments" column is about. As for the BCM piece, Martin's analysis of the game he covered looks quite good, but the idea of reproducing a column from the British Chess Magazine seems more like a marketing gimmick than the Informant really staying true to its mission.

    I do like their theoretical columns, and think they are very useful and certainly in keeping with what they have been about for many years. No complaints there.

    My impression, which I hope is mistaken, is that they are struggling financially. That would account for the smaller size and fewer non-staff contributions. It's a good publication and I hope it succeeds, but it seems to me they need to stabilize things and stop jumping around from issue to issue. What they have now is pretty good (though $41 seems a bit pricy for this smaller version), with my own preference being for the elimination of the two columns mentioned above and the restoration of the voting for the best game and best novelty of the previous issue.

    Wednesday
    May222013

    Informants 113-115 On DVD

    As I've already reviewed Informants 113, 114 and 115 when they come out in book form, I won't repeat here what I said though you can find the reviews of each by clicking on the links above. My conclusion about those volumes, and with the Informant in general, now that the publishers have revitalized this venerable series, is positive. They aren't for everyone, but for strong club players - around 1800-1900 and up - the volumes can be both instructive and entertaining.

    If it sounds interesting and you haven't already purchased those volumes, this is an excellent way to do it. The price for buying the three-pack on disc is considerably less than the cost for getting each Informant one volume at a time. The books run about $38 a pop, while this three-pack goes for about $64 from the publisher's site. Add to the savings the convenience of being able to examine the games (and all the other sections too) using ChessBase, Chess Assistant a PGN viewer or even the proprietary Informant format and it's an all-around good deal.

    So if you're interested in the Informant and don't yet have these issues, it's definitely worth considering - especially for U.S. buyers, who can get it here for $57 (plus shipping). Highly recommended (for stronger/more ambitious club players, and up).

    Saturday
    May182013

    Informant 116: A Short Review

    It looks like the recent flurry of changes to the Informant have stopped for now, as the general structure of Informant 116 is essentially the same as that of Informant 115, which in turn followed the model from Informant 114. Following the links (just given) to my reviews of those periodicals may give a fuller picture of what these volumes contain; here I'll just offer some specifics about this particular volume and reiterate my usual conclusion.

    The current issue covers a five month period, from September 2012 through January of this year, and its essential core consists of 203 high-level, deeply annotated games (or game fragments - but partial games are comparatively few) from that time frame. The games are annotated using their rich symbol set, but without language. One of the major changes the past few years is that a large section of every Informant includes a considerable amount of content (in this case, roughly 120 pages) with English-language commentary and annotation. I'll elaborate on that in what follows.

    First, this issue sees the fourth installment of "Garry's Choice", in which he deeply annotates a game of his choosing in the Informant's time frame. Here he chooses an English Attack Najdorf, not only taking a careful look at the main game but also making reference to some of his games in that line and with relevantly similar motifs. As the games to which he makes reference are also included after the main game, with their original (languageless) annotations, it makes for a nice all-around lesson.

    Next up is Mihail Marin's "Old Wine in New Bottles", in which he considers exchange sacrifices to remove outposts. An obvious concept, you might say, and in many cases you'd be right. That it's not always quite as simple as following the textbook recipe is seen in the final game of his article, in which Marin himself failed to defeat a "World Champion" (his term!) - Ponomariov - by forsaking such an opportunity. Twice! His closing words are instructive: "I come to the conclusion that sometimes knowing the classic examples is not enough: you have to remember them at the right moment, even in the most severe time trouble". Very true, but as it's not given to us to know before the start of a chess game what we need to remember (aside from opening preparation), it's worthwhile every now and then to review even those themes we think we've mastered, so that we'll have access to them when it really matters.

    After this come annotated games by Dmitry Jakovenko, Sergei Rublevsky and Ernesto Inarkiev. All three have been over 2700, and all three are currently over or near that lofty mark.

    Fourth is "One Country", which includes a game apiece from four players from the same country - Greece, in this case.

