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Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993)

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



(book), (screenplay)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 5 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Michael Nirenberg ...
Vasek Simek ...
Tunafish Father
Tournament Director
School Teacher
Fighting Parent
Steven Randazzo ...
Man of Many Signals


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. Written by Rick Gregory <rag.apa@email.apa.org>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Every journey begins with a single move.


Biography | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for thematic elements | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

11 August 1993 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

À la recherche de Bobby Fischer  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$7,266,383 (USA)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (Ontario)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Near the beginning of the movie, when Josh's mom picks him up from school, the shorter, brown-haired woman she is seen talking with briefly is the mother of the real Josh Waitzkin. See more »


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. See more »


[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, he offended the Icelanders by calling their country inadequate because it had no bowling alleys. He complained about the TV cameras, about the lighting, about the table and chairs, and the contrast of the ...
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Referenced in The Boys Are Back: Searching for Sarah Hansen (1995) See more »


Rough Enough
Written by Freddie Foxx
Performed by Freddie Foxx
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Don't play against the board play against the man
3 July 2005 | by (Brooklyn NY USA) – See all my reviews

***SPOILERS*** The movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer" parallels the lives of Grand Chess Master Bobby Fischer with that of young seven year-old chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin, Max Pomeranc. The movie does it by inserting newsreel footage of Bobby winning the World Chess Championship Tournament in Reykjavik Iceland back in 1972 against the Soviet Unions Boris Spassky. It then jumps back to when Bobby Fischer was a young boy, and man, in the 1950's and 1960's as his obsession with chess brought him the fame and glory that he sought. Yet at the same time denied him the life of a normal boy growing up in post WWII America that his night and day chess fixation cost him.

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.

17 of 23 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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