One giant step for David Howell

7/2/2003 – David is a 12-year-old English lad. Although a chess prodigy he was clearly the underdog against his famous opponent: GM Sergey Karjakin from the Ukraine. Mind you Sergey is just 13 himself, but he is the youngest grandmaster in history and the second of FIDE world champion Ruslan Ponomariov. Still, David did not exactly collapse in awe. Here is an illustrated report.

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A giant step for David Howell

David Howell made another giant step in his chess career when he comfortably held Sergei Karjakin, the youngest Grandmaster in the world, to a draw in an exhibition match held to launch The Art of Chess exhibition at the Gilbert Collection, Somerset House. This special exhibition, which is on view until 28 September 2003, features 19 chess sets designed by 20th century masters such as Duchamp and Calder and new designs by artists at the cutting edge: Damien Hirst, Yayoi Kusama, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Paul McCarthy and Maurizio Cattelan. The exhibition is generously supported by Oleg Deripaska.


The two lads inspect the board on which they will play their game


It's fine, but thank heavens we don't have to play blitz!

The match was played on Saturday 28 June 2003 on a magnificent summer day in the open air Courtyard at Somerset House. David, the 12 year old prodigy from Sussex, had already established his credentials earlier in the week by disposing of Grandmaster Jonathan Speelman in a match sponsored by British Land at Regent's Place in Euston, also played on a giant chess set.

Karjakin, who has been tipped by many as a future World Champion, drew the black pieces, and the game began with the spectators crowded round four or five deep, trying to get a glimpse of the moves. On the edges of the Courtyard two large demonstration boards had been erected and Grandmasters Jonathan Levitt and Daniel King regaled the spectators on the intricacies of the game as it progressed.


The real thing: David Howell vs Sergey Karjakin

David, who had been coached prior to the match by Grandmaster Levitt, had prepared well and chose a variation which allowed Karjakin little opportunity to exercise his natural combinative flair. After several moves of mutual probing, David had negated all of Karjakin's counter play and the latter was forced to take up a defensive posture. As the pressure increased, Karjakin attempted to break out and managed to exchange queens into an end game that still looked weak for him. However, he managed to equalise the position by advancing his central pawn and, as time began to run short on both clocks, it became clear that a decisive victory was not going to be scored by either side so a draw was agreed.

The major success was undoubtedly David's since, although Karjakin is a high ranking Grandmaster, David has yet to gain his International Master title. This performance, coupled with his win over Speelman a few days before, showed that David can compete in the strongest company.

After the exhibition match, the two young players plus Grandmaster Daniel King, took part in simultaneous chess displays against members of the public and UK Chess Challenge Supremi (the UK Chess Challenge, sponsored by British Land, is the largest chess tournament in the world involving 66,000 children from 2,000 schools).


12-year-old David Howell giving a simultaneous exhibition with 59 games


Karjakin played 68 games and conceded just three draws and a single loss


Experienced GM Daniel King, assisted by Alexandra ("Angelic Allie") Wilson

In a marathon five hour session, played inside a marquee especially erected by the Gilbert Collection, the Masters completed almost 180 games of chess. Sergei Karjakin proved particularly devastating, playing an incredible 68 games, defeating 63 players, drawing 3 games and losing only to Miguel Amen and Andrew Stone, a percentage of 94.9. David Howell played 59 games, won 48, drew 9 and lost to Xin Jie Gai of Oxfordshire and Tariq Oozerally from Surrey, a success rate of 90%. Daniel King played 47 games, won 43, drew 3 and lost to Kees Pafort from Holland, scoring 94.7% The marquee, originally erected as a protection against possible rainfall, proved an immense boon against the scorching rays of the English sun.


The well-know problem chess expert Colin Russ, who is a university lecturer. Colin is fluent in German speaker and has a column in a German newspaper. The position is a mate in two, with the solution going 1.Kd6!


John Rice, the world president of the chess problem society. This time we will not tell you the solution of the mate in two.

Whilst these games were in progress a parallel blitz event for UK Chess Challenge children and members of the public was also being run in the Somerset House Courtyard. At the same time the fountains were turned on which delighted children who splashed about in them excitedly throughout the afternoon.

The event was generously supported by Freestream Aircraft Limited, The British Land Company PLC and Sir Jeremy Morse, KCMG. It was so popular that it may well be repeated next year.

Report provided by Sue Bond Public Relations, Hollow Lane Farmhouse, Thurston, Bury St Edmunds, IP31 3RQ. Tel. +44 (0)1359 271085. Photos by Mark Huba.

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