Way late review: Searching for Bobby Fisher

I recall seeing Searching for Bobby Fischer in the theater when it came out in 1993. I also recall enjoying it, but if you asked me for any details about the film I would have been hard pressed to give you more than: chess, a kid savant, and Bobby Fischer wasn’t the focus of the story. When I saw that Netflix was streaming the movie I decided to refresh my memory and see if it was as good as I vaguely remembered.

The story, straight from the synopsis:

After watching speed chess in Washington Square Park, 7-year-old Josh Waitzken (Max Pomeranc) gets hooked on the game. Josh’s father (solidly played by Joe Mantegna) learns that his son is a chess whiz and decides to hire an implacable chess master (Ben Kingsley) to coach the boy. When Josh is entered into high-stress competitions, what was once a pleasant hobby turns into a source of anxiety and indignation, forcing dad to reassess his decision.

Random thoughts as I watched the story progress:

  • I don’t know how to play chess
  • Ben Kingsley has hair and an Irish accent?
  • Soundtracks can be soooo manipulative
  • Do that many people play chess in the big city?
  • Max Pomeranc looks like Elijah Wood
  • Before he was Frodo, Elijah Wood was in the movie North – AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!
  • When in doubt, show Josh’s puppy dog eyes
  • Laurence Fishburne here vs. Laurence Fishburne in the movie 21 – same person?
  • I really do enjoy typical sports movie narratives and the Karate Kid, teacher/student type relationships
  • Why is this movie failing to capitalize on those narratives and that relationship?
  • Why is everyone so deadly serious in this movie?
  • I wonder if Bobby Fischer watched this
  • Did Robin Williams get some of his ideas for his role in Good Will Hunting from Ben Kingsley in this flick? Hmmm…
  • I still don’t know how to play chess
  • We like to think there are two kinds of “sports parents” in this world – those who go overboard and those who could care less
  • Do the kids ever get in arguments with each other in these chess tournaments?
  • I kind of like the two polarizing teachers element – Ben Kingsley the traditionalist vs. Laurence Fishburne the streetwise
  • Is this movie responsible for motivating the mind boggling “we don’t keep score” movement in youth sports these days? Hmmm…
  • Why doesn’t Netflix allow me to use half stars in my ratings?
  • I like Rudy. I like sappy (sometimes). I still like this movie overall.

 ★★★½☆ 

This post is part of my Way late reviews. See more reviews here.


  • Jameslorenzen

    Have you watched Ip Man and Ip Man 2? If not you should. I loved them. Which doesn’t exactly offer you any hope I realize.

    • Anonymous

      I did see both. Enjoyed both quite a bit. Ip Man 2 reminded me of a Rocky film, which is generally a good thing.