    The fifth section, "CI Labs", has eight theoretical articles, covering the following opening lines: the Sveshnikov Sicilian (the 5...e5 one, not 2.c3), the Fianchetto Variation vs. the Taimanov Sicilian, the line 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.h3 vs. the Najdorf Sicilian, the Scotch Four Knights, the Steinitz Deferred (Ruy Lopez), Morozevich's 11...g5 in the Slav with 6...Nbd7, the Petrosian Variation against the Queen's Indian and the Classical Nimzo-Indian line 4.Qc2 0-0 5.Nf3 c5 6.dxc5 Na6.

    "Rising Stars" showcases Dariusz Swiercz, who has the odd and impressive distinction of having first won the main World Junior Championship in 2011 (open to players under 20 years of age) and then coming back in 2012 to win the Under-18 championship! First he is profiled, and then he annotates two of his games.

    Finally, in what I assume is primarily an advertising arrangement, a column from the British Chess Magazine is also included. This issue's installment sees David Howell annotating Kramnik-Jones from London 2012.

    The other usual sections are included (combinations, excellent moves, endgames, studies, etc.), and the star of this issue's "mini-Informant" is Etienne Bacrot.

    That's what's there, and as usual I'm happy to recommend the volume. Even with the increasingly large sections including English text, it remains a periodical aimed at and most useful for stronger players - at least 1800-1900, in my opinion. If you're a reasonably ambitious player at or above that rating, it may not be an absolute must, but it is a good buy and worth your time - if you're not already swamped by all the other fine chess periodicals out there!

    Wednesday
    Dec192012

    The Joy of Books: Revisiting Informant 26: Miles vs. the Queen's Indian

    A while ago I offered a post in praise of an old issue of the Informant (issue 26, from 1978), but really it was in praise of the actual physical volume as compared to a computer database. (Not that I have anything against databases!) This time I'd like to return to that issue and note another gem excavated therein.

    Many of you have been around chess long enough to know who Tony Miles (1955-2001) was, and some of you are probably familiar with at least one of the two games that saw him butcher Boris Spassky with his pet line (4.Bf4) against the Queen's Indian Defense. I don't know if it ever caught on among other strong players, but by the time I started playing tournament chess in the 1980s it had pretty well disappeared in favor of the standard 4.g3 and the suddenly hot 4.a3 (thanks to Garry Kasparov's very successful advocacy).

    Until I started leafing through Informant 26 the 4.Bf4 line was just a historical curiosity, forgotten the moment after finishing my look at the aforementioned Miles-Spassky games. But here, there are nine consecutive Miles games in this variation, and his score against mostly elite opposition was a stunning 7-2 (+6 -1 =2). Not bad for an insipid line that hardly anyone plays, and that I can't remember seeing in a super-tournament my whole adult life.

    This may therefore be a worthwhile surprise weapon you can try against QID-wielding opposition, and to help get you started here are all nine of Miles' games from Informant 26. Some brief comments are included, occasionally based on those from the book. Have a look!

    Thursday
    Dec062012

    A Quick Review of Informant 115

    After a series of issues with one innovation after another - almost all of them truly excellent - it seems that the Informant team has settled on a recipe they like, at least for now. Here's what you get:

    • The best game from the previous volume.
    • The most important novelty from the previous volume.
    • "Garry's Choice" - an essay taking a deep look at the game Muzychuk-Sutovsky from Amsterdam 2012, with supplementary games.
    • "Old Wine in New Bottles" - an essay by Mihail Marin entitled "The Versatility Of The Knight". He annotates six games and one game fragment illustrating the eponymous theme.
    • "Top Three" - one annotated game apiece from Sergei Movsesian, Andre Volokitin and Zahar Efimenko.
    • "One Country" - annotated games (one apiece) by five players of the same country - Serbia in this case.
    • CI Labs - eight surveys of various opening lines.
    • "Rising Stars" - this time it's World Junior Champ Alexander Ipatov.
    • Guest Column - again, IM Andrew Martin from the British Chess Magazine. (This, as with everything above from Garry's Choice, includes verbal annotations and not just the traditional symbol-only style of the older issues.)
    • In Memoriam - An essay remembering Svetozar Gligoric, followed by four languagelessly annotated games.
    • 201 deeply annotated games from the middle third of 2012
    • 18 middlegame positions to solve
    • 9 endgames to solve
    • An essay on problems that's accessible to (and indeed, geared to) "normal" players
    • 9 endgame studies
    • A summary of the events played during the middle third of the year
    • A "mini-Informant" (my term) on Nikita Vitiugov (six of his games, four of his best novelties, nine "excellent moves"/combinations and nine endings)
    It's a lot of excellent material, geared towards more serious players. There's material for training, research and pleasure too, so it's easy to endorse this product. Highly recommended, primarily to strong club players (say, 1800-1900) and up.

