Blog Moved to Chess.com

Yikes, it's been years since I've made a post on my own blog!

No, I haven't quit chess. On the contrary: I've made the game my profession! I'm now a full-time player and coach working towards my GM (Grandmaster) title.

I've decided to do all of my blogging over at chess.com. Feel free to follow the highs and lows of my chess career here: http://www.chess.com/members/view/Fins0905

If you've come here in search of coaching, please contact me via my Chess.com coaching profile: http://www.chess.com/coach/im-john-bartholomew



Dallas Destiny Repeat!

Sorry for not posting something sooner, but finals and non-chess activities have kept me pretty occupied the past few weeks. Life often gets in the way of chess, as they say.

I am happy to report that the Dallas Destiny managed to become the first ever repeat USCL champions by virtue of beating the Boston Blitz on Saturday, December 6th. For all those who tuned in to ICC to watch the match, it turned out to be every bit as exciting as last year's final. The Destiny managed to prevail in a tiebreaker when GM-elect Davorin "Kul J" Kuljasevic took out SM Esserman, SM Sammour-Hasbun, and GM Christiansen in succession. Davorin's key win against Sammour-Hasbun in regulation was pivotal for our success, as was WFM Bayaraa "the Mongolian Power" Zorigt's demolition of Boston fourth board NM Ilya Krasik. FM Igor "Freshmans" Schneider and IM Marko "Zica" Zivanic were definitely disappointed with their results against Esserman and Christiansen (respectively), but I can state with 100% certainty that we would never have made the finals without their steady play during the regular season and playoffs. Congratulations also to Boston, who had another fine season.

Dallas Destiny members plus TD Michael Corallo. L to R: Michael Corallo, Igor Schneider, Bayaraa Zorigt, myself, Drasko Boskovic (2007 board one), and Davorin Kuljasevic.

It has been a real pleasure to manage and play for the Destiny these past two seasons. When I took over management of the team in the summer of 2007, I knew we had the players here at UTD to really make a run at the USCL championship. What has happened since has gone past any of our wildest expectations. We've been very fortunate to develop a close-knit group of players here who aren't big on ego and are always willing to back their teammates up. The attitude we've kept since the week one loss to San Francisco all the way through the final against Boston has been laid-back and relaxed. I would be remiss if I failed to mention two outstanding players, Bayaraa and Davorin, who have been the foundation of our success in 2007 and 2008. Their play has been nothing short of remarkable and I'm always amazed at the team spirit they have displayed. Watch out for them in the future!

Thanks to Greg Shahade and Arun Sharma for another great season. They do a lot of work and often (undeservedly!) take a lot of heat, but they do a fantastic job year in and year out. The USCL is going to get better and better under their guidance.

Also thanks to UTD coach Rade Milovanovic and all the Destiny Destiny fans - I know there are some of you out there!

I graduate in the spring, but with any luck I hope to be around to manage the 2009 Dallas Destiny...if they let me!

Johnny B


USCL Week 6 Recap

I blew it this past week against Tennessee.

I had a comfortable edge out of the opening that translated into the win of an exchange with 25.Ng3!, a move that Todd doubtlessly missed. The win was still there all the way up until the dubious move 44.Rg2?! and the horrendous 45.Nf3??. Somehow I blanked out on the fact that my h3-pawn can simply be taken. As Greg Shahade pointed out, 44.Rf3 Be8 45.Rxe3! is simple and good.

This was a frustrating game in a non-chess sense. To make a long story short, I was forced to play on three different computers during the course of the game. The whole process of trying to find a suitable internet connection cost me a ton of time in disconnections, and - worse yet - put me in a pretty stressed mood for most of the game. Still, the position after 25.Ng3 is one in which I expect myself to win probably 95% of the time. I take full responsbility for our loss this week.

Marko, Igor, and Bayaraa all played solid chess. Marko in particular surprised a lot of people by easily neutralizing Jaan Ehlvest with the Black pieces, even obtaining a pawn-up ending. Igor did well to pull himself out of a passive position against Bereolos and Bayaraa recovered from an opening misstep to draw with McCarthy. These last two games can be viewed here and here

We have Philly this week. The lineups indicate a pretty evenly-contested match. The Destiny will definitely come out firing this week.


