Thursday, October 08, 2009
New Look at ChessCafe
ChessCafe appears to have taken a week off for some redesign. The site still needs a bit of a make-over, but the content remains the best on the web and seems to have even gotten better (if that's possible). Abby Marshall's excellent new column "The Openings Explained" kicks off with a fantastic piece on the Tarrasch Defense (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5), which is a great choice for the target audience of club and class players. Carsten Hansen's "Checkpoint" reviews important books on the Dutch and King's Indian (including Bologan's, which is remarkably well written IMHO). And there is a promising new "Daily Chess News Links" feature (though the service they are using is not that great--it posts mostly PR and needs to broaden its definition of "news" to include blogs--so it hardly deserves to be at the top of the page.)
The content is so great, it's just a shame the design does not make it more accessible. The main page has a new look, complete with author pictures, but whoever redesigned it was not exactly thinking "above the fold." You still have to scroll down the page to find the latest Columns (they should be more prominently featured near the top) and you still have to go to the "Archives" to find the permanent links (though at least the "Archives" link is now more prominently displayed in the top navigation). Updated: However, I was wrong to claim in my first version of this review that they do not provide web-viewable chess games and notes, which are available in the excellent "Chess Cafe Theatre," as a reader helpfully pointed out. That I overlooked this feature (which is pointed to by what appears to be an ad on the side of each article -- and I am used to not noticing ads) suggests that it should be more prominently featured or redundantly mentioned at the opening or close of each article. However, it is definitely a great addition to the site, and you can also download a PGN file of previous columns (which is fantastic). So my criticisms do begin to sound very minor indeed. But it is only because I like this site so much that I offer them....