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

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  745 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
The compelling sage of three years in the life of a real American chess prodigy now a Major Motion Picture!
Searching for Bobby Fischer is the story of Fred Waitzkin and his son, from the moment six-year-old Josh first sits down at a chessboard until he competes for the national championship. Drawn into the insular, international network of chess, they must also navigate t
Paperback, 240 pages
Published August 1st 1993 by Penguin Books (first published 1988)
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Oct 31, 2009 notgettingenough rated it liked it
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
Dec 03, 2008 Eric_W rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography-memoir
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
Lee Davis
Apr 07, 2011 Lee Davis rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Jul 31, 2010 Jared rated it liked it
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
Jun 28, 2014 Martyn rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2014, chess
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.

Mahendra Palsule
Jan 27, 2017 Mahendra Palsule rated it really liked it
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, a
Kressel Housman
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 ...more
+ Love titles with double-entendres
+ I get the impression that the author is being incredibly honest, which is not always easy to do in memoirs. His relationship with his son is complex (Is he living vicariously through his son's journey to Grandmaster? Should a father intervene with genius if it will ultimately be in the best interest of the kid? Is forcing opening and endgame theory on his son night after night ethical or, perhaps, necessary? Is he being a good father?). Josh's relationship wi
Jan 23, 2017 ferhat rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017_read
* Interesting differences between US and Russian chess.
* Some background about Bobby Fischer
* Some honest confessions from a father
* Captivative writing
Jun 21, 2010 Lesley rated it it was ok
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
Ivan Probst
Jul 22, 2013 Ivan Probst rated it really liked it
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
Sep 19, 2014 Eric rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, borrowed, 2015
Searching for Bobby Fischer provides insight into many facets of the Chess world of the 80s, but it is largely unlike the movie by the same name. As readers, we often know that movies do not match the expectations set by their books, but in this case, I actually enjoyed the movie more. The reason for that is the movie focused centrally on Josh, the child prodigy of the author of the book. With a compelling central person to follow, the film is about a boy vying for his father's love, learning co ...more
Drew Meinecke
Nov 08, 2015 Drew Meinecke rated it really liked it
Searching For Bobby Fischer was a captivating book about the author’s son Josh, a chess prodigy, and chess as it is played around the world, and goes into detail about the mysterious disappearance of American chess legend Bobby Fischer. Waitzkin’s writing style kept me on the edge of my seat. I was either rooting for Josh during his many tournaments or for Kasparov, the underdog in the world championship that year. Both people were definitely interesting to learn about, and I was intrigued to k ...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
Dec 31, 2009 Vicky rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 22, 2008 David rated it really liked it
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
Nov 17, 2008 Simon rated it really liked it
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
May 20, 2010 Heidi rated it liked it
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
Jun 22, 2007 Leonora rated it liked it
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
Jul 06, 2010 Agatha rated it it was ok
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
Roger Md
Dec 12, 2011 Roger Md rated it it was amazing
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
David Shelton
Dec 03, 2016 David Shelton rated it it was amazing
My wife and I read this book together in honor of the World Championship Match between Karjakin and Carlsen. I had read the book many years ago, but for my wife it was the the first time. We both enjoyed it quite a bit. There's a lot of interesting details about Russia in the 1980's as well as the chess world in America. If you enjoy chess, as I do, then the book is especially interesting. But even if you don't there's a lot of insight about parenting and dreams and why we end up pursuing the th ...more
Dec 10, 2015 Owen rated it it was amazing
I loved this book it may be a bit impartial because I am a huge chess fan, but you dont need to be a chess fan to love this book. It is staged about 10 or so years after the disaperince of Bobby Fisher, Americas number one chess prodigy, and it shows you the struggle of what it is like to be a child playing chess competitively in America and the toll of being a chess parent. This book exsplores a father living some dreams and nightmares threw his son, Adventures in the Soviet union and much much ...more
Feb 04, 2014 Jason rated it really liked it
I've had this book on my shelf for well over two years, purchased because of my absolute love of the movie. It's been one of those books just begging to be read but falling behind other ones that I was more excited about. I'm really glad I got to it. Searching for Bobby Fischer is almost nothing like the film and in many ways, it is much better. It's still a fantastic "sports" book, but it's a much more in depth look about how chess can change, inspire and most cases destroy people's lives. I ha ...more
Feb 02, 2010 Shanna rated it really liked it
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.
Teresa Miller
Jan 15, 2012 Teresa Miller rated it liked it
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!
Apr 02, 2015 Eric rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Searching for Bobby Fischer is a book about chess.

And The Bible is a book about life in the desert.

It's an intricate book about parenting, prodigy, obsession, and the meaning of a life capable of extremes. Chess, the Cold War, and eccentric existentialism are merely the lenses.

In every way exquisite. Five stars.
Eye Summers
Jun 22, 2016 Eye Summers rated it liked it
not w/o merit but thought this was okay, somewhat topical and now perhaps dated and from a personal narrative standpoint, more about the Father, who at times seems self-involved and overbearing like an obnoxious sports dad living vicariously thru his son. i hope to find the movie and watch it on VHS.
Tom Crehore
Apr 26, 2016 Tom Crehore rated it really liked it
A very interesting book. It seems more like a collection of articles that were slightly altered to make a book, but the lack of direct narrative is made up for in the writing. If you are interested in chess and how it is taught to young people, and the stresses they have endured, then read this book. It also gives insight into the rigid, intense, and anti-semitic world of Soviet chess.
Daniel Gray
Apr 18, 2012 Daniel Gray rated it really liked it
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.
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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...

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“Except for a handful, chess players don’t have such illusions. The game has a severe analytic quality that makes self-deception difficult. Unlike the undiscovered poet who, despite the harsh criticism of his peers, lives on his fantasies for the day that he will be recognized as the next Dylan Thomas, even a young chess player can usually gauge his talent. When Josh was six, he played several games against a pudgy thirteen-year-old who was the top player on his high school team. He beat Josh every time, but a couple of the games were close, and afterwards the boy seemed gloomy about his performance. He explained that if he didn’t make significant improvement during the next year, he would wind up as just another wood-pusher. Despite his celebrity in school, he seemed to know that he didn’t have it. While” 0 likes
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