USCL Week 6 Predictions

In leiu of making a meaningful update to this blog, I'm going to take the easy(!?) way out and predict the matchups for tonight.

Carloina Cobras vs. Queens Pioneers
Stripunsky must be busy this week because the undefeated Pioneers come with a much weaker lineup than normal. Lenderman is on fire, but Dima will have his hands full with Black against Milman. The lower boards swing Carolina's way. Carolina Cobras 2.5 - Queens Pioneers 1.5

New Jersey Knockouts vs. Baltimore Kingfisher
Both teams bring powerful lineups to the table. The top two boards look like a wash to me, but I like Jersey's chances with young guns Mack Molner and Victor Shen manning the bottom two boards.
New Jersey Knockouts 3 - Baltimore Kingfishers 1

Boston Blitz vs. Philadelphia Inventors
Several interesting matchups in this one. I like the solid Kudrin to finally stop the Jorge express, though a draw seems fair. Vigorito - Bartell could produce some fireworks while Shmelov should score the full point against Costigan. Bengston has gotta get the slight nod with White against Krasik. I'm still going to call this match in Boston's favor.
Boston 2.5 - Philadelphia Inventors 1.5

Chicago Blaze vs. Miami Sharks
This is probably the most evenly contested match of the night. Mitkov vs. Becerra will be a draw while anything can happen on board two. The ratings point to a Blaze edge on boards three and four, but having seen both Galofre and (especially)Rodriguez play recently I can't say that they are underdogs. Drawn match! Chicago Blaze 2 - Miami Sharks 2

Tennessee Tempo vs. Dallas Destiny
No predictions for this one. I like our chances, though.


USCL Weeks 1 and 2

Week 1: Dallas Destiny 1.5 - San Francisco Mechanics 2.5
The Destiny got off to a slow start against San Francisco. We dropped the opener 1.5-2.5 in a match that was essentially decided on board 3. SF's Sam Shankland displayed some good French preparation to take down Igor "Freshmans" Schneider:

Igor has just played 15...Ng4, attacking h2 and anticipating a sacrifice on f2. However, the cool reply 16.g3! (far superior to 15.h3 Bh2+ 16.Kf1 Nxf2! as in Starostits - Laznicka, V Olomouc Valoz Cup 2002 and Braeuning - Kuemin, Bodensee Cup 2003.) forced Black's hand with 16...Nxf2? 17.Kxf2 Rxf3+ (17...Nxd4 18.Re3 isn't much better) 18.Qxf3 Rf8 19.Bf4 Bxf4 and now the simple 20.Kg2 left Igor completely lost. He resigned on the next move. In fact, the game Papin - De Ramos, Wch U16 Chalkidiki 2003 reached the same position on move 20 with an equally disastrous result for Black.

USCL 011
Destiny members IM Davorin Kuljasevic, IM Marko Zivanic, and FM Igor Schneider prepare for week 1 action

Our new player IM Marko Zivanic played a complicated game against GM Wolff that petered out to a draw, while Bayaraa also had to concede a half-point to FM Naroditsky. Davorin heroically sacrificed an exchange against GM-elect Friedel but couldn't make any headway. All told, hardly a terrible result against one of the best teams in the league. We know we are capable of better, though.

Week 2: Dallas Destiny 3 - Arizona Scorpions 1
Things improved in Week 2 against the Arizona Scorpions. The much-hyped expansion team performed well in their league debut and was obviously itching to start 2-0. Unfortunately, Arizona internet problems resulted in some lost time for the Scorpions before play even commenced.

Let's take a look at the matchups:

Board 1: IM Drasko Boskovic vs. IM Levon Altounian
Honestly, I thought a draw on this board would be a decent result. Altounian is a super-solid IM with very reliable openings - a style that Drasko may have some problems with. I rated our chances on boards 2-4 to be superior and a quick, low-risk draw (albeit with White) was not a major cause for concern.

IM Boskovic - IM Altounian, USCL 2008
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. d4 exd4 5. e5 Ng4 6. Qe2 Qe7 7. Bf4 f6 8. exf6 Nxf6 9. Nbd2 d6 10. Nb3 Bg4 11. Qxe7+ Bxe7 12. Nfxd4 Nxd4 13. Nxd4 d5 14.Be2 Bxe2 15. Kxe2 Kd7 16. Rhe1 Rhf8 17. Nf3 Rae8 18. Kf1 1/2-1/2

USCL 005
Drasko is a fan of Tic-Tacs.

