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Chess Kids (1996)

| Documentary
4 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »




Credited cast:
Morgan Pehme ... Self
Judit Polgár Judit Polgár ... Self
Josh Waitzkin Josh Waitzkin ... Self


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independent film | See All (1) »




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Followed by Chess Kids: Special Edition (2011) See more »

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Documenting Young Chess Prodigies
26 April 2018 | by atlasmbSee all my reviews

Tucked away in a small American college in 1990 was a room full of tables, each appointed with chess boards, chess clocks, and some of the most precocious minds in the world. This was the setting for an international youth chess tournament featuring the best young minds in the game.

Also in attendance was Lynn Hamrick, the documentarian director of "Chess Kids". She had been inspired by reading a newspaper article about Judit Polgar-a brilliant young player who had refused to confine her playing to girls-only tournaments.

She managed to capture the convergence of some prodigal chess talents and the engaging personalities that go with them.

In this tournament, Judit is inscrutable. She never talks to the camera or interacts with competitors, except over the board. But the other children talk unselfconsciously and eagerly about their dedication to an abstract game, their aspirations, and their childish views. One player who opens up is Josh Waitzkin-subject of the excellent film "Searching for Bobby Fisher". Real-life Josh even discusses what it is like for an adolescent boy to play against a girl.

It is fun to watch so many of these kids, but Andrea Peterson stands out. She's a soft-spoken seven-year-old who is attending the tournament with her chess-playing older brother and her father, who is coach to both of them. With perfect candor, she describes how a stony demeanor can disarm an opponent. But she never seems to lose her childish outlook.

One of the things this film does best is share the wonder and fascination for the game that these children possess. Even non-chess players can appreciate the window this film provides into this special world. And if you enjoy the film, be sure to see "Chess Kids: Special Edition", which follows up on the lives of these children twenty years later.

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