Searching For Bobby Fischer was an unexpected little movie with a stellar cast starring Joe Mantegna as Fred Waitzkin, Joan Allen as his wife Bonnie and introducing Max Pomeranc as the child chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin. The cast is fleshed out by strong performances by Ben Kingsley as chess coach (and head of the Manhattan Chess Club) Bruce Padolfini and Laurence Fishburne as the streetwise chess hustler Vinnie.
This is a “based on a true story” movie. Josh Waitzkin is a real person and holds the ranking of International Master though is listed as inactive in the FIDE rankings. In the movie Josh discovers chess quite by accident while walking through Washington Square Park with his mother one day. He stops to watch a game and seemingly absorbs all the moves and basics of the game just by watching a few games. Shortly there after he plays a game with one of the park regulars which brings him to the attention of Vinnie who is surprised that a child could play so well.
Fred Waitzkin behaves as many fathers would upon realizing their son has an enormous talent he hires the best coach he can find for his son. On the surface of it Searching For Bobby Fischer is a movie about a chess prodigy. Bobby Fischer plays a role in this movie as a cautionary note about the dangers of any pursuit becoming all encompassing. At its core this is a movie about the relationship between a boy and his father and what it really means to be good at something without becoming a slave to it.
Searching For Bobby Fischer is a must see.
Notes: The character of Jonathan Poe in the movie in real life was Jeff Sarwer who became the world U-10 chess champion. Real life chess experts appear in the movie, Joel Benjamin, Roman Dzindzichashvili, Kamran Shirazi, along with the real Joshua Waitzkin, Bruce Pandolfini, Vincent Livermore, Poe McClinton as well as Pal Benko.