Board 2: FM Danny Rensch vs. IM John Bartholomew
Danny and I last met at the 2007 World Open. Though I eventually got the better of him on that occasion, things weren't looking too hot for awhile. He is a good tactical player who isn't afraid to go for the jugular in the opening.

FM Rensch - IM Bartholomew, USCL 2008
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nxc6 bxc6 6. e5 Qe7 7. Qe2 Nd5 8.c4 Nb6 9. Nc3 Qe6 10. Qe4 g6 11. Bg5!?N A new move, as far as I can tell. Rensch wants to position the dark squared bishop actively before committing to f4. 11...Bg7 12. f4 d5 13. O-O-O Cute, but in the game I was really worried about 13.cxd5 cxd5 14.Qb4!

Position after 14.Qb4 (Analysis)

An awkward move for Black to meet. Now my intended 14...Bxe5 is weak because of 15. Bb5+ Bd7 16.0-0! when Black's position is bordering on lost. Instead, I should probably prefer 14...c6 though White has a nice position after 15.0-0 or even 15.Ne2!? 13...h6 14. cxd5 cxd5 15. Bb5+ Best. 15.Nxd5 Nxd5 16.Rxd5 was also interesting. Now 16...hxg5 loses to 17.Bb5+ c6 18.Rd6, but the forcing line 16...Bb7! 17.Bb5+ Kf8 18.Qb4+ Kg8 19.Rd8+ Kh7 20.Rxh8+ Rxh8 results in a very active position for Black. White's far-flung bishops do not make a good impression and a2 is almost certainly falling. 15...c6 16. Nxd5? White had to act decisively here with 16.Rxd5! when 16...hxg5 17.Bxc6+ Qxc6 18.Rd8+ Kxd8 19.Qxc6 Bd7 20.Rd1 Rc8! 21.Qb7 Rc7 results in an absurdly complicated position. 16...Nxd5 17. Rxd5 O-O The king has escaped and Black can collect the hanging pieces. 18. Rd6 Qxa2 19. Be7 19.Bc4 Qa1+ 20.Kc2 Qxh1 21.Rxg6 hxg5 sees White running out of ammunition. 18...Bf5 20. Qa4 Qb1+ 21. Kd2 Qxb2+ 22. Ke1 cxb5 0-1

Board 3: FM Igor Schneider vs. FM Robby Adamson
You can bet that Igor was expecting something tricky from Adamson in the opening. A 3...Nc6 French Tarrasch was what he got (I seem to remember something about this being called the "Guimard Variation").

FM Schneider - FM Adamson, USCL 2008
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 Nc6 4. c3 e5 5. exd5 Qxd5 6. Ngf3 exd4 7. Bc4 Qh5 8. O-O Nf6 9. cxd4 Be7 10. Be2 Qf5 11. Nc4 O-O 12. Nce5 Nb4 13. a3 Nbd5 14. Nh4 Qe6 15. Bd3 Qd6 16. Qf3 Be6 17. Nf5 Bxf5 18. Qxf5 Rad8 19. Bg5 c6 20. Rfe1 g6 21. Qf3 Nh5 22. Bh6 Ng7 23. Rad1 Qf6 24. Qg4 Qh4 25. Qxh4 Bxh4 26. Be4 Rfe8 27.g3 Be7 28. h4 Ne6 29. Bg2 Bf6 30. Ng4 Bg7 31. Bxg7 Kxg7 32. Ne3 Nxe3 33. fxe3 Nc7 34. b4 f5 35. Kf2 Nb5 36. Rd3 Rd7 37. Rc1 Nd6 1/2-1/2

Robby can definitely push this B vs. N ending, but the match was already decided. It was good to see Igor get on track after the pounding he took in Week 1.

Board 4: NM Warren Harper vs. WFM Bayaraa Zorigt
Bayaraa was absolutely critical to the Destiny's success in 2007 and will play an even bigger role in 2008. She consistently delivers in tough spots and that's why we love her!


