John Bartholomew: International Master & Innovator in Chess Education

John Bartholomew has made a significant mark in the world of chess as an International Master, coach, author, content creator, and entrepreneur. His multifaceted career in chess spans several decades, showcasing his dedication to sharing his deep knowledge and love for the game.

Feel free to delve into the abridged biography below to discover more about John’s distinctive journey, his initial foray into chess, and his evolution into a genuine pioneer of the game.

Early Beginnings and a Notable Opponent

Born and raised in Minnesota, John learned chess from a classmate at the age of eight. Almost immediately, John sensed that chess was deeper than other games he had encountered. He began studying chess books in his school library, and soon he was defeating his schoolmates and family members.

Aside from these opponents, John’s main opposition during this early period was a 72-level tabletop chess computer. Over the course of one and a half years, John defeated every level on this machine – a feat he credits as his greatest leap in chess! His parents took note of this, too, and quickly sought the expertise of a professional chess coach to help John grow further as a player.

Paving the Road to Mastery

Under the mentorship of FM Eduard Zelkind, John deepened his understanding and appreciation of chess history. He also became significantly more skilled at the game itself, which prepared him for serious competition.

John found success in tournament play over the next few years, winning multiple Minnesota scholastic titles. Setting his sights on national events, in 2001, John tied for first in the National Junior High (K-9) National Championship tournament in Kansas City, Missouri. Furthermore, winning this event on tiebreaks earned him a full-ride academic/chess scholarship to the University of Texas at Dallas!

The very next year, as a 9th grader, he won the National High School Championship in Louisville, Kentucky, with a perfect 7-0 score. In succeeding in tournaments in Minnesota and beyond, John especially cites the support of his parents, Barney and Joan. Always encouraging his passion for the game, his parents also readily invested their time, energy, and resources to allow John to maximize his potential in chess.

In high school, John also began coaching local players in his spare time, finding that he had a knack for describing the game in terms others could understand. (More on this in the next section.)

John decided to accept his academic/chess scholarship to the University of Texas at Dallas (“UT Dallas”), matriculating in 2005. During his enrollment at UT Dallas, John contributed to the school’s national championship team and earned his International Master title. After graduating in 2009, John briefly explored law at the University of Denver. Although he enjoyed studying law, John had a feeling chess and education were his callings. As a result, he decided in early 2011 to withdraw from law school and move to New York City to continue his chess career.

Becoming a Professional Chess Coach

Using the teaching skills he acquired by tutoring students in high school and college, John found that he was similarly capable of teaching young chess players in classroom settings, too. He taught the College Bound class for the non-profit Chess In The Schools, as well as after-school programs at several schools in NYC. John also began teaching chess online, which was relatively unexplored at the time.

Mainly through word of mouth and positive reviews, John built a regular clientele of students across the US and abroad. In 2012, having “cut his teeth” on professional chess coaching, he decided to move back to his home state, Minnesota, to focus further on teaching and online chess opportunities.

Expanding His Influence via YouTube

Over the next decade, John established himself as one of the world’s premier chess educators. In 2014, he launched his YouTube channel, publishing videos offering candid, instructional advice to chess improvers of all levels. His foundational, long-form instructional series “Chess Fundamentals” and “Climbing the Rating Ladder” have accumulated several million views and received praise from chess players and coaches worldwide for their instructional value and accessibility. To date, John has published more than 1,700 free videos on YouTube, garnering more than 189,000 subscribers.

The Founding and Selling of Chessable

John’s next major move came in 2015, when David Kramaley, a British chess player, tech entrepreneur, and YouTube subscriber of John’s, contacted him about a possible chess learning platform he had built for his own study. That same year, John and David launched Chessable, a site that employs the language learning techniques of spaced repetition and scheduling to help users to study and improve their chess. Drawing again upon his teaching skills and proficiency with chess books and writing, John authored several courses for Chessable as well as creating video accompaniments.

In 2019, John, David, and a small group of investors sold the website to Play Magnus Group, the second-largest chess company in the world, and the corporate extension of the reigning World Champion, Magnus Carlsen. Chessable is now owned by and has firmly established itself as one of the most popular chess websites in the world. John remains a proud ambassador and course creator for the platform.

Current Endeavors and Legacy

Today, John continues to reach thousands of chess enthusiasts through his YouTube presence, Twitch channel, and online courses, with active play and cooperation with leading chess websites like and He also remains active in over-the-board (OTB) chess, promoting its growth among all ages.

John also enjoys keeping his skills sharp by participating in chess tournaments, ranging from casual events such as Titled Tuesday on to rated OTB tournaments. And while he is happy to remain an International Master, it’s notable that John earned his first Grandmaster norm at the 2013 Saint Louis Classic.

As a passionate player, coach, and community figure, John aspires to be a true vanguard of chess. Looking ahead, he is both inspired by and dedicated to helping as many people across the globe learn, love, and pursue the game.