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

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3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  522 ratings  ·  36 reviews
The fascinating story of Fred Waitzkin and his son Josh, from the moment six-year-old Josh first sits down at a chessboard until he wins the national championship. Now a feature film starring Ben Kingsley, Max Pomerenc, Joe Mantegna, and Larry Fishburne.
Paperback, 240 pages
Published August 1st 1993 by Penguin Books (first published 1988)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 903)
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Eric_W
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 e
...more
notgettingenough
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 gu
...more
Lee Davis
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 th ...more
Jared
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
...more
Keith Halonen
Read this book when it was first published. Being an elementary school chess instructor, this narrative covered much familiar territory for me. Apart from the factual story of a young man who today is a respected Tai-Chi practitioner, the most compelling aspect of the tale had to do with the behavior of the most extreme chess parents. Not much different from that of the most reprehensible beauty pageant moms and child movie star parents. Many are engaged in perpetual doting, promoting, cajoling, ...more
Martyn
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
...more
Vicky
Downloadable audio book did not seem to be a choice, so I picked the CD, but this was one of the first books I downloaded (from BPL's downloadable book service Montana to Go) to my new Zune that I got for Christmas. What a great service!! This is fascinating account of Josh Waitzkin, the child chess prodigy written by his father intertwined with the story of the reclusive Bobby Fischer (I did not realize the situation of his later life and that he died in Iceland in 2008). I don't have a strong ...more
David
It helps a lot to be a chess fan in reading this book, but it also speaks to topics of father/son relationships, goals and ambitions, exploring and developing children's interests, encouraging or pushing children beyond their interests, etc.

I was a sophomore in high school in 1972 when Bobby Fischer, the eccentric American grandmaster, defeated Boris Spaasky to become the first ever American world champion. During the height of the Cold War, it was as if the USA had smashed the USSR intellectual
...more
Lesley
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
...more
Simon
Searching for Bobby Fischer is Fred Waitzkin’s account of the parental concerns that proceed from raising a seven year-old chess prodigy: his son, Josh. As a father, Fred is proud of Josh’s remarkable talent and doesn’t want to jeopardize his son’s creativity. At the same time, his research shows him that there is little expectation of a promising career in the world of chess. The tracking of Waitzkin’s parental uncertainty through Josh’s early years is the book’s central theme. As he educates h ...more
Ivan Probst
This is a book about care and passion, and how the two fight and love each other.

About the game itself, nothing much to say, except it gives you interesting insights on how it is played at high level, and about all the things you don’t see when playing as a newbie. It gives relevant information without overloading with useless details, and bring you step-by-step in this badly known universe.

An important part of the book is dedicated to their Soviet Union stay. Nowadays, you can’t really imagine
...more
Heidi
May 21, 2010 Heidi rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: audio
This was an interesting read about a 6-year-old chess prodigy, the basis for the movie of the same name which came out several years ago. The boy's father, the author, describes heart-wrenching decisions that he tries to make for his son: let him explore his talent fully or let him live a well-rounded life with Little League and Hebrew school--there's just not time to do both. I imagine most parents of prodigies are faced with the same decisions. The author also weaves in the history of chess an ...more
Agatha Diaz
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 ch ...more
Leonora
I picked up this book because I love the movie. I dare anyone to see it and not pick up a chess board. When I finished the book, I thought I could resist but within ten minutes I was playing on chess on yahoo. I am not a genius like Josh Waitzkin.

They did a very good job with the movie but there are some major differences. Pandolfini (portrayed in the movie as a ruthless teacher) is actually supportive & idiosyncratic. Vinnie plays a much smaller role in the book. But the dynamic in Washing
...more
Andrew
Who knew how interesting the world of competitive chess could be? I haven’t seen the movie based on this book, so until I read Searching for Bobby Fischer I certainly didn’t. If you know a little bit about chess this book will probably appeal to you. It chronicles the adventures of Josh Waitzkin and his father as he develops into a young chess prodigy. Thrill as Josh demonstrates his amazing abilities in tournaments against the best children in the country! Chill as he and his father navigate th ...more
Roger Md
This book arrived in my postoffice mailbox instead of the DVD from Amazon. The movie production by the same name cost $100, so for the sake of frugality, spending $10 was well worth the money. The story is the true story of a young genius guided by his father to a measure of greatness.
I enjoyed reading this true story about the young Josh Waitzkin as he won the US National Junior Chess Championship in 1986.
The agony and disappointment that follows the path of professional chess in the USA is cle
...more
Nicole
Sep 18, 2014 Nicole rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014
Even if you have no interest in chess, I would still recommend this book. It is an engaging well written book.
Christopher Calo
The movie is a lot better than this book
Teresa Miller
Because I like the game of chess, I was interested in the plot of a father pushing his son to become a great champion. Because I enjoy history I liked the stories about the great chess masters and the obsessive, yet destructive personality of Bobby Fischer. If you have no interest in chess, I doubt you would enjoy this book. The author can prattle on too long about a subject. Much like this review has become!
Shanna
I read this ages ago, but I do remember thinking it was a very interesting inside look on this kid's life.

A genius in figuring out chess strategies, it isn't as boring as one might believe. (I would have thought it would plod on to no end, maybe even be self-absorbed with his cleverness.)

I was pleasantly surprised. Good to read at least once, especially if you've seen the movie, which I did first.
Daniel Gray
One of the few times I actually liked the film version of a book better. The book is good, don't misunderstand, but I felt the film was actually better constructed.

It makes sense in this case. Waitzkin is not a writer by trade, and it shows in his style. It's still a very interesting read, though, especially as a portrait of a boy thrust into a world more cruel than he is.
Tarafina
I'm learning a lot about the Iron Curtain and chess in general. I want to bust out a set and play me some amateur games. I'm no Josh, but this book is very interesting so far. Thanks to the Monkey for suggesting I read it.
Alfred Smith
Excellent book ! As a so-so chess player, I not only enjoyed the story of this precocious chess player, but also the story of his father, who discovers the joys and pifalls experienced by an avid parent.
Miriam
I love chess; thus, I understood and appreciated this book. I did not realize; however, how political chess is in other countries. This book gave me new insight into the world of chess.
Charles
A very fine book on the cutthroat world of chess, especially for those children who are good at it. But there is a deep spiritual side to this work as well that I particularly enjoyed.
Turaaa
I really enjoyed this one. Its not about Bobby Fischer, its a true story about a very young chess prodigy and the pressures of growing up and competing in chess.
Serge Pierro
A good book with insights into the inner workings of the child prodigy and the world of competitive chess. I preferred the movie, but the book is still worth reading.
Susan
Informative on the lives of parents and their children in the chess world and the stresses and sacrifices they make in order to become the next Bobby Fischer.
Bernard
it was okay. seems to deter people from letting their children play chess. I enjoyed the movie more.
Pedro
Does not chess whatsoever, but is an interesting and accurate look into the world of scholastic chess.
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Fred Waitzkin is a journalist and author of the acclaimed nonfiction bestseller Searching for Bobby Fischer, as well as the books Mortal Games and The Last Marlin. His debut novel, The Dream Merchant, is being published in the Spring of 2013. Additionally, he’s an avid blue water fisherman and is an Afro Cuban drummer. You can find more on Fred Waitzkin at his website or check out some exclusive c ...more
More about Fred Waitzkin...
The Dream Merchant: A Novel Mortal Games The Last Marlin: The Story of a Father and Son Mortal Games: The Turbulent Genius of Garry Kasparov Attacking Chess: Aggressive Strategies and Inside Moves from the U.S. Junior Chess Champion

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