Searching for Bobby Fischer: The Father of a Prodigy Observes the World of Chess

Searching for Bobby Fischer: The Father of a Prodigy Observes the World of Chess[Ebook] ➥ Searching for Bobby Fischer: The Father of a Prodigy Observes the World of Chess By Fred Waitzkin – The compelling sage of three years in the life of a real American chess prodigynow a Major Motion Picture!

Searching for Bobby Fischer is the story of Fred Waitzkin and his son, from the mome Bobby Fischer: MOBI ☆ The compelling sage of three years in the life of a real American chess prodigynow a Major Motion Picture!Searching for Bobby Fischer is the story of Fred Waitzkin Searching for PDF \ and his son, from the moment sixyearold Josh first sits down at a chessboard until he competes for the national championship Drawn into the insular, international network of chess, for Bobby Fischer: eBook ☆ they must also navigate the difficult waters of their own relationship All the while, Waitzskin searches for the elusive Bobby Fischer, whose myth still dominates the chess world and profoundly affects Waitzkin's dreams for his sonThe quest is beautifully resolved in a contest that knits together all the book's rich themesChristopher LehmannHaupt, The New York Times.

Bobby Fischer: MOBI ☆ website or check out some exclusive content on.

Searching for Bobby Fischer: The Father of a Prodigy
    PDF Reader for the Connected World Josh first sits down at a chessboard until he competes for the national championship Drawn into the insular, international network of chess, for Bobby Fischer: eBook ☆ they must also navigate the difficult waters of their own relationship All the while, Waitzskin searches for the elusive Bobby Fischer, whose myth still dominates the chess world and profoundly affects Waitzkin's dreams for his sonThe quest is beautifully resolved in a contest that knits together all the book's rich themesChristopher LehmannHaupt, The New York Times."/>
  • Paperback
  • 240 pages
  • Searching for Bobby Fischer: The Father of a Prodigy Observes the World of Chess
  • Fred Waitzkin
  • English
  • 19 January 2019
  • 9780140230383

10 thoughts on “Searching for Bobby Fischer: The Father of a Prodigy Observes the World of Chess

  1. says:

    You might be more likely to have seen the film, which is a good representation of the book.

    I recall that the film got some flack for its representation of Washington Square Park as a den of iniquity, but it seemed spot on to me, having played there around the same time.

    That trip I played quite a bit of chess, often outdoors, around Manhattan, and apart from one game in The Village Chess Shop the only time I looked like losing was in Washington Square Park. Sat down and started playing a black guy who was the consummate hustler. I'd never experienced anything like it, only read about it. Yep, I was going to lose, but it was going to be a lot of fun.

    Suddenly, however, another black guy came up and asked for table money. I was happy to pay whatever, these guys, whether legitimately or not, as I found out near the world trade centre, never asked for much, so what did I care? But I was completely ignored as these two started a big black dude mother-fucker argument about who owed what to whom. After a while the board was smashed, pieces and clock flying.

    I ran for it, quite nervous, I must confess, to another row of tables where people were - laughing at me. I'm not sure if this is the case or not, but when I gathered my wits it seemed like maybe the chess area is segregated and I was in the black part. Maybe somebody who has played there can answer that for me. It seemed like I'd suddenly gone from being surrounded by blacks to surrounded by whites and that the latter found the whole incident highly amusing.

    New York. Everybody's a hustler. I played outside near the World Trade Centre on this trip. Somebody asked me to play and said it was usual for the loser to pay the table money, a dollar a game. Fine, I said. After I won maybe the first half a dozen games I decided that was enough. I hung around to see if my opponent handed over money to the guy running the show, but of course he didn't. I think that's what amazes me about America. Not that there's a hustler near by whereever you are, but that they are so penny ante.

    There must have been a whole generation of fathers who lived vicariously through their children in that post-Fischer period. Children overburdened with unreasonable expectations. I hope they are all ashamed of themselves now. The fathers, that is.

  2. says:

    Chess has always been a particular passion of mine, which, much like other passions, rises and falls as the years go by. Most games and their inherent competitiveness are fun, but chess remains the most elegant. It has the physical beauty of the pieces, the simplest of rules, yet the potential for incredible complexity, and no dice. I hate dice. Chess requires pure intellect.

