American Chess Magazine stays the course

by Albert Silver
4/13/2017 – The second edition of the American Chess Magazine is out, and for those wondering whether this new foray into the challenging print chess magazine market could continue the promise of its first edition, the answer is a resounding yes. The main focus this time is of course the World Championship, but you will also find many fascinating articles, such as the tournament report on Nakamura's win in Gibraltar by... Hou Yifan!

Asking whether the second issue would live up to the promise of the first is not unreasonable. The first issue was excellent, with numerous contributors that astonished, such as Jobava Baadur and Vassily Ivanchuk, who were attributed full columns no less. You then worry if, like the pilot for a new TV series, whether the rest will be as good as that first showcase piece.

The new issue has a few things going for it that certainly made it easier on the editors to find ideas and material: it comes right after the World Championship, and includes the huge wins by Wesley So at the London Classic, winning not only the event, but as a result of it, the 2016 Grand Chess Tour, and finally the Tata Steel tournament in Wijk aan Zee, won ahead of Magnus Carlsen himself. In fact, it says a lot about who the editors felt made the biggest waves during that period, that Wesley So’s photo graces the cover and not an image of the World Championship match.

This isn’t to suggest that the World Championship takes a backseat to this all, surely not. In it you will find multiple articles on the topic, from detailed analyses by Ernesto Inarkiev, the reigning European Champion, to a multi-page anecdotal look at the past world championships written by Mihail Marin.

The victory of Wesley So at Tata Steel above Magnus Carlsen was the biggest news in more ways than one. It wasn’t merely that a player had won an event above him, since that has obviously happened before, but also the when and who of it. Wesley So has been on an incredibly run, not just in undefeated classical games (67 games as of this writing), but in sheer tournament wins. He has won pretty much everything since last August when he won the Sinquefield Cup. This issue brings no fewer than three articles, such as a piece by top Latin American GM Leinier Dominguez, to one by Ivan Sokolov, and then another on the opening novelties from the event by Jaan Ehlvest.

In fact, there is a fourth article if you include the one signed by US Junior GM Jeffery Xiong, who came third in the Challengers.

Speaking of novelties, there is an excellent article by Brazilian GM Rafael Leitão on novelties in the Slav Exchange. Admittedly, the very name might have most readers rolling their eyes in disinterest, but the author defends this choice very well: "Often important games for the development of opening theory are not the prettiest ones on the tournament circuit, nor are they always even noticed by the audience. Here I am not talking about spectacular opening novelties, but improvements in the games that featured fashionable lines which will certainly be played again in the near future. This is theory on the factory production line! The Exchange Slav is usually associated with boring play, more often than not when the first player is aiming for a draw. Of course Mamedyarov, one of the most creative and aggressive players around, has his own view on the matter." Naturally, it didn't hurt that he chose a game by the ultra aggressive and creative Mamedyarov.

Vassily "Chucky" Ivanchuk is still there, this time with an article on winning with black

It isn't all about star-studded chess, and to show that the title 'American' Chess Magazine is not just a commercial ploy, you will find innumeorus articles by American players, as well as on local events. Nothing could make this any clearer than the one above titled, "There is chess in Colorado!" Author NM Brian Wall shares some of the inititiatives made to keep chess going and interesting there:

Clones Wars: Tournament participants can decide each round if they want to play one, two or three boards, in effect, giving a simul each round. At 4 rounds I end up playing 12 games of Chess.

Zombie Apocalypse: Anyone who has not played for 5 years gets free USCF, state dues and entry fee. They just play and try to win a prize. We brought 15 sheep back into the fold this way.

Great ideas for what it's worth!

An unexpected (and welcome) choice was also top female player, Hou Yifan, who provides a full report on the Gibraltar Masters won by Hikaru Nakamura, commenting his win over French GM Maxime Lagarde.

Jon Edwards also continues his column on Chess Tech, looking at the many technical offerings during the World Championship. In the page above, he focuses on what ChessBase had, such as the top-notch commentary in the reports, but also the video summaries that appeared every day. Naturally, he covers all others, including the official World Chess site, the lawsuit debacles, and of course what other major sites offered such as ICC and Chess24. Still, (spoiler alert), the technological star, he feels, was not one of the websites, but Twitter, where everyone threw out their voice, from Joe Shmo to the world's best. Can't argue with that.

All in all, the sheer quality of content should attract chess aficionados all over. Coming out at four issues a year, each is 150 pages and costs $29.95 or $99 for a year’s subscription. For more information see the official site at www.acmchess.com.


Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 4/14/2017 06:45
"Hou Yifan, who provides a full report on the Gibraltar Masters won by Hikaru Nakamura, commenting his win over French GM Maxime Lagarde."

Could it rather be Maxime Vachier-Lagrave?
calvinamari calvinamari 4/14/2017 02:10
No question that this is well done, and I certainly don't mind that the best parts have nothing to do with "American" chess, per se. (Kudos to the folks at Informant for putting a better marketing package around their content.). What I found off putting, however, was the wasted pages of contentless fanzine drivel regarding Wesley So.
prail prail 4/14/2017 03:44
Print is dead. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3v_ogRaTf4
Bertman Bertman 4/14/2017 04:43
@Raymond - No, I meant Maxime Lagarde.
rkjulian rkjulian 4/14/2017 08:39
Print is not dead in chess. There are few things more enjoyable than sitting with a real chess board going over games from a great chess book or magazine (ACM and NIC are fabulous).
benedictralph benedictralph 4/15/2017 04:33
Print is on the way out, though it had a good run. If the material doesn't fit on a smartphone or tablet (when it can), it's on the way out. Unfortunately.
Leavenfish Leavenfish 4/15/2017 04:47
Print is not dead...trust me. I work in the magazine business. If anything ebooks hit a plateau some time back.

What IS dead...is single platform publishing. Chess excels in formats like Forward Chess where you can easily step thru all the moves...and variations. To only have one option and at $30...with apparently no plans for a good electronic version will likely doom this venture. Sad to say. But again...trust me.
Bobbyfozz Bobbyfozz 4/15/2017 06:55
If print is dead (and it's not even close to doing that "prail") why did CB allow the submission of your note?
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