I've been pretty enthused about the Chess Informant series for some time now, so while I'm obviously going to be at least slightly biased in favor of the current edition, my track record of praise for the publication offers some reason to trust me on another positive review. (Note, however, that my earliest reviews weren't very positive; they were more like laments. But the good people at CI have righted the ship, modernizing the publication while keeping the heart of its original mission intact.)
The current issue, covering May through August of this year, has the usual standbys. There are a couple of hundred games deeply annotated with their well-known languageless symbols (an example is my game with Ipatov, shown here a couple of days ago), there's the best game and the best novelty from the previous volume, nine combinations, nine endgames and nine studies to test the reader, plus tournament tables from the major FIDE events from the relevant three-month period. That is the old-style material, all languagelessly presented.
The new Informants all contain a huge percentage of annotated material, consisting of more than half of the book's 352 pages. So here's a rundown of the "readable" material, which is still very dense with analysis.
Alexander Morozevich has a look at the Rubinstein French, and does his best to bury it by means of some exceptionally sharp lines. Anyone who believes that 3...dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bd7 in the French ought to be punished will enjoy this material, and if you play this with Black you had better get to work figuring out what to do about it!
After that there is a lot of material on the Sinquefield Cup. After Aleksandar Colovic offers a brief write-up of the event itself, focusing on its winner, Levon Aronian, there are four deep, chess-related articles on the tournament. Sarunas Sulskis' column looks at three games by Hikaru Nakamura, who tied for second with Magnus Carlsen. He examines his poor loss to Aronian, his gritty draw with Carlsen and his long, grinding victory against Alexander Grischuk.
Michael Roiz focuses on the "wild complications" that arose from some of the ostensibly solid openings chosen in the event. He features the games Topalov-Nakamura, So-Aronian, So-Nakamura and Carlsen-So.
Pentala Harikrishna also focuses on the openings, in particular those taking a more romantic, swashbuckling turn - or at least a turn towards the avant-garde. The spotlight shines on Carlsen-Topalov, and then at last the focus leaves the Sinquefield Cup for a moment to examine three games played in other events.
Mihail Marin's "Old Wine in New Bottles" column also starts with a look at a game from St. Louis before turning to other games, both contemporary (including a second game from St. Louis) and from the past. The theme of his column every month is that chess ideas seen in today's games can be seen in the past, too - the players of yesteryear were not always babes in the woods compared with today's geniuses.
For variety (of a sort), Marcelo Flores Rios turns away from the Sinquefield Cup and turns his attention instead to the Norway Chess tournament in Stavanger, which featured 9 of the 10 players from St. Louis. Carlsen had a poor tournament there, starting with just half a point out of his first four games (you may remember that the trouble started when he lost on time to Veselin Topalov in a winning position), made a bit of a comeback, going +2 over the next four rounds before losing to the bottom seed, his countryman Jon Ludwig Hammer. Flores Rios deeply analyzes all nine(!) of Carlsen's games from that event!
The next column is Ivan Sokolov's, and he presents four "Chinese Dragons" - referring not to the line of the Dragon with ...Rb8 but to four of China's top players: Li Chao, Wei Yi, Ding Liren and Yu Yangyi (in order of his presentation), presenting multiple games by each.
Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant's column is "David Against Goliath", and as you'd expect she investigates a number of significant upsets from the past several months, all showing the player rated at least 230 points lower than his opponent pulling out the win. (I note with a "Rats!" that my game could have been among them, had I played a bit more accurately at a couple of moments. Of course, there were also some moments when the game could have turned into a standard dog-bites-man item.)
Emanuel Berg takes a look at a couple of Makagonov (5.h3) King's Indians, the first won by White, the second by Black.
Endgame guru Karsten Mueller takes a look at rook vs. bishop endings, beginning with pawnless cases and gradually increasing the number of pawns on both sides.
In the previous issue of the Informant the late Walter Browne had a couple of his games published in the main body of the publication, with the languageless symbolic annotations. As a tribute to Browne, they have republished those games with Browne's original, text-based commentary.
Finally, noted theoretician Vassilios Kotronias's monster series on the Alapin Sicilian (i.e. 2.c3, but sometimes it's 3.c3 via a transposition) is up to part 7 and chapter 20, and offers 16 dense pages on the line 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c3 Nf6 4.e5 Nd5 5.d4 cxd4 6.Bc4. The whole series has been written from Black's perspective, but I can't imagine that a serious Alapin player wouldn't benefit greatly from Kotronias' work as well.
So that's the summary, and all that's left is the recommendation: if you're over 2000 you might want it, if you're over 2200 and still a serious tournament competitor it's likely that you'll want it. Others should only consider (on practical grounds) it if they're ambitious (and not too far below 2000) or if they are serious correspondence players. Anyway, to any of you who might be interested in it and fall under the categories just listed, I highly recommend Informant 125.