    Ordering info here and (for those in the U.S.) here.

    Wednesday
    Dec052012

    The Joy of Books: Browsing Informant 26

    The series of Informants is up to issue 115 now (I'll review that on this site soon, possiby tomorrow), but it's possible to derive pleasure and value from the older issues too. You might be inclined to agree, but think that the value comes from the games, which are available in various databases - including specific databases of past Informants.

    There's certainly value in database diving, and I'd be among the last to deny that. But when one searches databases it's with a pre-existing sense of what to look for; when one leafs through a book, on the other hand, it's a voyage of discovery and surprise. Both are valuable, and neither can replace the other.

    As it turns out, I have all (or very nearly all) the past Informants on disk, but a friend recently donated a stack of older issues he had picked up some time ago on a book-buying spree. The first one I looked at was Informant 26, which covered games from the second half of 1978. Flipping through the volume was first of all a nostalgic experience, seeing games from many of the top players when I was taking my first tiny steps in serious chess. That was the year of the acrimonious Karpov-Korchnoi match in Baguio City, and players like Portisch, Spassky, Polugaevsky, Timman, Larsen, Mecking, Tal and Petrosian filled out the super-elite of the day; while Kasparov was just beginning to burst onto the scene. Some of the greats of the time have retired or died, and it's worth remembering them; others are still in the arena, and their continued participation in the world of chess is worth celebrating.

    Another pleasure was to look back at some of the American players, most of whom, like James Tarjan, have given up the game. And then there was the fun surprise of seeing some of Ken Regan's games. Ken, as long-time readers of this blog know well, is not just a (mostly inactive) IM but a computer science professor too and the originator of Intrinsic Performance Ratings. One game in particular really caught my eye, against Hungarian GM Laszlo Barcsay (you can replay it here). And I may never have come across it were it not for the actual book being in my hands!

    Wednesday
    May092012

    A Quick Review of Informant 113

    When I first started reviewing issues of the Informant a few years ago, this once great publication was a dying dinosaur. For those unfamiliar with the informant concept, it is most fundamentally a periodical, presenting hundreds of annotated games from a recent time period. Generally the period in question was many months ago by the time of publication, and while that was fine in 1966 when it first came out on through its heyday in the 1980s, it wasn't much good when people would watch the game live, see quick notes that night or the next day and detailed annotations in New in Chess Magazine or ChessBase Magazine a month or two later. What the Informant still had over those competitors was quantity: it would have hundreds and hundreds of games, often annotated by all the best players in the world. But by the mid-to-late 2000s, that was over too. Almost no really strong players bothered with the Informant, so elite games would be handled by staffers, offering nothing that wasn't available through other, speedier e-publications.

     

    Happily, the Informant team started making changes - small, incremental ones at first, and now bigger ones - and the publication has returned to relevance. Among the small changes were the inclusion of sections on "Excellent Moves" (like combinations, but without starting with a sacrifice), endgame studies and problems.

     

    They've also developed some special materials on openings. The format varied for a while, and in its current incarnation there are ten theoretical articles - all by grandmasters. Further, there is prose not only in the introduction to each article, but in the analysis itself - another innovation. This issue has articles on the English by Delchev (the Keres Variation) and Halkias (the Hedgehog), an article by Markus on the Benko Gambit, one by Perunovic on the Kan Sicilian, Pap on a gambit line in the Advance French, Erdos on the Rio de Janiero Variation of the Berlin, Sundararajan on the Berlin endgame, Cheparinov(!) on the Exchange Variation of the Queen's Gambit, Sanikidze on the Vienna variation of the Queen's Gambit and Ivanisevic on the Classical King's Indian.

