"finding Fischer"

I just started getting into chess again earlier this year and I don't remember why but I started to think about the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer"(for those of you who haven't seen the movie I strongly suggest you do, especially if you're a chess lover).  I remember seeing the movie once when I was younger.  I didn't play chess much at the time and thought how great it would be to see it again now that my knowledge and interest in the game is much greater.  I was living in an apartment with a girl friend at the time and I wouldn't stop talking about it.  I told her about Josh Waitzkin and how he became a strong player at such a young age.  I went on about Bobby Fischer and how he became a cold war icon by defeating the Russians and becoming world champion.  Eventually she would just roll her eyes because I tend to talk her ears off when it comes to chess.  I became more excited and couldn't wait to see the movie.  I couldn't rent the movie because they didn't carry it.  I didn't order it on-line cause I didn't want to wait, so I decided to wake up early the next morning and purchase it.  I went to bed with plans of watching the movie tomorrow evening with my girlfriend.....I couldn't wait!  Sure enough morning came and I got ready to go.  I wanted to check my e-mail before I left.  I turned on my computer and clicked on my in-box....but wait....what was that on the news page.....a chess match?!  I went back and it was a chess match.  It was Spassky and Fischer!   The caption read: Bobby Fischer dies at 64 in Iceland.  For a second I thought I was seeing things, then the phone rang.  It was my girlfriend saying, "Did you know Bobby Fischer died today, isn't that crazy.....".  It was crazy.  A hell of a coincidence.  No, I didn't cry.  I went looking for the movie.  Determined to find it I arrived at my 5th store; a video exchange.  It took a while but I found one lone VHS copy(probably the only one in the whole city).  I dusted it off, took it home and watched it with my girlfriend.  Best $1.99 I ever spent.  Thanks for listening.  -MStewart


  • 9 years ago


    Wonderfully detailed exposition of the movie.  I'll rent it again (or buy it).  Thank you.
  • 9 years ago


    First, MStewart, thanks for posting this interesting topic.

    Second, thanks BillWall for all that extraordinary detail.  I've read it once, I'll download it and give it the attention it deserves when I get the opportunity.  Bill, I see that "Fathering a Chess Prodigy" is available at this link:


    I'll have a look at that later, too.

    The first time I saw the movie was frustrating.  I was working at a festival in New Zealand and saw that it was scheduled to be screened at 1830.  A woman wanted to visit me at my motel (professional visit ... don't jump to conclusions) and I told her not to arrive before 2030.  She came at 2010 and I missed the end of the movie.

    It was two years later, back in Australia, that I finally saw the end of it.  

    Gives a new meaning to time trouble, doesn't it! 

  • 9 years ago


    Searching for Bobby Fischer really begins in 1972 when Bobby Fischer defeated Boris Spassky in the World Chess Championship Match in Reyjavik, Iceland, then disappeared from chess. Many people got interested in chess and picked up the game, even became grandmasters, because of Fischer popularizing the game. PBS (WNET) covered the match, which starred Grandmaster Edmar Mednis, National Master Shelby Lyman, and National Master Bruce Pandolfini, manager of the Manhattan Chess Club (which no longer exists). Fischer now lives in Iceland.

    Joshua (Josh) Waitzkin (pronoucned WAYT-zkin) was born on December 4, 1976.

    Josh learned how to play chess from his father, Fred Waitzkin (born in 1943), at age 6 in early 1983. He later started playing at the Marshall Chess Club on 10th Street. He later discovered chess players in Washington Square (a few blocks above Greenwich Village) in March of 1983. Washington Square had its chess husters such as Vincent (Vinnie) Livermore and Israel (the Sheriff) Zilber, an International Master rated over 2400. Zilber once defeated Tal in the 1952 Latvian Championship. For a time, Grandmaster Roman Dzindzichashvili played chess at Washington Square.

    In the Spring of 1984, Josh was playing at the National Elementary Chess Championship in Syracuse, New York. He lost in the 7th round. The event was won by Evan Turtel. The primary championship went to Oliver Tai.

    In 1984, Josh played in the New York City Primary Championship at the Manhattan chess club. He won that event.

    In 1984 Josh began taking lessons from Bruce Pandolfini ($60/hour).

    The 1984 Greater New York Open was held at the Bar Point game room. The tournament included Joel Benjamin, Dmitry Gurevich, and Asa Hoffmann.

    During the summer of 1984, Josh traveled with his father and Bruce Pandolfini to Moscow for the Karpov-Kasparov match.

    The 1985 National Primary Championship was held in Charlotte, North Carolina. Josh was the number-one seeded player. In the final round (round 7) he lost to David Arnett. Arnett and Matt Goldman tied for 1st-2nd, with 6.5 out of 7 points. Arnett and Waitzkin went to Dalton. Dalton captured its first national team title at Charlotte,

    In 1985, Fred Waitzkin wrote, "Fathering a Chess Prodigy," for the New York Times.

