David Howell is on a roll. At the halfway stage of the British Championship he looks set to retain his title, and he has shot to no. 2 in the British rankings, behind Michael Adams. His recent successes include a share of first prize in the Dubai Open and a stunning outright first in the tournament at Leiden, with the colossal score of 8½/9. Howell’s games are not only producing effective results but are beginning to display those signs of luminosity which characterise the creative efforts of the great masters. This week’s game is a case in point.
Howell-Das: Leiden 2015; Queen’s Gambit Accepted
1 d4 d5 2 c4 dxc4 3 e4 b5 4 a4 c6 5 Nc3 a6 6 axb5 cxb5 7 Nxb5 axb5 8 Rxa8 Bb7 Black has employed a risky, but playable variation of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted which has hitherto held up in theory. 9 Ra1 e6 10 Be2 Nf6 11 Nf3 Nxe4 12 0-0 Nc6
13 b3 This is a new move. 13 Be3 Qd5 14 b3 cxb3 15 Qd3 led to a draw in Heimann-Godena, Ruzomberok 2014. 13 … Na5 After this White has a good position. Best appears to be 13 … Nc3 14 Qe1 Nxe2+ 15 Qxe2 Nxd4 16 Nxd4 Qxd4 17 Bb2 Qd5 with balanced chances. 14 Bxc4 14 bxc4 Nc3 15 Qe1 Nxe2+ 16 Qxe2 Nxc4 17 Bf4 is slightly better for White but Howell is trying for more. 14 … bxc4 15 bxc4 (see diagram 2) 15 … Nc3 This is too convoluted and leaves Black’s pieces on tactically vulnerable squares. Much better is 15 … Be7 when White has a choice of various ways to pursue the initiative including 16 Qa4+, 16 Re1 and 16 d5 although none of these leads to a clear cut advantage. 16 Qd3 Bb4 17 d5 This energetic thrust is the refutation of Black’s play. Not 17 Bd2 which loses after 17 … Be4. 17 … Nb3 Now 17 … 0-0 18 Bd2 is very strong.
18 Ba3 This leaves all Black’s pieces hanging. 18 … Nxa1 19 Bxb4 is overwhelming. 18 … Nc5 19 Qe3 Qa5 20 Bb2 N3a4 21 Bxg7 Rg8 22 Bd4 Rg4 23 Rfb1 Re4 24 Qg5 Rxd4 25 Nxd4 Bc3 26 Qg8+ Ke7 27 Rxb7+ Black resigns After 27 … Nxb7 28 Nc6+ wins the black queen.
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