Howell's New Idea by GM Magesh and GM Arun

Howell's New Idea by GM Magesh and GM Arun

| 23 | Opening Theory

Chess learning has evolved so much over the past ten years that I pretty much belong to the older generation of chess players. Becoming a Grandmaster by 21 used to be a great thing when I learned the game, but by the time I actually made my title, it was not that big a deal; of course when you have more than fifteen Grandmasters in the world who made their title before their 15th birthday, that explains it all.


During those good old days, I would be able to survive and even excel occasionally in openings by following strong and well-tested ideas. But in today's chess world, creating new ideas has pretty much become a basic requirement for any strong Grandmaster. Coming to my point, there was a very fresh but strange idea tried out by the young English Grandmaster David Howell a couple of days ago in Switzerland against another young Grandmaster Wesley So from Philippines. Even though this idea turned out to be a disaster for Howell, it explains how deep this quest for new ideas can go.




So far we have not witnessed anything drastic in the opening. Howell decided to play his pawn to c3 and as a result has obtained a more calm position instead of the dynamic Isolated Queen Pawn(IQP) positions arising out of the Panov-Botvinnik attack. At this point I would suggest our readers to think of different ideas for white. Try to come up with something very creative before you go ahead and see what actually happened in the game.





Before we come to any conclusion on the nature of this novelty, let us try to put together some logical points behind this interesting continuation. Howell did take more than 15 minutes to play this move, which makes it difficult to conclude if this was a home-made novelty or an over-the-board improvisation.


  • White feels his king is at least as safe on f1 as it would be on g1.

  • White definitely feels the need to keep his rook on h1 as that is the main reason behind him not actually castling

  • Connecting the rooks is really not required as long as the position remains closed and black is not able to penetrate through the center or the queen side.


Now let us continue with the rest of the game and see what went wrong in this idea and why it failed miserably.




The Verdict – the idea does not pose any major threats to black. Wesley So responded very well practically against it and obtained a very good position. By delaying his castling and opening up the queen side quickly black managed to nullify any threats white created.


Right or wrong; successful or unsuccessful; new ideas such as these that throw all the old principles out the window define the era of modern chess that we are witnessing today. It turned out to be a bad one for Howell this time, but one sure has to appreciate his courage in trying out such an idea (particularly if it was improvised over the board). Hopefully he comes out with more ideas that yield him better results.

Maybe David Howell just meant to castle his king and dropped it on f1 by accident and went to bed that night screaming at himself for what he did (just kidding) and we spent hours trying to find a logic behind his new move!

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