Friday, June 09, 2006

Changes in Chess Life

Just got this month's Chess Life magazine. There are a lot of changes; I'm still trying to absorb some of them and decide how I feel about them. First of all, the graphic layout of the magazine was completely revamped. I'm not sure if it's better or not; I tend to be rather conservative and have not adjusted to the change yet, but I think it actually might look better now.

On a more substantive note, there were a number of content changes. Daniel Lucas's editor's note states that the goal was to reduce the number of columns in order to make space for more feature articles.

The biggest change is that the Larry Evans Q&A column is gone. I didn't think it was great, but it was one of the first things I turned to in the magazine because it did not require me to break out the board in order to read it. (And I once got an opening question published in his column.) I'm sorry to see it go. It will been replaced (starting June 15) with an online Q&A discussion thread on led by Joel Benjamin.

The key crackers column (which I haven't glanced at more than once or twice in twenty years of getting Chess Life) is gone. No loss there. The correspondence chess column "Check is in the Mail" is gone. I occasionally read those games, but there was nothing particularly fascinating about those games that I can't get by reading games elsewhere in the magazine.

Michael Rohde's "Game of the Month" column is gone, but now there's "Polgar's Pick", so that's a net wash. Susan Polgar's analysis of Onishuk-Shulman was good, but I'm not sure why the change in name. I have fond memories of Gligoric's "Game of the Month" column in the 1970s, but I guess they were trying to stress that it's Susan's column. There seems to be some interest in pushing the women in chess theme; next month's issue "will be a celebration of women's chess in America."

The columns by Soltis (Chess to Enjoy), Benko (Endgame Lab) and Alburt (Back to Basics) are all still there. Pandolfini's Solitaire Chess has been substantially reformatted; I read that column and I definitely think the new format is easier to use.

Overall, the changes in the magazine seem to be neutral to slightly positive, but if they are expecting great things from the new format they will probably be sadly disappointed. Possibly of more importance to the USCF will be the changes they are rolling out on on June 15th. Hopefully, those are the solid improvements that the website desperately needs rather than a mixed bag of tweaks like the changes to the magazine.

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