Ju Shoots More Bullets, Wins Death Match 23

  • FM MikeKlein
  • on 4/23/14, 6:20 AM.

FM Evan Ju pulled away in the bullet portion of Death Match 23 on Tuesday, April 22, beating IM Marc Esserman 18-12. The match was the adjournment from the original matchup on April 12, which was postponed with the score even at 1.5-1.5.

In the three FM vs. IM Death Match contests, FMs have now won two out of three (FM Robby Adamson was the other winner in Death Match 8).

Ju lost the opening segment narrowly, 3.5-2.5. The Black pieces dominated the five-minute portion, winning 4.5 of the first 5. Our earlier report showed that game one (played April 12) may have been the best of the entire match.

FM Evan Ju

A summary of the match could almost be deduced from game four alone. Ju insisted on playing the French (in fact he played it every game as Black!), and the two reached nearly the same endgame position about 10 times. Esserman offered a pawn to charge up the board with his king and dominated the dark squares. The essential question, which was asked in a multitude of games, was "Could White break through?"

Amazingly White's king charged all the way to b7 and got mated back on his starting square, e1! Commentators IM Danny Rensch and GM Ben Finegold were flummoxed by Ju's willingness to enter this exact endgame in nearly ever turn as Black.

"He's a creature of habit, to his own detriment," Rensch said during the broadcast. "It seems silly to repeat that same line," Finegold said after Esserman converted the same ending in round 6.

Afterward, Ju explained that the opening was by design.

"I prepared for it," Ju said. "The engine says it's equal. I was just planning on playing it once or twice. I really fits my match strategy. It gets the queens off the board and Marc is a very attacking player.

"I'm surprised he kept playing it. Bf4 is not supposed to be good."

When he lined up with Black, Esserman didn't Xerox his moves like Ju did, but it was nearly always a Siclian - either an Accelerated Dragon or a Poisoned Pawn Najdorf.

IM Marc Esserman

The first "run" of the match came immediately in the three-minute segment. Ju rattled off 4.5/5 at the outset. Esserman finally stopped the bleeding by converting that same French ending. He actually achieved rook+bishop vs. rook in game 12, a theoretical draw that is notoriously difficult to hold. Ju lost on time whle attempting to reach 50 moves.

Esserman couldn't make it two in a row, as he inexplicably abandoned his Sicilian in round 13 for one of the few times in the match. The profligate Philidor maneuver 3...Qe7 offered little in shock value as Ju calmly developed, dominated the d-file, and found the crushing tactic 17. Nxe5!

Esserman won the next game and after a draw in round 15, Ju took a two-point lead (8.5-6.5) into the bullet.

The two are not strangers to long series of one-minute games. Last October, they played an informal 31-game bullet series on Chess.com, and in January, a 20-game affair. Ju won both narrowly.

Esserman won the opening two games to tie the score. As would be his trademark, he chose celerity over accuracy. In round 17, he won on time with 34 seconds on his clock, a relative eternity of remaining time in bullet chess (all games in Death Matches do have one-second increments). The initial game was capped with a clever mate, and showed why Ju was reluctant to allow Esserman to keep his queen!

Ju then won 3.5 of the next 4 and never relinquished his lead. A pair of wins by Esserman in rounds 22 and 23 weren't enough, as the FM then won five in a row. An instantaneous-moving Esserman lost one game with almost one full minute remaining on his clock.

Without enough time remaining to make a comeback, Esserman was either frustrated or being funny in the final two games. He opened with king marches to the center, and actually won the final game with 1...e6 and 2...Ke7?!

"It was a really tough match," Ju said. "I'm surprised I did as well in the bullet. I think he kind of fell apart." Ju won the bullet 9.5-5.5.

Fans did not get to see any Smith-Morra Gambits, which are Esserman's specialty. Ju said he wasn't being coy by stating prior to the match he prepared a line against it. He told Rensch his plan was to decline the offering with 3...d3, but he ended up never going down that road.

Ju won $750 while Esserman took $250.

So what does one do after playing a three-hour Death Match? Most past players report going to bed, but not for these two - they got right back in the saddle. Esserman played 133 more bullet games before this report was filed in the early morning after the match, 18 of which were against Ju. Some Death Matches never end.


5184 reads 5 comments
3 votes


  • 3 years ago


    Some people may have turned the game off in disgust but I thought this was hilarious! He didn't throw the game he just played with a handicap, it was obviously the last game of the match so he knew he was being entertaining, and won! 


    I was rooting for Ju the whole time but was kinda disappointed he didn't face the Morra just once at the end. The margin was wide enough to give the audience something exciting at the end.

  • 3 years ago


    I felt like 2. ... Ke7 by Esserman was completely unprofessional.  He lost a fan at that point and I had to turn the Chess.com/tv off.  Glad Evan Ju won but the way Esserman went down essentially trying to tank games was pretty lame.  Who cares if his opponent side-stepped the Morra Gambit.  That's simply good prep ... maybe Esserman needs a better repertoire if he is going to advance against non-Sicilian black players?  Bottom line ... can't wait for the real match coming up with Andreikin! Let's see some serious Caro-Slavs.

  • 3 years ago


    Who won the post-deathmatch series??

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