Kids These Days: Oliver Boydell and his book, “He’s Got Moves”

When he was a little kid — littler than he is now, that is — Oliver Boydell’s favorite piece on the chess board was the knight. It could, after all, jump over things, which when you’re 6 is half the fun. But now a seasoned — and I am not pandering here — player at the age of 10 who has not only studied chess as his avocation for the past five years but has also written a book about it, he’s all about the king. The white king, when given the choice.

“It’s the most important piece and you have to protect it,” says Oliver, who lives on Franklin with his parents, Tiffany and Paul Boydell, and his older brother, Sebastien. “And white gets the first move. Most people like the first move. It’s a really important asset.”

Oliver started playing at age 5 on his mother’s iPad and got hooked. His school didn’t have a team, so his parents signed him up for the scholastic tournaments that take place around the city. And then he started winning. By kindergarten he had won the US Chess Nationals for his age group. “I realized I was maybe pretty good so I wanted to play more and more,” Oliver says.

His parents got him a coach, Bruce Pandolfini, who was portrayed by Ben Kingsley in “Searching for Bobby Fischer,” and he also now works with Pradeep Pathak over Zoom from India. A fifth grader at Speyer Legacy School (he went to UNIS till third grade), he also plays with the team there two times a week, coached by Irina Krush. His rating is about 1700, and for perspective, an “expert” is 2000+ and a grandmaster is 2600 and up.

Before the pandemic, Oliver was competing every weekend at a tournament somewhere in the city or travelling to bigger tourneys across the country. But when the quarantine set in, school went online and all his summer camps (he also plays soccer) were cancelled, he started studying legendary games — the matches of Mikhail Botvinnik, Bobby Fischer, Garry Kasparov, Boris Spassky, among others — and decided to annotate them to use them as teaching tools. It wasn’t such a departure — he’s a chess proselytizer, and since third grade he’s been coaching other kids during the school day if for no better reason than to develop playing partners.

“I want help people learn about chess and improve in chess,” he says simply. “It’s a great game in my opinion, and I think everyone should know about it.”

His mother helped him type up his notes, and through a friend who is a copyright attorney they stumbled on a publisher who, it turns out, is just around the corner. “He’s Got Moves: 25 Legendary Chess Games (As Analyzed by a Smart Kid)” was published this fall by Metabook Entertainment — a Tribeca company — and has gotten Oliver his share of press, including a stint on Good Morning America where he played George Stephanopoulos and a Sunday Routine feature in The Times.

He plays daily, practicing with games and exercises, plus he’s working on his next book (he’s got more ideas he couldn’t fit in the last one) and just feeding his passion for the game, which seems pretty limitless. “I like that it’s very strategic – you have to use your brain a lot. And it’s very competitive. And I am a very competitive person.”



  1. what an inspiring story! can’t wait to hear more about Oscar in the future!

  2. Wow. What an inspirational young talent. Go Oliver!

  3. The Barnes & Noble should be receiving copies in a few days.

  4. It brings me much joy to read about this bright, talented and inspiring young man – thank you!