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Searching For Bobby Fischer is a 1993 film about Chess. Fred Waitzkin (Joe Mantegna) discovers that his young son Josh (Max Pomeranc) is a chess prodigy. The Waitzkins send Josh to a special school and start chess lessons for Josh despite the misgivings of Josh's mother (Joan Allen), who is worried about stunting his social development. Ben Kingsley plays Josh's strict chess tutor Bruce Pandolfini, and Laurence Fishburne is a chess hustler in the park that Josh learns a more aggressive style of chess from. Josh must reconcile the lessons from his two teachers, retain his humanity instead of becoming a chess robot, and play for the youth championship against Jonathan Poe, a merciless opponent.


This film contains examples of:

  • Big Applesauce
  • Big Game
  • Child Prodigy
  • Gretzky Has the Ball: The climactic game was designed for the movie by Waitzkin and Pandolfini but it still doesn't really work. It is not actually a forced checkmate but requires Poe to make a serious error on his seventh move after Waitzkin offers the draw. See here.
    • Possibly Fridge Brilliance: Waitzkin offers the draw to throw Poe off his game, hoping to force him into the serious error, following Vinny's advice to play the man.
  • History Marches On: Bobby Fischer surfaced, mad as a hatter, not long after this movie was released.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Bobby Fischer isn't a character.
  • Oh Crap: "Check."
  • Shout-Out: While playing chess with Josh, Vinny tells him, "Never play the board, always the man." Bobby Fischer was known to say exactly the opposite.
  • Surprise Checkmate: Kind of. The climactic match does not end with a checkmate, but a player of Poe's caliber would have realized that he had lost well before Josh puts him in check at the end.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The Waitzkins were real people as was Pandolfini, but for Rule of Drama the importance of Vinny the chess hustler was greatly exaggerated and the Poe character is basically invented. In Real Life the match between Waitzkin and the (younger) boy that Poe was based on did in fact end with a draw and a shared championship.
  • Villainy Free Villain: Jonathan Poe is just trying to win the match like Josh is. So the film makes Poe as obnoxious as possible while having Josh offer him a draw.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: "He's not afraid of losing! He's afraid of losing your love!"
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