    During the 70's, following the famous Fischer-Spassky match, the virtual embodiment of Russo-American war, practically every American mother wanted nothing more for her child than to grow up a chess master. Chess even had its cadre of groupies who worked their way up the ranking ladder.

    Times have changed. Internationally ranked grand masters now must hustle games in New York's Washington Square Park, having no place to live or eat. Having devoted their lives to chess, they have no marketable skills. Meanwhile, the Russians coddle and nurture anyone showing the slightest hint of talent.

    Fred Waitzkin's son Josh was found to be exceptionally talented at age six. By 11, he had fought the current world champion Garry Kasparov to a draw in an exhibition match. Waitzkin writes of his own passion for the game and his relationship with his son, and the impact such intense dedication can have on a child and his family, in a marvelous book entitled Searching for Bobby Fischer: The World of Chess, Observed by the Father of a Child Prodigy . The book is a fascinating account of the chess world, populated with eccentric characters. As one reviewer has said, chess lives, or windmills its arms, on the outer rims of sanity. The search for Fischer becomes an allegory for families and values and the way we determine what is important in our lives. Fischer, even yet a recluse, even though probably insane (whatever that means), continues to dominate the American game. The Fischer-Spassky rematch in Yugoslavia may become the non-event of the century.

    By the way, the movie was great, too

  3. says:

    I went to the library to look for books about chess strategy, because, you know, I like chess. They were all out of Susanna Polgar, so I brought home this book instead. It's basically what it says it is; a chess prodigy's father writes about his son and the international chess scene in the 1980s. And here is what I got out of the book: Chess is real bad news! Chess might seem like a classy pastime, or an intellectual pursuit, but it just wants to fuck you up and leave you getting rained-on in the gutter. Stay away from chess, while you still have time!

    If you're an adult, chess might turn you into a schizophrenic Nazi, but it will probably just make you a drunk asleep on a park bench. If you're lucky, you can hustle your skills for drinking money in Washington Square Park. If you're a child, chess is even more insidious. Your parents, who once loved you unconditionally and sought to give you a well-rounded childhood, will start wanting to turn you into a single-speed killing machine. As their love for you rises and falls with the number of other little kids you decapitate at tournaments (whose parents' love is similarly linked to victory, so their tears are not just poor sportsmanship), you realize that to maintain a competitive edge/parental love you need to give up almost all non-chess activities, and play and practice and memorize chess moves for hours every day.

    The best part is that while everyone loves chess prodigies, with their little hands and big heads looking so serious and cute, once you hit puberty, no one cares. They might care a little if you're absolutely the best in the country, or world, or if you're super-hot like Susanna Polgar, but for most of you: it's over kid, find a new pastime. I bet you wish you had some childhood memories to guide you forward.

    So remember, chess is safe to read about, but never, never to play. If you ever see a kid with a chess board, take it away and introduce them to video games and sugar. They will thank you someday.

  4. says:

    I've loved the movie that came from this book for a long time, so when I ran across the book at the library I had to pick it up.

    Fred Waitzkin was inspired by Bobby Fisher's 1972 world championship chess win over the Russian Boris Spassky. He studied chess for awhile before realizing that he would never be better than a patzer -- a chess player who will never amount to much.

    Ten years later, Fred discovered that his six-year-old boy Josh has talent for chess. This results in several years of life consumed by chess lessons, tournaments, and travel to meet some of the greatest chess masters and grandmasters of the age. This book covers the period between when Josh started studying chess and when he won the National Scholastic Chess Championship at eight.

    Along the way, Fred relates stories about the Soviet and U.S. chess establishments, the struggles of U.S. masters and grandmasters to survive in an occupation that pays peanuts (and often less than that), and some of the colorful chess personalities that he met. His description traveling with Josh and his chess teacher, Bruce Pandolfini, to Russia for the Karpov-Kasparov match of 1984 is an intriguing discussion, more for the window into Soviet Russia than for the chess match itself.

    One of the best aspects of this book is its honesty. Fred is forthright over his struggles about whether he's pushing Josh too hard, the kids' thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, life as a chess parent, and the ambivalence of raising a child to focus so exclusively on something that has little chance of providing a lucrative occupation. He describes the obsession that many chess players have with the game, irrespective of ability, and how it consumes and sometimes destroys their lives.

