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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Young Fischer
Ever since the elusive disappearance of chess genius Bobby Fischer, who beat Russian Boris Spassky in 1972 for the world championship, the only American to do so, parents all over the United States have wondered if their little sons and daughters would someday have the potential to be the next Fischer. Searching for Bobby Fischer by Fred Waitzkin is the true story of Fred...
Published on January 8, 2006

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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Half Good
The coverage of the junior chess circuit and Washington square chess matches is compelling reading, but the chapters on the Soviet refusniks are too in depth and out of place.
Published on October 27, 2007 by Nathan W. Smith


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Young Fischer, January 8, 2006
A Kid's Review
This review is from: Searching for Bobby Fischer: The Father of a Prodigy Observes the World of Chess (Paperback)
Ever since the elusive disappearance of chess genius Bobby Fischer, who beat Russian Boris Spassky in 1972 for the world championship, the only American to do so, parents all over the United States have wondered if their little sons and daughters would someday have the potential to be the next Fischer. Searching for Bobby Fischer by Fred Waitzkin is the true story of Fred and his son Josh. In New York City, the only place for serious chess players in the US, Josh discovered chess one day in Washington Square Park. Soon after he began playing he was pronounced a prodigy and taken under the wing of one of the best chess teachers in the country, Bruce Pandolfini. Fred is infatuated with his son's potential and gets drawn into the crazy and obsessive world of chess. The book chronicles the years from when Josh begins playing until he wins the national championship. Along the way Fred travels to Moscow to watch the long awaited match of Karpov and Kasparov, two chess titans, and opposite sides of the same coin. Fred realizes the truth of what being a professional player means and how hard it is the US. He's confused about his longing for Josh to be a great player and how he obsesses so much over it. Deep down he knows Josh is not as good as Fischer, and even if he was how can you compete with these Russian players who are exposed to the game forty to fifty hours a week? Throughout this journey Fred discovers both the glory and failure in being a chess parent of a talented player, and shares his worries, fears, and hopes for his son. I highly recommend this groundbreaking story.

This book captures all the feelings and emotions of being the parent of a precocious child. On one hand, you want them to live a well-rounded life. But on the other hand, your thoughts drift to untold glory and tournaments to be won. You want the child to study and work hard and it's easy to get caught up in immediate results. Then you worry your kid's not having fun or you've pushed them too hard. Especially for chess, a parent has to wonder, why do I care so much about my child's gift, I've seen professional chess players and the dreadful lives they lead. Even the very best players cope with miserable conditions. Unlike a tennis prodigy, for a chess player there's no pot of gold at the end. But week after week these parents take their brilliant kids to tournaments and spend a weekend holed up in a stuffy hotel. They cannot understand their feelings or why they do this, but what if their son or daughter is the next Bobby Fischer?

Searching for Bobby Fischer is not only about chess. It describes the delicate relation between Fred and his son. At first, Josh is a genius. He can do no wrong and wins everything. Kids tremble when they play him. At the nationals, he'll be ranked number one. He is unstoppable. And then Josh loses at the nationals to a little kid with a much lower rating. He crushes Josh in less than twenty minutes. Fred and Bruce cannot understand what went wrong. Fred is confused and wonders why he pushes his son so hard. For six months Josh doesn't want to play and Fred fears this is the end. He feels awful about liking his son more when he wins and thinking how boring Josh's life would be without chess. Soon Fred and Bruce realize what needs to be done and the following year Josh wins the national championship. Fred starts to begin understanding the feelings he has about Josh and chess.

The chapters about Moscow and world championship match between Karpov and Kasparov are fascinating. Karpov is loved by the Soviet Union and has many powerful political connections. Kasparov is more the rebel, outspoken against Karpov and the government. Half of the battle for the title is political and psychological. Rumors that Karpov would poison Kasparov at any cost abound. It is well known in a previous match Karpov employed a hypnotist to sit in the third row and during the game hypnotize his opponent. Kasparov argues bitterly against Karpov having his team of seconds and trainers offer him drinks during the game. He says the drink could contain a message, such as they found a winning line and he should adjourn the game (in those days adjournments for very long games were allowed, meaning the game would be stopped and continued in a few hours), or a long struggle was ahead and he shouldn't drink anything to make him crash. Also, people say Karpov would regularly bribe Kasparov's seconds and trainers to give his team their opening secrets or just rob Kasparov of a critical trainer. Due to his smaller team, instead of preparing Kasparov would have to get on the phone to block Karpov's latest move. Just for the record, Kasparov won the match after six brutal months.

Searching for Bobby Fischer is a fast and thoughtful read. Fred movingly conveys his hopes and dreams for his son, and opens a world up that many people didn't even know existed. A truly good book.

