The problem with contemporary chess, said Oliver Boydell, who has won titles at the city, state and national levels, is that it has become too “positional,” without the mistakes and dazzling reversals of past chess eras. It is just not that much fun to watch.
So this year, during the pandemic, Oliver wrote a book analyzing 25 great games dating back to 1851. Move by move, he pulls apart Paul Morphy’s legendary queen sacrifice at the opera house in Paris, 1858, and Bobby Fischer’s unfathomable comeback against Robert Byrne, a New York Times chess columnist, in New York, 1963. Most of these games were played well before Oliver was even born. He is 10.
His book is called “He’s Got Moves: 25 Legendary Chess Games (As Analyzed by a Smart Kid).” And yes, Oliver liked Netflix’s series “The Queen’s Gambit,” with one reservation.
“It was quite accurate on how someone might become a great chess player, but maybe there would be more downfalls,” he said. “There was just the one player who kept beating her, and then the one championship that she lost. A real-life player usually suffers a lot more than just two opponents.”
Oliver lives in TriBeCa with his parents, Tiffany and Paul Boydell, and his older brother, Sebastien.
GET ON BOARD I usually wake up early because I have a 9 o’clock chess class with my teacher from India, Pradeep Pathak. It’s supposed to be an hour, but we really enjoy it, so it sometimes goes up to an hour and a half. We usually do chess openings or how to plan in the middle game.
LOGICAL IMPROV I don’t try to memorize openings. I just try to practice them, and whatever happens, just think logically what the best move is. But my favorite opening is definitely the Sicilian.
CHIPS AHOY Then I’m usually hungry, so I get chocolate chip pancakes from my favorite brunch place, Bubby’s. We eat outside because of the pandemic.
PANDEMIC PLAY It’s unfortunate because I really like over-the-board chess. One of my favorite places to go is the Marshall Chess Club, on 10th Street, but we can’t go there now because of the pandemic. I have played in Washington Square Park. I feel I’ve played a little more, though, in Union Square Park. But we can’t do it anymore because you’re close together and you have a lot of people around the board.
FREE WHEELING After breakfast I try to do something fun, maybe go for a walk, maybe go for a bike ride to view the Statue of Liberty. I usually go with my parents. I learned how to ride a bike during the pandemic. I thought it would be a fun thing to do because there wasn’t anything going on.
JUST FOR KICKS I have a soccer game around 2. For me, soccer is more about fun than competitiveness. So is chess, but I feel like I try more competitively in chess than in soccer. Ever since September we’ve started up again. I wear a mask and we try to be socially distant.
KING TAKES LEG After the game I usually go to Shake Shack, because it’s right there by the field. Usually I get a chicken sandwich. Then I go back home and relax a little bit, but before relaxing, I make sure I don’t have any homework to do.
I think chess helps with thinking strategically. In math or even in history, you have to analyze. And you also need to focus, and you focus in chess.
ON THE ATTACK I usually play some video games until I have my other chess lesson, with Bruce Pandolfini. We used to meet in person, but now we do online Skype meetings. We usually play out endgame positions that are likely to happen. I really like the endgames from Akiba Rubinstein and Mikhail Botvinnik. I like his attacking.
COOL DOWN After my lesson I usually want a little more of relaxing time. Whenever I take a break I try to do two chess games and 50 puzzles. Usually I play online with people around the world. They’re usually random people.
SUP? But I need to make sure I get dinner. Sometimes we go out to Zutto, which is a pub place that’s Japanese, or Pepolino, which is an Italian place I’ve been going to since I was about 6 months. It’s probably my favorite restaurant. Or sometimes my dad will make me steak or salmon.
CHORES I have sometimes washed the dishes, but mostly I just take out the clean dishes.
UNWIND After dinner I relax and play more video games. Also sometimes I read a book. I know that’s not my strongest skill. My favorite book I read during the pandemic was definitely “Refugee.” There’s three stories going on in three different years. One is a Jewish boy fleeing Nazi Germany for Cuba. Then in 1980 people in Cuba are trying to escape to get to Florida. And in 2015 people in the Middle East are trying to escape from Syria. It makes me think about how my mom came from Vietnam.
ENDGAME I usually go to bed around 10, 10:30. I don’t really have anything that helps me go to sleep. I just get in bed and fall asleep in three minutes.