  5. says:

    This is a great read, helped immeasurably by Fred Waitzkin being a novelist who can write well - talented family huh?

    It doesn't just center on Josh's beginnings in the chess world, but also manages to provide a snapshot of the scholastic, American and world chess landscapes in the late 70's to late 80's, a short biography of Fischer, the machinations of the Soviet chess system and of course the consistently changing nature of Fred's own chess fandom coupled with his relationship to his son.

    It's honest, uplifting and definitely worth checking out, even if you're not greatly interested in chess; the story of father and son is good enough on its own.

  6. says:

    Disclaimer: I have not seen the movie and am not a chess enthusiast. With that being said, the book is a story about a father and his chess prodigy son going through the daily struggles of trying to be the best in the world. It goes into long detail about chess culture in the US and Russia in the 1980s. It is interesting enough to finish and makes you think about what it would be like to be in the positions both Fred and Josh are going through. I am intrigued to learn more about Bobby Fischer and his rise and fall (which there was a relatively small amount about) and to watch the movie, but it is not a book I would recommend to most people.

  7. says:

    My youngest son has become an avid chess player of late, so while I have no interest in learning the game itself, I figured I might as well learn its history. History is precisely what sparked my son’s recent enthusiasm; his favorite magazine, the Jewish history magazine “Zman,” did an article on the Karpov-Kasparov match. Kasparov was Jewish, and his victory was considered a blow to the Soviet elite, an angle that the “Zman” article undoubtedly played up. But the only grandmaster I’d ever heard of was Bobby Fischer, and that led me to the movie “Pawn Sacrifice,” which depicts Fischer’s historic match against Boris Spassky, and to this book. So I’ll start my review with a brief summary of what I learned from “Pawn Sacrifice” because it really is basic background for understanding this book.

    Bobby Fischer was a self-taught chess genius who won the national championship at the age of 14. The Soviet grandmasters were considered the best in the world, though, so that was where young Bobby set his sights. He played several matches with them, but realized they were cheating by deliberately throwing matches and thus manipulating rankings and scores. He dropped out of competitive chess in protest, but in 1972, he was urged to return. We were losing Vietnam, and because chess was held in such high esteem in the Soviet Union, an American victory would be a real humiliation. Nobody less than Henry Kissinger telephoned him to persuade him to compete.

    Genius like Fischer’s comes at a cost. The movie portrays him as paranoid, but with the pressure of the American government on him, plus being around the secretive Soviets, and the mental stress of the game itself, it’s no wonder he broke down. But it’s hard to be entirely sympathetic toward him because he was also an arrogant jerk. Though he himself was Jewish, till the end of his life, he spouted the most atrocious anti-Semitic conspiracy theories you can think of. Boris Spassky, on the other hand, proved himself a class act by applauding Bobby Fischer when he realized he’d been beaten.

    This book picks up where “Pawn Sacrifice” leaves off. Bobby Fischer’s victory triggered a chess craze in the States, and author Fred Waitzkin was swept right along with it. After discovering he could beat everyone in his school and neighborhood, he went to some chess clubs in the City, only discover that he wasn’t champion material. Fourteen years later, in 1984, he had become a journalist, gotten married, and had a son, who, at age six, showed such promise at chess, he was being called “the next Bobby Fischer.” That is how Fred Waitzkin became a “chess father.”

    Most of the book is about the high-stress world of youth competitive chess and Fred’s guilt for putting his son through it. He made it look so bad, I was glad my son has started out too late to ever play competitively. But aside from the hours of training and tension-ridden tournaments, there were two other corners of the chess world he explored that were quite interesting. One was in the informal world of the parks. I never gave much thought to the chess players I’ve passed in parks, but it seems they’ve got their own little subculture going. The other part of the chess world the book explored was in the Soviet Union itself.

