David Howell (chess player)

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David Howell
David Howell 2013.jpg
David Howell, Warsaw 2013
Full nameDavid Wei Liang Howell
Country United Kingdom
Born (1990-11-14) 14 November 1990 (age 30)
Eastbourne, England, United Kingdom
TitleGrandmaster (2007)
FIDE rating2658 (October 2021)
Peak rating2712 (August 2015)
RankingNo. 84 (October 2021)
Peak rankingNo. 36 (August 2015)

David Wei Liang Howell (born 14 November 1990) is an English chess player. A three-time British champion (2009, 2013 and 2014), he holds the record for being the youngest Briton ever to achieve the title of Grandmaster, earned at the age of 16.[1]

Early life[edit]

Howell was born in Eastbourne to Angeline (originally from Singapore) and Martin Howell. He has a younger sister and lives with his family in Seaford, East Sussex.


1998–2007: Chess prodigy to Grandmaster[edit]

Howell has been playing chess since the age of five years and eight months, following his father's purchase of a second-hand chess set at a jumble sale. He quickly learned to defeat his father and soon came to the attention of the Sussex Junior Chess Association, where he received tuition from a number of established county players. He progressed rapidly and became the British champion in the age categories Under 8, Under 9 and Under 10.

In August 1999, Howell became famous internationally when he broke the world record for the youngest player to have defeated a Grandmaster in an official game. Aged 8, he defeated John Nunn in a blitz game at the Mind Sports Olympiad.[2] Howell still holds this record. He is also the youngest player in the world to have qualified to compete in a national chess championship, taking part in the British Chess Championship in August 2000. He came fourth in the Player of the Year ballot held by the British Chess Federation during 2000.

In 2001, Howell came joint first at the European Youth Chess Championships in the Under 12 category and joint second at the World Youth Chess Championships in the same category. In the Hastings Challengers tournament in January 2001, Howell became the youngest ever British player to defeat a grandmaster at classical time controls when he beat Colin McNab.[3]

In March 2002, Howell drew the last of four games with the Einstein Group World Champion, Vladimir Kramnik, becoming the youngest player in the world to score against a reigning world chess champion in an organised chess match. The resulting publicity led to articles in all the main British national newspapers and appearances on CBBC, Channel 4 News, and Richard & Judy.

The extensive coverage he received as the UK's most gifted young chess player also spread to appearances on Breakfast TV, Blue Peter, Nickelodeon, Good Morning America, and several local news programmes. At a televised awards show for Britain's most talented youngsters, he was presented an award by Patrick Moore.

Progress was perhaps more measured during his early to mid teens, but Howell continued to meet all the milestone challenges, first gaining the International Master title, and culminating in becoming a grandmaster at the age of sixteen, the youngest ever in the UK. Along the way, he performed well at the Hastings knockout-style tournament (2004–5 edition), where he was eliminated at the quarter-final (round 5) stage by the strong Polish GM Bartosz Soćko.

Despite his sustained efforts at the chequered board, he continued to study for his French, German (fluent in both)[4] and Maths A-levels, at Eastbourne College.[5]

He obtained the three norms required for the title Grandmaster (GM) between 2004 and 2007; these comprised the 4NCL team tournament (season 2004/5), the CCA-ICC International at New York City 2005 and Stockholm's Rilton Cup 2006/7. In this latter tournament he tied for second place, qualifying for the grandmaster title on 5 January 2007, aged 16. By doing so, Howell broke Luke McShane's record as the youngest grandmaster ever from UK, set in 2000, by six months.[6]

2007–Present day: Tournament success and continued rating climb[edit]

Since becoming a grandmaster in 2007, Howell has participated in a variety of competitions; he took a share of fourth place in the British championship that year and went on to scoop the English Chess Federation's Player of the Year Award.