    In the fall of 1985 Josh was transferred to Dalton Primary School in New York. Dalton has won 23 National championships, more than any other school in the country. The Dalton School Chess Academy were National Elementary Chess Champions from 1987 through 1990, 1992, and 1993. They were the Primary Team Champions from 1985 through 1991. They were the National Junior High School Tournament Champions from 1988 through 1990, 1993, and 1994. They were the National High School Tournament Champions in 1995. Their chess instructor was Svetozar Jovanovic.

    In September, 1985, Josh first played and was defeated by Jeff Sarwer at the Manhattan Chess Club. In November, Josh returned to the Manhattan Chess Club and beat Jeff in a rematch.

    In 1985 Josh was seeded first in the 1985 New York City Primary Championship, held at the Manhattan Chess Club. Morgan Pehme won on tie-breaks over Josh, each scoring 5-1.

    Josh Waitzkin and Jeff Sarwer tied for 1st place in the National Primary Championship in May 1986, held in Charlotte at the Quality Inn. Josh took 1st place on tie-breaks. There were complaints about Sarwer participating because he did not attend school. Alex Chang won the Elementary championship.

    Jeff Sarwer went on to win the 1986 World Championship Under-10.

    Bobby Seltzer won the National Elementary championship, followed by Josh Waitzkin, who took 2nd place. Dalton won the national team championship.

    Josh won the National Junior High Championship in 1988 while in the 5th grade.

    In 1988 Fred Waitzkin wrote "Searching for Bobby Fischer."

    Josh won the National Elementary Championship in 1989.

    In 1990, at the age of 13, he earned the title of National Master. His highest rating in 1990 was 2229.

    In 1990 he won the Junior High Championship for the second time.

    In 1991 he won the Senior High Championship. His highest rating in 1991 was 2301.

    In 1991 he won the Cadet Championship (under-16).

    In 1992 his rating was 2424.

    On April 4, 1992 auditions began for the movie, Searching for Bobby Fischer.

    In 1993, at the age of 16, he became an International Master, with a rating of 2447.

    In 1993 he was the U.S. Junior Co-Champion.

    In 1994 he won the Under-21 U.S. Junior Championaship and placed 4th in the Under-18 World Championship. His rating was 2492.

    Searching for Bobby Fischer was released on August 11, 1993. It made a little over $7 million.

    The video/DVD release date was July 11, 2000.


    Josh Waitzkin (age 7) was played by Max Pomeranc.
    Fred Waitzkin was played by Joe Mantegna.
    Bonnie Waitzkin was played by Joan Allen.
    Vinnie the chess hustler (Vincent Livermore) was played by Laurence Fishburne.
    Bruce Pandolfini was played by Ben Kingsley.
    Jonathan Poe (Jeff Sarwer) was played by Michael Nirenberg
    Poe's teacher was played by Robert Stephens (Jeff Sarwer's dad?)
    Kalev Pehme, the nervous chess dad, was played by David Paymer
    Morgan Pehme, Josh's best chess friend, was played by Hal Scardino
    Tunafish sandwich father was played by William Macy (a bad guy in the book)
    the tournament director was played by Dan Hedaya
    the school teacher was played by Laura Linney
    the fighting parent was played by Anthony Heald
    the chess club regular was played by Josh Mostel
    the chess club regular #2 was played by Josn Kornbluth
    the chess club member was played by Tony Shaloub
    Asa Hoffmann was played by Austin Pendleton
    the Russian Park player (Israel Zilber) was played by Vasek Simek
    the man of many signals at the school was played by Steven Randazzo
    Katya Waitzkin, Josh's younger sister, was played by Chelsea Moore
    the reporter was played by Tom McGowan
    the report #2 was played by Ona Fletcher
    the park player was played by Jerry Poe McClinton
    the night park player was played by Matt Reines
    the Washington Square patzer was played by Vincent Smith
    the Washington Square patzer #2 was played by Jerry Rakow
    the statistician was played by William Colgate
    the journalist was played by Tony DeSantis
    the final tournament director (Nationals) was played by R.D. Reid
    the park dealer was played by Anthony McGowen
    the 82nd ranked girl at the Nationals was played by Katya Waitzkin
    Produced by Scott Rudin and William Horberg
    Executive producer was Sydney Pollack
    Co-producer was David Wisnievitz
    music by James Horner
    cinematographer by Conrad Hall (died Jan 6, 2003 at the age of 76)
    costume design by Julie Weiss
    casting by Amy Kaufman
    edited by Wayne Wahrman
    technical editor was Bruce Pandolfini
    special mention to Patrick Lewis and Hanon Russell
    Running time was 110 minutes.
    Classified PG (mild profanity)
    Paramount Pictures (Mirage)

    Fishburne identifies the man he is playing speed chess as "grandmaster Shirazi." Kamran Shirazi was "only" an International Master.

