'Voice of Chess' vs. 'Voice of Reason' In Next Death Match
Trent vs Bartholomew Death Match

'Voice of Chess' vs. 'Voice of Reason' In Next Death Match

| 57 | Chess Players returns in the new year with its next Death Match, though without quite the amount of excoriating banter from the previous battle. Still, it won't be the monotone voice of Siri either. As in the last match, the two combatants will largely commentate their own games as they happen.

The next Death Match on January 9 will pit the "Voice of Chess" against the "Voice of Reason," better known as IM Lawrence Trent vs IM John Bartholomew.

The former is known for his live commentary while the latter has grown his streaming empire, but the gift of gab is not what matters for their match. These two IMs will be tested over the board for three hours.

Watch the match on or on Tuesday, January 9 at 1 p.m. Pacific (GMT-8), 4 p.m. Eastern, 10 p.m. Central Europe. wanted to get to know the players outside of just their silky-smooth voices.

1) How/why did you give yourself the nickname the "Voice of Reason" (Bartholomew)/"Voice of Chess" (Trent)? Or did someone else?

JB: I thought of that on-the-fly when Danny [Rensch] emailed me about a potential match against Lawrence. It seemed like an appropriate counter to Lawrence's title as "The Voice of Chess!"


IM John Bartholomew. (Photo courtesy Bartholomew.)

LT: Somebody (I can't remember who) said it to me, mockingly of course. I flipped that [expletive]. Seems to have stuck!


IM Lawrence Trent, the "Voice of Chess," commentating at Millionaire Chess 2. | Photo: Mike Klein/

2) Can you give me at least three "career highlights" and "career lowlights"?



  • Winning the 2002 National High School Chess Championship with a 7-0 score. I was a freshman in high school at the time, and everything clicked in that event. I also got to share the moment with my dad, who often used to accompany me to tournaments and remains the biggest supporter of my chess endeavors (along with my mom).
  • Defeating GM Alex Shabalov when I was 16. This was the first round of the 2003 Foxwoods Open, and Alex was the reigning U.S. champion. I had defeated a grandmaster before, but it was the first time I truly felt I was playing "big boy" chess.
  • Having hundreds of people message me or tell me in-person that my videos helped improve their game. It's even more gratifying when they credit my videos for getting them into chess! I love this game, and being in a position to share that passion is far and away the highlight of my chess career.


  • Losing to a 1200 when I was 2000+. I can't find the crosstable online, but it was at an American tournament in the early 2000s where a lot of scholarship money was at stake. I was the top seed and I got absolutely smacked.
  • Making the worst possible move in this game:
  • Realizing I've been an IM for 10+ years now!



  • Commentary -- Being in Chennai to see Magnus win the world championship in 2013.
  • Playing -- highlights still to come! Does duffing up Hikaru at time odds count?
  • Managing "Fabi" -- Being part of that team was very special.

Lowlights: [ informed Trent he didn't need to offer any career lowlights since we've already catalogued dozens of them, but for parity, we'll just present three here. -- M.K.]

  • Spoiling a winning or decent position became known as "doing a Trent" in Isle of Man this year, thanks in part to games like this:
  • Jinxing GM Peter Svidler in the 2015 World Cup by congratulating him on Twitter after winning the first two classical games (GM Sergey Karjakin won the next two and then won a long playoff).
  • Simply this:

Here's Trent, interviewed during the London Chess Classic, about the upcoming match.

3) John's never played in a Death Match and Lawrence has played one (but lost). What do you think you've learned from playing or watching these and Speed Chess Championship matches?

JB: Nope, I've never played a match with multiple time controls like this, but I have watched a ton of them on over the years. My perception is that the most important thing -- by far -- is to avoid tilt. Matches can go back-and-forth, and you need to maintain your emotional stability as things unfold, be them good or bad.

LT: Treat your opponent with utter contempt and you will succeed. [Trent lost to Rensch 11-9 in 2016 in one of the lowest-scoring Death Matches ever. Here was his most electric finish. -- M.K.] 

4) What's your opponent's chess weakness?

JB: Based on his Twitter rants, Lawrence seems very hard on himself after a poor result or game. Therefore, I hope to take the lead early and encourage him to psychologically defeat himself.

LT: I think the right question is -- "What's John's chess strengths?"

5) From a commentating perspective, why are you better than your opponent?

JB: Oh man, I can't claim to be a better commentator than Lawrence! He's great. It's possible I'm a more effective chess teacher than him, but commentating is a different animal and he has much experience in this department (I've never commented on a major event).


So far Bartholomew's commentating has been pretty much only on the internet. (Photo courtesy Bartholomew.)

LT: Why does the earth revolve around the sun? It just does!

6) What other hidden skills do you have outside of chess?

JB: Telling time without looking at a clock. Also, identifying songs on the radio.

LT: First -- it's salsa [Correcting this author after I called it "swing dancing" -- M.K.]. I make a killer homemade lasagne. 

Lawrence Trent

IM Lawrence Trent, dancer and chef. | Photo: Mike Klein/

7) Fill in this sentence: After I heard the news of AlphaZero, I thought _______________.

JB: "Chess is such a rich game!"

LT: I'd still crush it with the Grand Prix Attack.

8) What's one thing the British should adopt from American culture (or Americans should adopt from British culture)?

JB: 24-hour grocery stores. Tesco closing at midnight seriously cramped my style in London. [Bartholomew just returned from playing in the London Classic Open -- M.K.]

LT: Speaking properly?


Trent with his former client, GM Fabiano Caruana, at the 2016 U.S. Championship. | Photo: Mike Klein/

9) What sports announcer would you most like to emulate in your commentating?

JB: Hmm, this question should be left to the viewers. Maybe Joe Buck? It pains me a little to write that. No offense, Joe Buck! [The baseball and football announcer is often maligned for being un-Resnch-like and downplaying big moments. --M.K.]

(Let's just hope Bartholomew uses his three-minute breaks wisely during the Death Match, or, brings a bucket.)

LT: Joe Stapleton (poker)! [Strangely, despite his answer to the previous question, Trent picked an American. -- M.K.]

10) Who will be world champion in 2020? 2030?

JB: 2020: Magnus Carlsen. 2030: Someone who is not currently a GM. No idea who, but I bet a Magnus-like talent will emerge that is either currently unknown or someone we're only starting to hear about.

LT: 2020: Me. 2030: Me.

Log on to or on Tuesday, January 9 at 1 p.m. Pacific (GMT-8), 4 p.m. Eastern, 10 p.m. Central Europe to catch all the action live. IM Danny Rensch will merely moderate the match as Trent and Bartholomew commentate their own battle!

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