Monday, March 21, 2011

New in Chess Just Got Better

I usually do not read a review until after I have seen the movie on which the review was based; the same applies to a book, or in this case, a magazine. Since the new issue of New in Chess, the first of 2011, was tardy in arriving, so much so that I sent an inquiry to the good folks at NIC, I decided to read what Tim Harding had to say about the issue to come on the Chess Cafe website, ( The title of his piece is: New In Chess Just Got Newer.
Mr Harding begins with a history of NIC which, although I have been around since what he calls the "slim free number, issue zero...", I found interesting. He then gives a rundown on everything included in the magazine until we get to: "... Jeroen Bosch examines the North Sea Defence (1 e4 g6 2 d4 Nf6 3 e5 Nh5) which, as I showed in a recent article, cost Magnus Carlsen a point against Michael Adams at the last Olympiad. According to Bosch, Black had a good position until he became over-ambitious at moves seventeen and eighteen. My reservation is that Bosch does not mention any of the high-level correspondence games that have been played in this defence." I am old enough to know that Mr Harding is an old correspondence player from way back. It is obvious that he looks at the game from that perspective, so I will not hold it against him. Computers have dealt a death blow to correspondence chess; Mr Harding, and others, have yet to realize that fact, probably because they are still in a state of shock.
He gives two games from the magazine and then gives us this paragraph:
"I am not completely enamoured of everything New In Chess does. It virtually ignores correspondence chess, which still has many adherents, and rarely has historical articles. The "Just Checking" mini-interviews to which two pages in each issue is devoted, is, to my mind, just trivia, obviously a questionnaire which the grandmaster subjects can fill in during five idle minutes waiting to board in some airport lounge. Maybe this is just a generational thing? However, the new layout means that it is an even greater waste of space than before, space filled with fairly meaningless graphics."

Huh? "...rarely has historical articles." Has this man been reading the same magazine I have been reading for decades? What does it say about the man when he says "Just Checking" ", to my mind, just trivia." Are you kidding me? 'Just Checking' is the first thing I read! I became a fan of Peter Svidler upon reading that Bob Dylan is one of his musical favorites! When a GM answers one of these questions, he divulges something about himself. We know him a liitle better because of his answer. I turned to 'Just Checking' upon opening the New Improved Chess to find the subject was former World Champion Garry Kasparov. I was astounded to learn that we agree on two of the three movies he chose. I would trade Cool Hand Luke, my all-time favorite, for his Godfather. His choice for the best or most interesting book ever read is quite interesting. I was at the apartment of Dubious Dave Kraft one time when I saw a copy of The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov, and asked if I could borrow it. The Dube told me I could take it as it had been left by someone sometime ago. I read the book and have impressed many Russians with the fact that I not only knew of the book, but also read it! You would have to read it to understand why it is so esteemed by the Russian people. I learned that two of the three books he mentions as having a profound influence on him are by David Bronstein! The third is Bobby's 60 Memorable games.

Then he gives us this paragraph:

"Its policy on book reviews is idiosyncratic to say the least. Most books are ignored and no publisher can count on a mention of a new book however worthy. Instead New In Chess has lengthy book articles by semi-retired grandmasters (nowadays Jonathan Rowson) who tend to write at length on whatever they fancy. The most recent article is a good example. Rowson writes three pages on a book, Counterplay: An Anthropologist at the Chessboard by Robert Desjarlais, that was not yet in print at the time. It is extremely doubtful that this advance publicity was of as much help to the author or publisher in selling the book, interesting though it sounds, as a review of the book would have been in a future issue. For the potential reader it is very frustrating to be advised to wait for a book when they would rather be given advice on picking between books that are actually newly available."

What?! GM Rowson is GREAT! When he has an article it is the second thing to which I turn! The most amazing thing is that reviewers like GM's Rowson, and Sadler are allowed to "write at length on whatever they fancy." Could it be that Mr Harding would prefer the usual, standard, bland book review, the kind he has written for far too long? Then he criticizes the fact that the book the Grandmaster has chosen to review is "...not yet in print at the time." I thought that was the point of having a book reviewed. By the time NIC arrived, the book was available and, after reading GM Rowson's review, I ordered it immediately!

Then Mr Harding says:

"However, subscribers got a big surprise recently when the first issue of 2011 dropped through the letterbox. The number of pages was about the same, but the page format was changed to a larger size, and not to the familiar European A4 format either. Also the paper quality was improved, enabling better colour printing."

We are then given six, count'em, SIX, incredibly boring paragraphs about the minutia of the printing industry. This is an example:

"To avoid having extremely boring layouts, I sometimes typeset page spreads with asymmetric columns (and a light grey tint behind the narrower outer columns) but only certain types of features were suited to this treatment. Most A5 layouts are boring." It is a shame Mr Harding did not 'avoid' so many 'boring' paragraphs. He even resorts to the bane of all old people, "Why, back in my day," when he writes, "When I ran my own magazine, Chess Mail, I would have preferred the New In Chess format but many printers (especially in Britain and Ireland) are not geared to it, and by mailing in the corresponding (C5) envelope size, mailing costs are also kept to a minimum." Who cares? I'm of his generation, having been born in 1950, and I could care less about when he ran his own magazine, so I know the younger generation do not give a crap!

Mr Harding, in an earlier paragraph, intimated his main problem with the new format by writing, "For somebody commuting to work on buses, as I was in the magazine's first decade, the arrival of each new issue meant two or three days at least when there was no question about what reading matter to throw in the briefcase, along with a pocket chess set naturally." Then he gets to the crux of the matter near the end by writing,

"My main concern, however, is, how will I fit this on my bookshelves? Will I bother to keep every issue indefinitely, as I have done in the past? Is there not a tendency that in the future an issue will be read and then disposed of because there is nowhere convenient to keep it, except maybe in ugly piles?"

Ugly piles? Has he not seen the nice boxes, or binders, sold for magazines of all sizes? I compared the new improved NiC with a recent copy of MHQ, the Quarterly Journal for Military History ( and found it to be about the same size. I have never heard anyone ever mention a problem with the size of any magazine. Could it be what's really bothering Mr Harding is the fact that he will have to accept CHANGE? If the magazine had begun with the dimensions it now has and changed to the smaller format, Mr Harding would, most probably, be leading the charge for atavism!

Mr Harding at one point asks the question, "Maybe this is just a generational thing?" Maybe it is in that it is a natural thing for one to resist change as one grows old(er). This is something that MUST be resisted! The only constant in life is CHANGE! It would seem that it would be much easier for an old codger to change when the change is for the better! I mean, more of the very best chess magazine ever published on this planet-what's not to like?!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You should do a 'Just Checking' on yourself.