     

    The Rising Stars mini-section continues from the previous Informant; this time featuring 19-year-old Greek IM and national champion Antonis Pavlidis, who annotates a couple of his own games.

     

    Also in this issue - as in all the issues for a long time - are a recap of the Best Game and Best Novelty from the previous issue, a collection of annotated games from the relevant period (the last quarter of 2011), sections on combinations and endgames, a summary of results from all the significant FIDE-rated events from the relevant period, and a mini-Informant decided to a leading player (Morozevich this time around).

     

    Now let's turn to what's new.

     

    The featured attraction, which even gets mentioned on the cover, is "Garry's Choice". By Garry Kasparov, the column is subtitled "The 13th World Champion Dissects Top Games of Modern Chess". Ironically, the game presented in the inaugural column features a comparatively low-rated GM taking on an IM. The reason for the game's inclusion is aesthetic: Black had (but alas, missed) the chance for chess immortality when he missed a tactical blow that to Kasparov's recollection would have been unique in chess history.

     

    After that comes another fine new section: "Top Five: Notable Achievements by Top Players". Five very strong players (four of whom are [well] over 2700, while the fifth is just under) deeply analyze their games - again, to continue the Informant's new trend, in English, not just symbols. The five this time around around Alexander Morozevich, Alexander Moiseenko, Evgeny Tomashevsky, Nikita Vitiugov and Ernesto Inarkiev.

     

    All in all, it's an attractive issue, and I can happily recommend the Informant to strong club players and up.

     

    You can find ordering info on the Informant site or, in the U.S., in the Chess Cafe shop.

    Sunday
    Mar182012

    A Quick Review of Informant 112

    From its inception in 1966 and for a long time afterwards the Informant was the de facto standard reference for chess players. At one time it ruled the roost by itself, but now many other publications have come to be competitors. For a time it looked as if the Informant had outlived its usefulness, but in recent years it has been revitalized by series of new features: "mini-Informants" (my term) dedicated to particular players, opening articles, new sections on tactics, endgame studies and problems and in the latest issue there's a new feature on promising young players.

    As always, the hearts of the Informant is its collection of deeply annotated games - 315 in this issue. The games are annotated by symbols alone – there is no text commentary – but the symbol set is rich enough to be instructive to the experienced club-level players and up. The games offer a window on contemporary professional play, and also help readers with their theoretical prep. (A help, but because of the serious lag by contemporary standards, it's insufficiently up-to-date for volatile variations. Informant 112 covers the middle third of 2011 - it's 6 months behind at the moment.)  Additionally, there are special sections on openings, combinations and endgames that add to the book's value.

    This time around the Mini-Informant is dedicated to Victor Bologan. This might seem a surprising choice, as Bologan has never quite been a member of the super-elite, but nevertheless he's been near an elite GM for a long time and strong enough to win the Dortmund super-tournament back in 2003. Further, his lively style and fighting spirit have made him a fan favorite for those who know his chess.

    The "Chess Informant Labs" section is one of the more recent developments, a series of theoretical articles that are a kind of cross between the surveys in the New In Chess Yearbook and the ECO. Each has one or more paragraphs of introductory English text leading up to the meat - which is again limited to moves and symbols. In this issue there are seven theoretical articles: Dragan Solak on a sharp line of the Classical Caro-Kann; Milos Perunovic on an anti-Taimanov Sicilian plan with castling queenside followed by 9.f4; Dejan Pikula on a subvariation of the Moscow Sicilian (3.Bb5+); Bojan Vuckovic on the Pirc/Philidor hybrid; Ivan Ivanisevic on the von Henning-Schara Gambit in the Tarrasch QGD; Kidambi Sundararajan on the Botvinnik Semi-Slav and finally Aleksander Delchev on the Blumenfeld Gambit.

    As mentioned earlier, there is a new section in this issue of the Informant. Called "Rising Stars", it features 19-year-old Canadian International Master Eric Hansen. There's a page-long profile followed by a couple of his games with (for the first time in Informant history?) textual annotations! Hansen analyzes a crazy game he lost to Vugar Gashimov from the 2011 World Cup followed by a victory from the 2011 Canadian Championship.

    All in all Informant 112 offers good value for the money and is a reasonable purchase for serious chess players, say, those rated over 1800.

