New in Chess (2020/8)

New in Chess is still going strong as we go into a new year. Of course, the coverage has changed in format with the emphasis being on the online platform and of course some novel stories such as the impact of the coronavirus and also TV series “Queen’s Gambit.” The last issue of 2020 featured a cover story of aspiring contender Alireza Firoujza, the Iranian star who (in 2019) left the country to reside in France.

New In Chess (2020/8)
Firoujza has been one of the most popular chess personalities in the past couple of years with a high-profile presence online. However, he is not going the route of Hikaru Nakamura who became famously known for investing long hours in marathon blitz sessions. Of course, Nakamura proved to doubters that he was more than a blitz player. Firouzja, on the other hand, is a total chess fanatic giving equal attention to all formats. Now in the world’s top 20, some say he is poised to join Maxime Vachier-Lagrave to represent France.

“I believe that many people still enjoy classical chess, because there you can really see quality moves and deep ideas.”

~ Alireza Firoujza

In the interview, Firouzja commented on the difference between online play and over-the-board (OTB) play. Speaking on his participation in Norway Chess,

I was really happy to be back at the wooden board. It feels different when you touch the pieces and move them around. I think every chess love understands what I mean. Seeing your opponent and seeing people around the playing area just felt great.

The tactile experience is not the only benefit. Longer time-controls in OTB chess allows more exploration. “I believe that many people still enjoy classical chess because there you can really see quality moves and deep ideas,” said the phenom. Full of ideas and opinions, he also gave his views on streaming, a boon in chess.

While Firouzja could be seen in major blitz matches online, he states that his focus is to get back to OTB chess. At press time, he has shined at the Tata Steel Masters, placing joint-second ahead of the field including Magnus Carlsen (world #1). He stands to gain close to 15 Elo points to approach the top 10.

Alirezi Firouzja showing a beautiful win against Mila Zarkovic.
Video by Tata Steel Chess

Wesley So’s ascendancy to the to of U.S. chess has been steady since joining the federation in 2014 after a stint at Webster University. In the 2020 U.S. Championship, he scorched the field with 9/11 and a $40,000 prize. Interestingly enough, such a performance was only 1/2-point better than Jeffery Xiong who continues to show gradual improvement.

In the women’s competition, Irina Krush overcame a cadre of young stars (and a bout with COVID) to win her 8th championship. Apart from veteran participants Sabina Foisor, Anna Zatonskih, and Tatev Abrahamyan, all of the players were under 25. Perhaps the changing of the guard will have to wait another year!

Bobby Fischer and Hist World (IM John Donaldson)

This issue introduced a new Fischer book… a very good one. IM John Donaldson was one of the rising stars of American chess in the late 70s and early 80s. However, he has become more know for his writing and coaching than he has for his tournament record. Recently, he released what may be his best work yet with Bobby Fischer and the World. The handsome 644-page book is chockful of vintage photographs and a keen look into the life of the intriguing American chess icon. Always considered in the GOAT (greatest of all-time) conversations, this book may make another case.

A quick glance, this book will set a high standard for Fischer biographies. Each author has something to add, but this book is well-researched and the photography is golden. There is no pretension of knowing Fischer personally, nor any of the bias about Fischer’s political views post-1992. It is about Fischer, his life, and his career. It appears to be outstanding. We will give a much more thorough review in the coming months.

In the “Queen’s Gambit” sensation, New in Chess has weighed in and this issue took another look at the TV series. Of course, there was a focus on some of the games including Beth’s first game against Mr. Shaibel which ended 1.e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nc6 3. Qf3 Nd4 4.Qxf7 mate! There were even accounts of her blitz battles with Benny Watts in the memorable bar scene. In my analysis of the series, I pointed out that there was another “Queen’s” story in Queen of Katwe.

New In Chess (2020-8)

Lastly, New in Chess profiled The Chess Drum in its 20th year, a true honor! Dirk Jan ten Guezendam had approached me years ago for a piece in the world-class publication, but it took that much time for me to deliver on my promise. In the article, I recount the evolution of the website which started with a question… “Where are the Black GMs and IMs?” Perhaps this was the first time, the public knew the story of how The Chess Drum was born.

While there will be more detail when I finally write a biographical account of the site, it is good to have such a visible platform for chess players to understand the site’s vision and purpose. Thanks Dirk!


  • Chess in Hell
  • NIC’s Café
  • Your Move
  • A Queen’s Gambit for Everyone
  • Wesley So spoils birthday party Magnus Carlsen
  • Interview: Alireza Firoujza
  • 2020 U.S. Championships
  • Bobby Fischer and His World
  • The Chess Drum
  • Knight dances with Boris Spassky
  • Petrosian aplenty
  • Chess Pattern Recognition: Catenaccio Bishop
  • Let’s talk about Aronian
  • They are Champions: Thuso Mosutha (Botswana)
  • Just Checking: Mark Crowther (The Week in Chess)


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