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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

News Story on Homeless Chess Player Helps Him Find Shelter

Posted By on Tue, Oct 8, 2013 at 11:50 AM

Marvin Boykins
  • Marvin Boykins

Clearly, newspapers are good for something other than lining your bird's cage. Just ask Marvin Boykins, the stalwart San Francisco chess player whose broad smile graced the doorsteps of thousands of residents three weeks ago, when he was featured in a San Francisco Chronicle article about the recent chess crackdown on Market Street.

A graduate of Lowell High School, Boykins says he started playing chess at age eight -- and now he can win a game in only eight moves. But somewhere along the way he winded up homeless, flitting through a series of low-income neighborhoods and eventually packing all of his possessions into a shopping cart. When we met Boykins a few weeks ago, he sat astride a folding chair on Market Street, the shopping cart by his side, a vinyl chess board at his feet. He was the only player left.

Then amid all the bad news, came some good news for Boykins. A former classmates from Lowell saw his picture in the newspaper and decided to help.

They called former Supervisor Bevan Dufty who is now the mayor's homeless czar. He referred them to Captain Michael Redmond of the Southern Police Station, who arranged for a meeting at the mid-Market safety hub on Sixth Street.

So on the eve of their 40th high school reunion, Boykins' friends helped get him back on his feet. They found him a room, enrolled him in a social program called North Beach Citizens, and began a small fund-raising campaign to help get him through this transition.

"So he's off the street now and doing pretty well," Redmond says, adding that Boykins still shows up to play chess every day at a new spot in Yerba Buena Gardens. Now a de facto folk hero in San Francisco, he still hews to the same routine and bests many of the same opponents.

Boykins says he's played downtown for more than 30 years, and he'll keep the match going for as long as possible. But now he can strategize in the comfort of his new home.

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About The Author

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan was a staff writer at SF Weekly from 2013 to 2015. In previous lives she was a music editor, IP hack, and tutor of Cal athletes.


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