Friday, May 30, 2008

Chess Magazines And Opening Knowledge

Chess players are thoroughly spoilt these days with a variety of chess magazines.Informator, New In Chess, Chessbase.... lots and lots of chess material and a huge number of them devote their sections to opening novelties.

Truth be told, for a patzer like me, I don't need to know Kramnik's 21st novelty move in the Catalan or Vishy's 37th new move in the Ruy Lopez.

So why do chess openings seem to grasp our attention so much?

The Chinese have an idiom,"A good start means that you're halfway to success."

I apologise for sounding like a fortune cookie but I learnt a valuable lesson on Wednesday night in my loss.

I misplayed my opening. Instead of going with my tried and trusted response to 1.e4, I did something crazy and duly got whalloped. You can say, that after the 6th move, I spent the rest of the 40 odd moves trying to repair the damage, leading to more holes and weak squares appearing all over my position.

In short, the game was effectively over in 6 moves.

Anyway, back to chess magazines. If you're looking to improve your opening knowledge, I'm giving a quick run-through some of the major ones (I apologise for leaving out TWIC - The Week In Chess) - they would be more than sufficient for the average club player.

Chess Informator/Informant. I got my hands on a very very old Informator (borrowed it from someone) and I was scared off my pants by the amount of knowledge that was present in there. This isn't some Uncle Bob's home cooked analysis, you're looking at heavy duty opening theory and annotations (Informator uses the well-known method of using symbols in their annotations so there's no words in their explanations). If you are thinking of making chess a career, this probably belongs to your must-have library. For the amateur (below 2000), I give this a miss.

Chessbase Magazine. I acquired a dated Chessbase Magazine 121 and found it was wonderful. Chessbase magazine tackles the chess theme in a slightly different way. The DVD format is of a huge help - you get Chess done - the multimedia way, you get a nice array of multimedia videos and chessbase files to work through for some of the opening knowledge. However, I was a bit disappointed in that Chessbase sometimes inserts "fillers" (you know how it's like when you go to catch a movie, and the cinema operators try to show filler movies to grab your attention like "Coming soon to a theatre near you" when all you want is to get the actual movie to start?). It's a bit like that. However, what I was disappointed was that some of the videos were in German! Errr... ok. Okay, I know Muller speaks in his native tongue in his Endgame videos but really, Chessbase should cater for a more international audience and trying to stick in a few videos in German with no equivalent videos in English gives you that same feeling of having the rug pulled from under you and gives you the feeling of being left out. One of the problem I realise is that the opening knowledge is not one that is catered for beginners but rather for people who already have a pet opening repertoire and looking to explore other possibilities within their repertoire. So if you're looking to have a bit of fun where you can relax back and work through possible improvements in your opening repertoire and at the same time, catch up on recent chess events/competitions, then this DVD is for you.

New In Chess. I love this magazine. I am fortunate in that my local library occasionally purchases them. It's fairly lightweight and I find them to be fun to read! Think "chess for the masses ie. the non-super Grandmasters" and you'll know what I mean. It contains both serious and fairly lightweight columns, giving you a nice balance between the amateur and the more serious.

And finally, we come to one of my favourite websites on opening theory, They have a variety of subscriptions but I found the best value for this site for an amateur like me is probably the 3-for-2 subscription. For about AU$50 odd bucks a year, you get periodic updates on 3 of your favourite openings for the price of 2. This is more than sufficient for you to use in tournament play for players under a rating of 2000. They also have a forum for you to air your views, and you get to mingle with like-minded players.

Updated note: Lest it be misconstrued, I don't subscribe to any of these magazines on a regular basis. They were more for curiosity, rather than anything. In tournament play at patzer level, getting a few of those Starting Out books based on your favourite repertoire and maybe 2 more serious opening books is definitely more than enough for the typical club player. In the end, your opening repertoire is designed to ensure you don't suffer as I did. Tactics, strategies and endgame training should still be the mainstay of your chess training.


  1. Very helpful post thanks for that. I thought these things were all the same until now. Don't get me wrong I probably won't be buying any anytime soon, but it's always nice to learn something new.

  2. tang: i repeat, i repeat: it is probably better, at 'our level' to carefully look at 2 or 300 high level GM games in our openings before baring too hard into these.

    nevertheless, i understand the fascination. so, for example, tonight i took the recent chessBase article, and without buying the chessBase Magazine, simply made sure i already had most of the games in my respective databases, and added the few that were referenced but NOT in my files.

    another way to do it...

    do we really need all these up to date magazines? or do we instead look more carefully at what we already have?

    i always love your blog. you da man! real chess talk every single time. dk

  3. NIC actually publishes two magazines: "NIC" & "NIC Yearbook".

    "NIC" is a monthly magazine and as you describe--light and fun. It contains fascinating interviews with top players and interesting people, photo-filled accounts of tournaments, etc. For example this month they interviewed Abram Khasin who, after losing both his legs in Stalingrad in WWII, became a GM at the age of 50. They also deeply annotate the most exciting games from each month's tournaments.

    "NIC Yearbook" is a quarterly magazine and completely different. From cover to cover you see nothing but variations and evaluations of games in the hottest opening lines. This is dense analysis by various masters with little or no text. In the back you'll also find some book reviews.

  4. wang: np - glad you got some info out of it. :)

    dk - i know, i know... the mind is not willing but the body is weak. it was more of a curiosity rather than anything major. :)

    likesforests: thanks for the note on the quarterly. i've not seen one so i was unable to know what kind of information was in there. cheers