The Chess Informant series looks the same on the outside, issue to issue, but the past few years the contents have changed dramatically and there seems to be no end in sight. I don't know what it means but I find it a bit dizzying, and with they would get some stability. For what it's worth, I'll offer my list of what I'd like to see in the Informant, and I invite those of my readers who regularly use the Informant to offer their wish list in the comments as well. The publishers read this blog (at least when we review their products), so perhaps we can exercise a little influence on them.
Games: In the good old days the issues had around 700 games; nowadays, many more games are played but only 200 or so (201 in this issue) get published. It would be nice to have more games, annotated when possible by one of the players rather than the editiorial staff.
Combinations, Endgames and Studies: Yes, please keep them. Maybe a few more combinations and endings would be nice, again as in the old days.
Best Game & Best Novelty of the Preceding Volume: Yes, please keep them too, but please restore the voting results. It was nice to know what other games and especially what novelties were valued in the preceding issue! (If the voting has been discontinued and it's now just a staff decision, that's okay: let us know what other games and novelties were under consideration.)
The foregoing, along with the indexes and tournament results (which I'm happy to keep around for old-time's sake, even though it really isn't necessary any more in the age of TWIC), represent the heart of the classic Informant. The foregoing material is well-annotated using chess symbols alone, but over the past few years a number of innovations have come (and gone) including verbally-based material in English. I'll offer some suggestions about that as well.
First, I note that Kasparov's column is gone from this issue. Apparently Garry's Choice was to discontinue "Garry's Choice". Mihail Marin's "Old Wine in New Bottles" column has survived, and I hope it will continue to do so. After that there are articles that can be divided mostly into three headings:
Event Summaries: For this issue there are reports on the Zurich Chess Challenge, the Anand-Carlsen match and the Turkey-Russia match in the European Team Championship.
Regional/National/Player Profiles: The Turkey-Russia match fits here too; a piece by Yermolinsky on "Hidden Gems" in the U.S. in 2013, a two-part article on Asian chess, a report about a tournament in Iraq, and a profile of the young Serbian GM Aleksandar Indic.
Opening Surveys: There are moderately long articles on the 6.Be3 Ng4 Najdorf and the (Quasi-) Semi-Tarrasch line 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 c5 5.cxd5 cxd4, followed by a very long (26 page) piece on the 2.c3 Sicilian.
My recommendation? Keep the surveys (and maybe have more), keep Marin, and toss the rest. If I want information about chess and chess players in my country (the U.S.) I can read Chess Life; no doubt players in other countries have similar opportunities. As for learning about other players around the world, those that make it into the elite will become well known in due course, but even those who don't are sometimes featured in magazines like New in Chess or on major chess websites like ChessBase, ChessVibes, Chess.com and so on, not to mention Russian and other non-English-language pages.
Another complaint - and I say this as someone who likes the Informant very much and wants it to succeed - is that readers are cheated by many of the games being double-published. The vast majority of games in the columns were played in the last few months, and so they are given both in the columns with English commentary and in the main, languageless section of the book. Of the 201 games there, 37 are duplicates! (The figure might be slightly smaller, as some Anand-Carlsen games were broken up into parts and may have been covered in multiple sections. It's still at least 30 games that have been duplicated, however.)
It was also frustrating that upon receiving the current issue I almost immediately spotted three very different sorts of errors. First, a printing gaffe: pages 305-320 were stuck in upside down and backward. Second, while skimming the articles I read that Alex Yermolinsky's peak rating was 2596. Not so: in the mid-1990s his rating skied to at least 2660. (The mistake is somewhat understandable: they must have checked his FIDE page. The ratings there only go back to January 2000, and then his rating was 2596, a figure he hasn't topped in the intervening years. One would have to check his games in the databases to discover his peak.)
One might say that I'm looking for things to complain about, and that the foregoing has nothing to do with the chess content of the volume. Well, bad news there too: the very first bit of chess I looked at was also mistaken, and sadly it came from one of my favorite Informant authors, Mihail Marin. The topic of his column this month asks the rhetorical question "Are All Rook Endings Still Drawn?" After a look at the famous Capablanca-Tartakower ending from New York 1924 he presents the ending of game 12 of the 1889 Tarrasch-Eckart match.
I thought that this ending, won by Eckart, might make a good exercise for a strong student (over 2100) of mine, so I set up what Marin took to be the key moment and let him think. The student chose a plan very similar to Tarrasch's, which lost, and then we looked at Marin's proposed solution. When I reached the end I explained why it was drawn, but didn't quite understand why it was drawn if Eckart chose a particular continuation. After several minute of not understanding I flipped on the engine and discovered that there was a good reason why I didn't understand: the position wasn't drawn at all. In fact, Marin offers two drawing lines for White and neither of them works. (The analysis can be replayed here.)
So the issue was a bit disappointing, but I optimistically hope that the Informant staff will find a successful blend of their classic mission and a little flavoring from the new. Meanwhile, those interested in the current issue can find sample pages and ordering info here.