A prepubescent chess prodigy refuses to harden himself in order to become a champion like the famous but unlikable Bobby Fischer.A prepubescent chess prodigy refuses to harden himself in order to become a champion like the famous but unlikable Bobby Fischer.A prepubescent chess prodigy refuses to harden himself in order to become a champion like the famous but unlikable Bobby Fischer.
Josh has lots of promise in becoming a future Bobby Fischer; he has a computer-like mind and a natural ability to foresee moves by his opponents, even before they even know that they'll make them. One thing that Josh doesn't have is that drive and determination, as well as killer-instinct, that Bobby Fisher had and as far as I know still does in playing to win and pulverizing his opponents into the ground by doing it.
Josh likes all kinds of sports, besides chess, and his dad Fred Waitzkin, Joe Mantegna, is a sports writer who takes Josh along to the Yankee and New York Mets baseball games where the young boy really has as much of a good time watching the ball games as he has playing chess. Fred realizes what a whiz his young son Josh is in the game of chess and wants to have him study the finer points of the game by hiring former national chess champion Bruce Pandolfini, Ben Kingsley, to tutor him and Bruce right away realizes that Josh has the makings of another Bobby Fischer. What does bother Bruce about Josh is his playing with the local chess hustlers like Winnie, Laurence Fishburn, in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. Which, in Bruce's opinion, is far to fast and doesn't give young Josh time to develop his all around concentration and understanding of the game of chess.
During the course of the movie Josh is driven relentlessly by Bruce in his attempt to mold him into another Bobby Fischer but Josh slowly starts to lose his interest in winning all the chess tournaments that he enters. The very fact of his invincibility makes Josh feel uneasy since it's always expected of him to win, like the sun is expected to rise in the morning, that there's no fun or excitement in it for him any more. Losing becomes more of a growing experience for Josh and even arouses his passions in making him feel more human. Josh is also too sensitive to beat down his opponents, like Bobby Fischer did. That later lost him the championship game against the likewise seven year-old chess phenomenon Jonathan Poe, Michael Nirenberg.
After his defeat to Jonathan Josh is looked on as if he let down all those who believed in him and at the same time he starts to get his life back together as a young boy living a normal life and not carrying the weight of the entire world of chess on his shoulders. It's during this time that the real talent that Josh had in playing chess comes up to the surface, without him being driven relentlessly by Bruce. Those untapped talents leads him to go back to playing chess, first with his friend at the park Winnie, and then working his way back in winning a number of tournaments to his becoming a top chess champion competitor. All that finally earns Josh a re-match with Jonathan for the Junior Chess Championship of the US in Chicago at the conclusion of the film.
Powerful movie and very intense for the young boys and girls in it in how they drive and push themselves to be the best at the game of chess and at the same time putting themselves in danger of sacrificing their one and only childhood to do it.
Josh Waitzkin did reach the top back then when the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer" was made in 1993 and is still there some ten years, and dozens of tournaments, later. He did it without losing both his childhood and his kind heart and sensitivity for his fellow man by doing it.
- Jul 3, 2005