Small Wonder: How a 11-year-old Oliver is taking the chess world by storm | Chess News

2021-01-15 11:53:18

Even as his schoolmates at the 5th grade of New York’s Speyer Legacy School spent time either attending online classes during the months of covid-19 lockdown or remained glued to cartoons on the television or mobile phones, Oliver Boydell had a different homework to complete. As the lockdown months commenced, the 11-year-old chess phenomenon — who in pre-covid days would defeat strangers many times his size at the Union Square or in other parks at Manhattan — was now confined to his apartment in Tribeca. The extra hours he had on his hands during the lockdown months saw Oliver wrap up his first book titled – He’s Got Moves: 25 Legendary Chess Games as analyzed by a Smart Kid.
From ‘The Immortal Game’ featuring Adolf Anderssen and Lionel Kieseritzky in 1851 to the world champion Magnus Carlsen’s online triumph over Anish Giri last year — Oliver’s work does a move-by-move analysis of 25 riveting games played in chess history. Authoring a book on chess at the age of 10 is a rare feat, but the baby-faced Oliver calls it a natural progression for him ever since the sport came into his life at the age of 5. “I would always prepare notes from the games I either watched or played. Over the last 4-5 years, these notes have fed me with ideas and this book was a way to share it with the reader,” Oliver told TOI.

Oliver Boydell during a chess match
The first thing that strikes anyone who converses about chess with Oliver is his mastery over games that were played in the 1900s or even before that. Oliver credits coach Bruce Pandolfini for helping him delve deep into games of previous generation players and understand their psyche. Pandolfini, a Bobby Fischer contemporary who has penned over 40 books on chess, has been associated with Oliver since 2016. Pandolfini, who was also the primary consultant in the hit series Queen’s Gambit, has written the prologue of Oliver’s book.
While Oliver’s writing skills are being talked about by those who read the book, he first impressed everyone with his moves on the chess board. Born to Vietnamese mother Tiffany and English father Paul, Oliver caught everyone’s attention in 2015 when he won the US National Kindergarten championships in his very first attempt. By 2017, Oliver had pocketed the prestigious New York City chess championships in the first-grade category. In December 2019, Oliver had led his school side to a team trophy in Greater New York City Scholastic championships. The event was cancelled last year due to the pandemic.

Oliver in action against players at the New York’s Union Square
Oliver may not have an International Master or a Grandmaster title yet, but his Indian coach Pradeep Pathak — who has been training him for the last 3 years — believes it’s only time before he gets there. “Oliver is one of the sharpest kids I have trained. His love for chess is unmatched and once the tournaments commence — it won’t take him much time to get those ratings,” said Pathak, a former National open champion and multiple time UP state winner.
Interestingly, apart from Pandolfini and Pathak, Oliver also has 8-time US women’s champion Irina Krush fine-tuning his moves. Is it not confusing to be coached by three different people? Oliver doesn’t think so. “Every coach has his or her style. They know what the best moves are and it’s always good to have different points of views,” Oliver pointed out.
In the last 8-10 months, the chess world has been feeding on blitz games and online events, but Oliver hasn’t jumped into the bandwagon yet. “I do play a lot of games online but not necessarily in tournaments. I prefer the over-the-board events,” the young gun stated. With over-the-board events not too far away in the US — the coming months should see this small wonder return to what he does best — win chess games.

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