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When I was growing up in the 60's and 70's it was the Russian magazine Shakhmatny Bulletin according to Bobby Fischer. In our chess club we generally believed that the reason the club's best player was the best player was because he had a subscription. He was a lecturer (or what Americans call a professor) in Russian at Durham University and translated into English most of the chess books in your library by Russian authors (Kasparov's My Great Predecessors, for example).

For Kasparov it was Chess Informant from the former Yugoslavia.

What characterized these two publications was that they were mainly just game scores of the strongest players around the world, mostly east European. Although Shakhmatny Bulletin was in Russian since the games were unannotated you really only needed to know the Russian annotation for the pieces. Informant was completely language free.

Nowadays there is little call for such games collections because we all have chess databases with online updates from The Week In Chess and ChessBase. What we want in a chess magazine is top class analysis of the best games and the latest inside news. The nearest I can come up with today is the Dutch magazine published in English, New in Chess, but all I have to compare it with are more parochial English magazines like BCM and Chess. I've never even seen a copy of the American magazine Chess Life, for instance.

When I lived in Germany I used to occasionally read a German magazine called Kaissiber which I thought was very good but rather difficult since it was in German.

Is NiC currently the best chess magazine out there? Or should I be reading something else?

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    Interesting question! Kaissiber really is great, a pity it isn't published anymore … I don't know anything better than NiC, but I don't know too many chess publications either. – BlindKungFuMaster Dec 30 '14 at 18:17
  • Chess Life is targeted at amateurs, with many articles written for class (under 2000 USCF) players and US-centric coverage of tournaments, so it's not going to enter into the competition for best chess magazine by your criteria. – dfan Dec 30 '14 at 19:03
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    "Best" is purely a matter of opinion. – David Richerby Dec 30 '14 at 23:43
  • @DavidRicherby Aha! A cultural relativist! An objectivist would argue that you can make objective judgments of what is best by comparing like with like. For instance 2300 years ago Athenian culture was the best in the Mediterranean or in England The Times is better than the Sun or Daily Mail or in Germany the Süddeutsche is better than Bild or in the 1990's Kasparov was the best but you can't meaningfully ask was Lasker better than Tal or Roman culture better than Athenian because you are no longer comparing like with like. – Brian Towers Dec 31 '14 at 7:07
  • New In Chess is has top level analysis and so is one of the best and the best English one I'm sure, but there are some country-specific ones such as 64 in Russia which I haven't read – sco-ish Dec 31 '14 at 15:52
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Chess Informant and Chess Life are targeting very different strata; it is not possible to compare them.

When I was growing up in 60s and 70s - in Soviet Union - we the amateurs were reading "Shakhmaty v SSSR" and "64". I didn't bother reading the Bulletin until I reached a Kandidate Master level. The Informant was of use for professional only.

Books were much more important than magazines. Every serious tournament (such as USSR championship, Chigorin, the Interzonal, etc) was followed up with the corpus of heavily analyzed games. There was also an unspoken rule (attributed to and driven by Botvinnik) that each Grandmaster must publish at least one book.

Sorry for ranting.

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