    Because he was a journalist who knew something about chess, Fred was assigned to cover the Karpov-Kasparov match, which was about as big as the Fischer-Spassky match. The fall of the Soviet Empire was a few short years in the future, but Fred saw no signs of it. (Did anyone?) What he makes clear is how big a deal chess was in Soviet culture. A grandmaster was treated with as much celebrity as a star athlete in the States. It made me understand why Henry Kissinger considered Bobby Fischer’s game such a priority. It was like a small-scale space race. This section of the book also captured in detail the negative side of the Soviet Union, and it was everything we’ve ever heard about: anti-Semitism, the suppression of dissidents, the endemic corruption, and the constant surveillance. It was one of the best real time looks behind the Iron Curtain that I’ve ever read. It was easily my favorite part of the book.

    If you’ve got a young chess player in your life, this book will serve as a warning about competitive chess. But it’s still an interesting look at the many aspects of chess culture, and the Soviet section is especially worthwhile. I’m impressed enough with Fred Waitzkin that I might read his other book, which is all about the Karpov-Kasparov match. But not right away. Like young Josh Waitzkin, I think I need to take a break from chess for a while.

  8. says:

    I didn't see the movie that was made of this novel. Others tell me it was pretty much the Rocky of chess, with the underdog working his way up to win the nationals.

    This is really not what the book is about. On the surface, the book has interesting insight into the world of chess, from the impoverished masters and grandmasters that play in clubs or parks in New York and other cities, to the rigid study of Soviet chess (at least, back during the cold war when this was written). A great deal of the book follows his son as he plays tournaments, many of them with kids his age. (His son ranges from ages 6 - 9 over the course of the book.) During the book, Fred Waitzkin goes into the terrible behavior of chess parents, the pressure they can put on their kids, and the terrible shame of losing that the champions develop. And he periodically questions his own behavior, or remarks on his wife or mother criticizing how much he has pushed his son. But that brief bit of insight lasts for only a moment before he is back to pushing his son harder than ever.

    That phenomenon in Waitzkin's writing is representative of the book as a whole. He will touch upon a topic, perhaps even start to bring about a conclusion, then rapidly spin away to something else, leaving you unsatisfied and wondering exactly what the point was. He is repetitive on the subject of his own inadequacies and behavior as a parent, and then periodically dives into other topics without any seeming rhyme or reason.

    Bobby Fischer, the namesake of the book, barely makes an appearance, except to be referred to frequently as an inspiration for so many kids/parents getting into chess, and a brief chapter when the author goes unsuccessfully looking for him in Los Angeles. While so many great players live impoverished lives in the US, Fischer could command huge sums for interviews or games, and this made him something even more extraordinary in the chess world. Of course he also seems to have become a crazy recluse, supporting Nazi philosophies and spouting anti-Semitic slurs. And once again, Waitzkin doesn't really seem to bring this to any sort of real point.

    I read separately that Fischer, once the book was made into a film, was very angry at not receiving any royalties for the use of his prestigious name. And, crazy or not, I really can't blame him for that because his name feels like it was tacked onto the book solely to sell more copies.

    The book was not totally worthless, I feel I learned something about the world of chess, but it could have been a lot more coherent.

  9. says:

    As a chess enthusiast, one may enjoy this book for all its facts surrounding the chess grandmasters. However, as I am not a chess fan, I did not enjoy this book as much. Even though the book is not merely a story about the chess world, it is primarily about a father's (Fred Waitzkin) relationship with his son (Josh Waitzkin). Fred struggles to balance his role as an encouraging parent and as a father forcing his own dream onto his son. I would've liked the book better if the stories of Josh's chess games were not repetitive and pointless. After a couple of the same stories told, I understood that the chess world was not rewarding, monetarily or professionally; so, what? At least, that's how I felt. The movie was better for its portrayal of Josh's point of view, as the movie was narrated by Josh. Overall, skip the book unless you're a chess fanatic, but don't miss the movie.

  10. says:

    Don't be misled by the title, this is not a book about Fischer. Sadly, it seems to be a marketing ploy to market the book in a world where chess remains far from a mainstream pastime.

    The book is about chess, a chess child prodigy, and the father's parenting of this prodigy. It is a delightful, entertaining, and informative read, a must for all chess fans.

    The inner corruption of the Soviet-era chess establishment was shocking to me. The ability of the author to present the challenges, turmoils, and achievements of his precocious son while maintaining the objectivity of a third-person are outstanding. The book seems dated now, with Fischer dead, and the chess scene in the US not as gloomy as described here, but it remains a great read.

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