    Early in the movie a man in a blue jacket with glasses says, "Young Fischer" to Ben Kingsley as they watch Josh play Vinnie. The man who says this is the real Bruce Pandolfini.

    Josh's real mother, Bonnie Waitzkin, appears at the beginning of the film as a parent outside the school when Joan Allen (as Bonnie) picks up Max (as Josh). Bonnie has dark hair and is standing right next to Joan.

    Bonnie currently teaches chess at Princeton Day School in Princeton, NJ.

    In one of the scenes, Josh (Max Pomeranc) plays against Vinnie in the park while his father looks on from the bench next to Vinnie. The dark haired teenager in the black sweatshirt playing chess (he has the White pieces) behind Vinnie is the real Josh Waitzkin.

    In the movie Josh Waitzkin (Max Pomeranc) is seen playing in the Nationals tournament with Josh's actual sister, Katya Waitzkin. He defeats her in the first round of the National Championships to "ranked 82nd."

    Vinnie's character came from Vincent Livermore, a 34-year old black man and chess hustler who died of AIDS in 1993.

    The final position in the movie is the following:

    White: Ke6, Re5, Bg5, Ne4, Pf6, Ph4
    Black: Kc2, Rc7, Bd8, Nb6, Pa7, Pg7
    Black to move.
    1...gxf6 2.Bxf6? (2.Nxf6 should draw) 2...Bxf6 3.Nxf6 (3.Kxf6? Nd7+) 3...Rc6+ 4.Kf7 Rxf6+! 5.Kxf6 Nd7 6.Ke6 Nxe5 7.Kxe5 a5 8.h5 a4 9.h6 a3 10.h7 a2 11.h8=Q a1=Q+ and 12...Qxh8 wins the Queen and the game. 0-1

    In the real game in 1986, the game was a draw in Sarwer-Waitzkin as all the pieces and pawns were traded, leaving just lone kings. The opening was a King's Indian, Saemisch variation.

    The Nationals in the movie was filmed at the Hart House at the University of Toronto.

    Pal Benko was supposed to be in the movie, but it was cut out.

    FIDE Master Asa Hoffmann refused to play himself as the script showed him as a demeaning person. The movie version of Hoffmann is not like the real Asa Hoffmann.

    In the movie, Max's mom was a spectator at a baseball game.

    The original casting was supposed to have Tom Hanks play the father, Fred Waitzkin.

    No actor except Max Pomeranc could play chess. Later, Joe Mantegna learned how to play.

    Cameos by Grandmaster Joel Benjamin, Grandmaster Roman Dzindzihasvili, Bruce Pandolfini, Katya Waitzkin, Josh Waitzkin, Grandmaster Kamran Shirazi, and Max Pomeranc's mom.. Cameos cut include Grandmaster Pal Benko and FIDE master Svetozar Jovanovic.

    The Bobby Fischer scenes include black and white footage of him at Reykjavik, New York (getting the key to the city from Mayor John Lindsey), on the Dick Cavett show, being interviewed in the park and asked when he took chess seriously (age 7), giving a simultaneous exhibition, and many still pictures of him including on Life magazine and with Jack Collins.

    Technical errors include the setting of the chess clock times not accurate, nobody keeping score on a scoresheet, too noisy in the tournaments, smoked filled room at the presigious chess tournament, offering of the draw was improper, never say check in speed chess or any other time, wrong title for Shirazi (International Master not Grandmaster), writing the chess notation, parent lock-out.

    Accurate chess terms and scenes include j'adoube, Schliemann Attack, pawn islands, patzer, Fischer scenes and pictures, good advice not to bring the Queen out early, 2-minute blitz chess,

    The screenplay was written and directed by Steven Zaillian, based on Fred Waitzkin's autobiographical book. Zaillian won the MTV Movie Award in 1994 as best new filmmaker.

    Zaillian wrote the screenplay Awakenings and Schindler's List.

    Academy Award Nomination: Best Cinematography - Conrad Hall

    British Title: Innocent Moves

    At 18 Josh wrote "Attacking Chess."

    In 1997 Josh released an instructional video "Chess Starts Here."

    Josh is a spokesman for Chessmaster, the largest computer chess program in the world.

    Bobby Fischer is currently living in Iceland. Before that, he lived in the Philippines, Hungary, and Pasadena. When he was interviewed on a radio show, he actually had the Searching for Bobby Fischer DVD in front of him, watching or had just watched it. He was arrested in Japan, then later released to trvel to Iceland.

    In February 2003, Hikaru Nakamura (born Dec 9, 1987) broke Bobby Fischer's 1958 record of the youngest American grandmaster ever. He became a GM at the age of 15 years and 58 days. Fischer (born March 9, 1943) became a grandmaster at 15 years, 185 days. He was made a Grandmaster at the Portoroz Intersonal in September 1958.

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