    The Informant website is here, while U.S. ordering info is here (and click here for a look at Delchev's theoretical article on the Blumenfeld).

    Wednesday
    Oct122011

    Informant 111: Further Improvement

    I've reviewed quite a few issues of the Informant for this site, so many of you will know the general story already, even if you've never seen a copy before. The Informant is published three times a year, and the meat of each issue comprises several hundred games and game fragments played during the relevant four month period. (There are 301 such games and fragments in issue 111, which covers January-April of 2011.) All the games are annotated using the symbol sets they pioneered back in the 1960s; there are no natural language comments.

    There are also sections on combinations and endings, an appendix of sorts listing the results from FIDE events from the covered trimester, and a "mini-Informant" on some prominent player (Alexander Grischuk in this issue), giving some of his best games, novelties, combinations and endgames. The voting for the best game and best novelty of the previous issue is shown, along with the winning games.

    The foregoing has been standard for a long time now, and there have been some recent additions. To the combination and endgames section they've added ones for "excellent moves" (like combinations, but without an initial sacrifice), recent studies (composed positions that are gamelike), and problems (composed positions that usually bear no resemblance to normal chess.

    A more significant recent addition is the "Chess Informant Labs" section, a series of articles on opening theory. Each (with one exception) is introduced by a bit of English prose (generally about a paragraph) followed by several pages of theory presented in the usual symbols-only format. In this issue, the theoretical articles are:

    • Milos Perunovic on 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.h4 h5 5.c4 e6 6.Nc3 Ne7 7.Nge2
    • Robert Markus on 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e5 4.Nf3 Nbd7 5.g4 (with a short paragraph on 5.h3)
    • Ivan Ivanisevic on 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nge7 and 3...a6 4.Ba4 Nge7
    • Wesley So on 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.g3 d5 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.Bg2 Nb6 7.Nc3 Nc6 8.e3 0-0 9.0-0
    • Bojan Vuckovic on 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 d5
    • Dragan Solak on 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.Nf3 0-0 5.g3 d6 6.Bg2 Nbd7 7.0-0 e5 8.e4 c6 9.Be3

    So's article is the only one without any preliminary prose, but in every other respect it's the cream of the crop: a very deep presentation of one of the hottest theoretical lines in chess, by a player rapidly entering the world's elite.

    Finally, there are two brand new sections in Informant 111, both consisting almost entirely of (English-language) prose. The first is called "Chess History" and the second "Women and Chess". The first, by Harald Fietz, looks back at San Sebastian 1911 on the occasion of its centennial. San Sebastian was Jose Raul Capablanca's debut in major tournament chess and a clear announcement to the chess community that he was already high up in the world's elite. Fietz not only recaps opinions before the tournament and how Capablanca did during it; he also adds a substantial section on how the tournament was used by Capablanca as a PR tool aftewards, along with a survey of some other reactions to the great Cuban's success.

    Similarly based on a round number, Anna Burtasova's "Women and Chess" article profiles former womens' world champion Maia Chiburdanidze on the occasion of her 50th birthday. The piece primarily records her notable successes and battles for the world's crown, but has some more personal touches as well.

    One complaint I've had about the Informant in recent years, especially in comparison to its salad days in the 1980s and 1990s, is that many games were annotated by staffers (some of whom do a very good job, but still) and very few by the players themselves - especially elite players. This has been changing. For instance, just sticking to players I notice there who are or have been rated over 2700, Anand annotates four of his games, F. Berkes 3, Bologan 3, Kasimdzhanov 3, J. Polgar 2, Sasikiran 1, So (bound to hit 2700 soon) 4, Ivan Sokolov 3, Tiviakov 2 and Volokitin 1. Other noteworthy annotators include Christiansen (1), openings maverick Gajewski (4), Marin (5 - and his frequent analysis partner Stoica has 8), Roiz (9) and Sargissian (2). U.S. fans will note that American juniors Naroditsky and Shankland have also each contributed annotations to three games apiece.

    So kudos to the Informant team for improving their product, which I can recommend to players 1900-2000 and up and to serious correspondence players. For ordering info, check out the Informant site, or in the U.S. this is the easiest place to order from.