Harper held a space advantage for most of the game, but now Bayaraa struck back with 31...h5! White's overextended position cannot be maintained after this blow. 32. g5 Bg4 33. Bf3 Bxf3 34. Qxf3 Rxe5 35. Qc3 Rxf4 36. Rde1 d4 37. Qh3 Rg4+ 38. Kh1 Rxe2 39. Rxe2 Qf4 40. Rh2 Qe4+ 0-1 Click to replay

Excellent play by Bayaraa that cemented a smooth 3-1 Destiny victory.

USCL 008
Mongolian power. Bayaraa during Week 1

Tomorrow night features an extremely important match against the Boston Blitz. We will be ready for a fight. Don't sleep on the Destiny!


USCL Title Defense - Week 1

The Dallas Destiny kicks off their USCL title defense tomorrow (August 27) against the San Francisco Mechanics. The offseason proved to be a productive one for members of the 2007 squad as IM Davorin Kuljasevic and FM Keaton Kiewra both made Grandmaster norms in Europe. Our 2008 roster includes a few new faces and overall I am pleased with our depth and strength:

1. IM Marko Zivanic: 2506
2. IM Davorin Kuljasevic: 2517
3. IM Drasko Boskovic: 2508
4. IM John Bartholomew: 2485
5. FM Igor Schneider: 2392
6. NM Tautvydas Vedrickas: 2335
7. NM Chaitanya Vaidya: 2324
8. WFM Bayaraa Zorigt: 2219

1. FM Andrei Zaremba: 2366
2. WFM Karina Vazirova: 2108

The loss of Jacek Stopa and Keaton Kiewra due to conflicts with UTD class schedules was unfortunate, but I hope the trio of Schneider - Vedrickas - Vaidya can fill their shoes. Our most notable gain is at board 1, where Serbian IM Marko 'Zica' Zivanic will be a powerful force. Boskovic, Kuljasevic, Zorigt, and myself are all returning to round out the team.

It seems that the USCL blogosphere isn't giving us much credit again this year. In fact, not a single blog I've read has even picked us to win our first match. You know what? We're fine with flying under the radar. Expect the Destiny to calmly take care of business in 2008.

Log into ICC tomorrow at 7:30 CST for the opening week of our season! Check back here for Dallas Destiny pictures and player bios.


The Parade Was In Dallas

Apologies to Denys Shmelov (who is apparently from Kharkov, Ukraine) - all the celebrations for the Dallas Destiny's 2007 USCL title took place right here in the DFW Metroplex.

The Destiny defeated the Boston Blitz in a thrilling 7 game tie-breaker that lasted well into last Thursday morning. Much has already been written of this match, so I won't overkill it. By all estimates, we were the underdogs - especially if the match was to reach the tie-breaker. With Boston having Dos Hermanas winner Jorge Sammour-Hasbun and legendary attacker GM Larry Christiansen in play, it was hard to disagree. Still, with four young, capable players we remained confident in our chances to get the job done...and we finally did when Christiansen eventually overpressed against Draks shortly after 1:00 AM CST.

Consistency and depth. That is the best way I can describe our success this season. Let's look at some highlights:

-IM Davorin Kuljasevic's 6.5/8 score and 2703 performance rating on board 2. By far the most well-prepared player on our roster
-Alternate FM Keaton Kiewra's key victories over FM Oleg Zaikov and FM Slava Mikhailuk in the regular season
-IM Drasko Boskovic's steady control over board 1 and power performance in the playoffs. If there is one Dallas player who I'd trust to play a blitz game when everything is on the line, it is Draks
-WFM Bayaraa Zorigt's clutch victory over NM Williams in the finals and solid play on board 4
-IM Jacek Stopa's numerous saves (think: blitz games vs. Williams and Shmelov) and All Star caliber
-NM Francisco Guadalupe's overall 2491(!) performance in important spots

It was a pleasure to play for this team, and as a first-time manager I couldn't be more happy with the result. UTD is sometimes viewed as strictly a "chess school," but the reality is that we put academics first. Not many knew that each of our players was immersed in final exams when the USCL Championship took place last week.

A big thank-you is due to Greg Shahade and Arun Sharma. I can't fathom how many hours they have invested into the USCL, and their efforts have created a truly exciting and viable league. Also, congratulations to the Boston Blitz for a great season.

See you all next year!