David Wei Liang Howell (born 14 November 1990) is an English chess Grandmaster and the current British Chess Champion. He is the youngest chess Grandmaster in the United Kingdom, a title he earned when he came second during the 35th Rilton Cup inStockholm on 5 January 2007 when he was 16. The previous record holder, Luke McShane, was six months older when he became a grandmaster.
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. He 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.
Howell 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 Under-8, Under-9 and Under-10 chess champion.
In August 1999, Howell became famous internationally when he broke the world record for the youngest player to have defeated aGrandmaster in an official game. He defeated GM John Nunn in a blitz game at the Mind Sports Olympiad. 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 theBritish Chess Championship in August 2000. He came fourth in the Player of the Year ballot held by the British Chess Federationduring 2000.
In 2001, Howell came joint first in the European Under-12 Chess Championship and joint second in the World Under-12 Championship. 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 GM Colin McNab.
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) and Maths A-levels, at Eastbourne College.
His chess coaching with grandmaster Glenn Flear was sponsored by JEB (Hove) Ltd, the software developer responsible for the BITEM event management website. There were also training sessions with Nigel Short who has worked with other successful juniors such as Pendyala Harikrishna, Sergey Karjakin and Parimarjan Negi.
He obtained the three necessary GM norms between 2004 and 2007; these comprised the 4NCL team tournament (season 2004/5), the CCA-ICC International at New York 2005 and Stockholm‘s Rilton Cup 2006/7. His results included wins against GMs Tomi Nyback, Slavko Cicak, Vladimir Epishin, Daniel Fridman and Nick de Firmian.
Since becoming a grandmaster in 2007, Howell has participated in a variety of competitions; he took a share of fourth place in the British Chess 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 an 8/9, ahead of experienced grandmastersJulio Granda Zuniga 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 surprising loss on time and then went on to win the annual Winterthur Masters event, ahead of other grandmasters that included former Paraguayan Champion Axel Bachmann and former Swiss champions Joseph Gallagher andFlorian Jenni. At the Dresden Olympiad of 2008, 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. In 2009/10 he tied for first with Andrei Istrăţescu, Romain Edouard and Mark Hebden in the Hastings International Chess Congress. He placed third in the London Chess Classic in December 2009. 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 Chess Championship title with 9½/11.