The inspiration for the iconic film, this memoir by the father of a prodigy reflects on chess, competition, and childhood.
Fred Waitzkin fell in love with chess during the Cold War–era showdown between Russian champion Boris Spassky and young American superstar Bobby Fischer. Twelve years later, Waitzkin’s own son, Joshua, discovered chess in Washington Square Park and began displaying the telltale signs of a prodigy. Soon, crowds gathered to watch the six-year-old, calling him a “Young Fischer.” An unstoppable player, little Josh was suddenly catapulted into the intense world of competitive chess.
When Josh first sat down at a chessboard, he was a charming, rambunctious, rough-and-tumble child. Within weeks, he was playing the game with poise and constrained violence, as if there were a wise old man plotting moves inside him. Then, renowned coach Bruce Pandolfini discovered Josh in the park and began to refine the child’s game.
In Searching for Bobby Fischer, Waitzkin recounts his journey with his son into the world of chess, from the colorful milieu of street hustlers to the international network of grandmasters. Looming large over their story is the elusive Bobby Fischer, whose mysterious disappearance from the chess world created a vacuum that would profoundly affect young Josh and his dad.
Josh went on to win eight national championships before he turned twenty—but his achievements did not come without cost. In this memoir, Waitzkin explores his love and ambition for Josh, who faces pressures far beyond his years. Even as father and son travel to Moscow to watch Kasparov challenge Karpov, Waitzkin doubts his own motives: Is he pushing his son too hard? Is the game a joy to Josh, or is he just fulfilling his father’s wishes?
Searching for Bobby Fischer is about more than chess. “A little gem of a book,” it is ultimately about the struggle we all face to love our families and do right by them while also setting our own paths as individuals (The New York Times).