A significant rise in his Elo rating followed his achievements of 2008, beginning with victory at the Andorra Open, where he scored 8/9 points, ahead of experienced grandmasters Julio Granda Zuñiga and Mihail Marin. He followed this with a share of third place at the World Junior Chess Championship in Gaziantep, where he was always challenging for the lead. At the very strong EU Individual Open Chess Championship in Liverpool he finished with a share of fifth place despite a loss on time and then went on to win the annual Winterthur Masters event, ahead of other grandmasters, among them former Paraguayan champion Axel Bachmann and former Swiss champions Joseph Gallagher and Florian Jenni.[7] At the Chess Olympiad of 2008, held in Dresden, he joined the England team on board 3 and contributed 7½/11 for a tournament performance rating (TPR) of 2675.

Howell was the British Rapidplay Chess Champion in 2008 with a score of 10/11 points, and in 2009 with 9/11. He tied for first with Andrei Istrățescu, Romain Edouard and Mark Hebden in the 2009/10 Hastings International Chess Congress.[8] In August 2009, Howell won the British championship for the first time scoring 9/11.[9] He placed third in the London Chess Classic in December. He won the British Rapidplay Chess Championship again in 2010 with a score of 10½/11. In 2012 Howell won the Leiden Chess Tournament. In August 2013 Howell won his second British championship title with 9½/11 points. The following year he shared first place with Jonathan Hawkins in the 101st British Chess Championship.[10] Howell took clear second place at the 2015 Gibraltar Masters tournament with a score of 8/10, half-point behind Hikaru Nakamura.[11][12] In December 2015, Howell won the inaugural British Knockout Championship, held alongside the 7th London Chess Classic, by defeating in the final Nicholas Pert 4–2.[13]

In the FIDE rating list of August 2015 he reached a rating of 2712 and thus joined the ranks of the 2700+ players for the first time. Howell represented England in the 42nd and 43rd Chess Olympiads, helping his team to 9th and 5th places, respectively. In 2019, Howell came close to qualifying for the Candidates tournament after a series of good results in the FIDE Grand Swiss tournament, before losing to Wang Hao, the eventual qualifier.[14][15]

At Astana in 2019, Howell was part of the England Team that won the silver medal at the World Team Chess Championship. His performance on board 3 also earned him an individual bronze medal.

He regularly hosts chess24 commentary of major tournaments, such as the 2020/21 Candidates.[16]


  1. ^ "Schoolboy becomes chess champion". BBC. 8 January 2007. Retrieved 11 January 2007.
  2. ^ "Chess Star is Born, aged 8", The Guardian, 30 August 1999, Leonard Barden
  3. ^ "David Howell biography".
  4. ^ Matnadze, Anna (11 March 2008). "David Howell meets world champions in Barcelona". ChessBase. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  5. ^ David Howell becomes a grandmaster at 16. ChessBase.com. 6 January 2007.
  6. ^ Barden, Leonard (6 January 2007). "Barden on Chess". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 January 2007.
  7. ^ TWIC 727 by Mark Crowther – Item 10
  8. ^ Giddins, Steve (6 January 2010). "Hastings Four players tie for first with 7.0–9". ChessBase. Retrieved 6 January 2010.
  9. ^ Barden, Leonard (7 August 2009). "Leonard Barden on Chess". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 6 April 2019.
  10. ^ Silver, Albert (31 July 2014). "Hawkins and Howell are British Champions". ChessBase. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  11. ^ McGourty, Colin (6 February 2015). "Gibraltar Masters: Nakamura and Hou Yifan triumph". chess24. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  12. ^ Pein, Malcolm (9 February 2015). "Hikaru Nakamura rocks Gibraltar as it is revealed Vishy Anand will play next year". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  13. ^ "British Knockout Championship". London Chess Classic. Retrieved 3 January 2016.
  14. ^ Doggers (PeterDoggers), Peter. "Wang Hao Wins FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss, Qualifies For Candidates". Chess.com. Retrieved 20 April 2021.
  15. ^ "Chess: Wang Hao shocks elite to win at Isle of Man after David Howell blunders". The Guardian. 25 October 2019. Retrieved 20 April 2021.
  16. ^ "Magnus Carlsen to commentate on the Candidates". chess24.com. Retrieved 19 April 2021.

External links[edit]