Searching for Bobby Fischer

August 11th, 1993


Searching for Bobby Fischer

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Still of Steven Zaillian in Searching for Bobby Fischer

A prepubescent chess prodigy refuses to harden himself in order to become a champion like the famous but unlikable Bobby Fischer.

Release Year: 1993

Rating: 7.5/10 (15,569 voted)

Director: Steven Zaillian

Stars: Joe Mantegna, Ben Kingsley, Max Pomeranc

Josh Waitzkin is just a typical American boy interested in baseball when one day he challenges his father at chess and wins. Showing unusual precocity at the outdoor matches at Washington Square in New York City, he quickly makes friends with a hustler named Vinnie who teaches him speed chess. Josh's parents hire a renowned chess coach, Bruce, who teaches Josh the usefulness of measured planning. Along the way Josh becomes tired of Bruce's system and chess in general and purposely throws a match, leaving the prospects of winning a national championship in serious jeopardy.

Writers: Fred Waitzkin, Steven Zaillian

Max Pomeranc - Josh Waitzkin
Joe Mantegna - Fred Waitzkin
Joan Allen - Bonnie Waitzkin
Ben Kingsley - Bruce Pandolfini
Laurence Fishburne - Vinnie
Michael Nirenberg - Jonathan Poe
Robert Stephens - Poe's Teacher
David Paymer - Kalev
Hal Scardino - Morgan
Vasek Simek - Russian Park Player
William H. Macy - Tunafish Father
Dan Hedaya - Tournament Director
Laura Linney - School Teacher
Anthony Heald - Fighting Parent
Steven Randazzo - Man of Many Signals

Taglines: Every journey begins with a single move.

Release Date: 11 August 1993

Filming Locations: New York City, New York, USA

Gross: $7,266,383 (USA)

Technical Specs

Runtime:  | Canada: (Ontario)

Did You Know?

In the second half of the movie where Josh's father brings him back to the park to play with Vinnie, real-life Josh Waitzkin and Vinnie (both much older than actors playing them) are visible in the background.

Errors made by characters (possibly deliberate errors by the filmmakers): After he works out the sequence of moves which will win the game, Josh offers Jonathan a draw before making his move. Proper chess etiquette dictates that a player only offer a draw AFTER making a move.

[first lines]
Josh Waitzkin: [about Bobby Fischer] In the days before the event, the whole world wondered if he would show up. Plane after plane waited on the runway, while he napped, took walks, and ate sandwiches. Henry Kissinger called and asked him to go for his country's honor. Soon after arriving...

User Review

Brilliant intelligently sensitive drama

Rating: 9/10

Let me start by saying I am not a person who goes for sentimental, "heart on your sleeve" type big dramas that seem to be the idol of most professional critics. In fact, to put it bluntly I totally loathe them. (I prefer movies that at least try to have a cohesive plot line with a reasonably accessible story idea and some decent tight pacing; ie: something that's both informative and fun. This is my interpretation of the classic idea of "a good story, well told".)

With that in mind, I wish to state that this movie (film, whatever) really does work, at all levels. It's a good intelligent story (apparently based on fact} about a very bright, very young kid who is discovered to be naturally good at chess and enters the serious national tournaments. During which time, there are raised issues of the concept of the winning ethos; and keeping (or losing) your humanity in the process.

This cast is magnificent here. The central leads are played by Joe Mantegna and Max Pomerance as the father and son respectively. Both give very well-balanced performances. Sensitive, without being sappy. Max in particular is very good, especially in the dramatic climax of the film; which he handles with total dignity. It could have been so over the top and patronizing in lesser hands, but this time it isn't.

They are ably supported by Laurence Fishburne and Ben Kingsley as two different types of coaches, from "opposite side of the tracks" (sorry for that old cliché). It may seem formulaic, but in this case the dramatic contrasts works surprisingly well, and both come over as intelligent representatives of their particular points of view. And there are also great character moments by David Paymer {QUIZ SHOW, MR Saturday NIGHT, etc} and Hal Scardino {THE Indian IN THE CUPBOARD} as well.

Over all, I would highly commend this film as the type of story that manages to tread the fine line between intelligent ideas and an entertaining story. I recommend it to everyone. Give it half a chance and it can work for you. It really is a great example of intelligently entertaining!


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