Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993)

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We can argue till we’re blue in the face whether chess is a “game” or a “sport,” but maybe we can agree on this:  Searching for Bobby Fischer, the 1993 drama about chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin, might be the best movie ever made about … well, let’s call it “competition.”

When the real-life Waitzkin was very young, he was given conflicting advice about how to succeed.  “You have a good heart – and that’s the most important thing in the world,” Josh’s mother (Joan Allen) tells him.  His chess instructor (Ben Kingsley), on the other hand, tells Josh the secret to what made Fischer the best chess player on Earth:  “Bobby Fischer held the world in contempt.”

Writer-director Steven Zaillian’s low-key approach to the universe of chess masters and child competitions yields high humor (especially from misguided parents) and nail-biting drama.  Never before, nor since, have scenes involving two people seated at a game board been so deliciously suspenseful.

In the end, young Josh has to make a choice that faces all of us.  Should he emulate the explosive Fischer, winning at all costs, developing a “killer instinct” and playing only to succeed?  Or did his mom have the best advice?

Turns out Bobby Fischer might not have been worth looking for, after all.   Grade:  A

 

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Director Steven Zaillian   Cast:  Max Pomeranc, Joe Mantegna, Joan Allen, Ben Kingsley, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Nirenberg, David Paymer, Robert Stephens, William H. Macy, Laura Linney   Release:  1993

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   Watch the Trailer  (click here)

 

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