A.M.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Father and Son, September 20, 2002
By 
Smoten (Philadelphia, PA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Searching for Bobby Fischer: The Father of a Prodigy Observes the World of Chess (Paperback)
Fred Waitzkin's "Searching for Bobby Fischer" is a fine account of the inner turmoil experienced by a mediocre chess-playing father who has a gifted chess-playing son. Mr. Waitzkin, who began playing chess when Bobby Fischer was single-handedly dismantling the Russian chess monolith, is obviously pleased (to put it mildly) when his son Joshua displays enormous ability at a very early age. Mr. Waitzkin nurtures his son's talent, most notably by hiring the acclaimed Bruce Pandolfini as his chess coach. Mr. Pandolfini evolves into a mentor and friend, and much of the book analyzes the (often strained) relationship between the son and his two fathers.
Mr. Waitzkin ponders whether he is doing the right thing by encouraging his son to devote so much time and energy to a game that can become all-consuming. Chessplayers can become as obsessive as body-builders, and chess lore is filled with tales of the strange, and often downright psychotic, behavior of some of its adherents. Mr. Waitzkin recounts many such tales and also highlights the religious grandiosity the game can inspire: the mother of one young player confides that when her son is playing well she feels like "... the mother of Jesus", and a woman friend of Bobby Fischer's thinks that Mr. Fischer is "... pure, like Jesus". Whew. It is a credit to Mr. Waitzkin that he didn't blindly succumb to the "genius" blandishment routinely hung on youthful chess wizards but agonized over every important decision affecting his son. It is a further credit to him that his son has grown into a splendid young man. Joshua Waitzkin is Ivy League graduate, a world-class athlete, and a teacher. Yes, he still plays chess-he'll one day be a grandmaster-but he couldn't be further from the stereotype of the chessplayer as a myopic, stoop-shouldered, one-dimensional automaton. He is a son to make any father proud.
Though the "Searching" in the title refers more to the metaphysical search by the chess world for its next boy-king, Mr. Waitzkin does make a literal, if half-hearted, search for the elusive Bobby Fischer in Los Angeles with the hope that he, a stranger, could prevail where those who knew Mr. Fischer had failed and persuade him to return to his arena. Mr. Waitzkin never gets to meet Mr. Fischer, who never defended the World Championship he won in 1972 by defeating Boris Spassky, yet does give a lucid and unsparing account of both Mr. Fischer's unprecedented triumphs at the chess board and his meglomania, paranoia, and anti-Semitism away from it. A friend of Mr. Fischer's tells Mr. Waitzkin that Mr. Fischer is "...convinced that the Jews were controlling the country and that the Holocaust was a self-serving fantasy created by Zionists". This same friend further informs Mr. Waitzkin that Mr. Fischer had the fillings removed from his teeth so he wouldn't "...pick up radio transmissions".
Mr. Waitzkin is no Fischer apologist but a significant portion of the world chess community is. Mr. Waitzkin has used the Fischer saga to portray his own paternal angst and he has done it well.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book For All Chess Players - Good Read, August 23, 2005
By 
Eskychesser (Michigan - USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Searching for Bobby Fischer: The Father of a Prodigy Observes the World of Chess (Paperback)
This book has the championship chess presence like "The Queen's Gambit" by Tevis and the scholastic excitement of "The Chess Team" by Sawaski - The others are fiction, but what sets this book (SFBF) apart is that it is a real story. However, the title is a hair misleading. This book really has nothing at all to do with the real Bobby Fischer (Former World Chess Champion) - but rather about chess prodigy and future chess grandmaster Josh Waitzkin.

The book itself is very much different from the movie and although the movie was very well done and one of my favorites of all time, the book is outstanding and should be read even if you watched the movie. If you play chess or like to teach chess, this book is highly useful for experience. The whole work just flows nicely and you get excited for Josh on his trials and tribulations. It is a quality book, with interesting experiences and I highly recommend it to all.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intruiging,, October 27, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Searching for Bobby Fischer: The Father of a Prodigy Observes the World of Chess (Paperback)
A real story about a brilliant pre-adolescent chess player. The author is the subjects father so we get as close to the action as any writer can get. Not only that but the father is a professional sports writer. This is a promising combination that delivers. The book follows, very closely, the career of the subject as well as his personal development. It is a continuous evolution of many captivating small stories that are well written and easy to understand. Total involvement and captivation is inevitable. The book is written by the father of the subject, and because of this we get a far more intimate and accurate account, and makes the book even more interesting because the writer was directly involved in every scene and he communicates his feelings. The relationship between father and son is itself very intriguing. We also get a in depth look at the reclusive world of the chess enthusiast and professional in the states and abroad. This is the type of book that you can tear through on a nonstop reading orgy
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chess is Life, January 12, 2006
By 
This review is from: Searching for Bobby Fischer: The Father of a Prodigy Observes the World of Chess (Paperback)
Searching for Bobby Fischer is a skillfully woven set of vignettes that tell two stories, really. One, of course, is the story of his and his son Josh's discovery of the boy's precocious chess talent, the other the story of the chess environment in the US and the effect of Bobby Fischer's legacy on US chess.

Reading the other reviews I find it hard to understand what some people complain about in the book. For instance, the Russian trip had great importance, both as a contrast to the chess community in the US, and because it was a formative event in the life of the main subject of the book. How do you just leave something like that out?

The actual "search" near the end of the book is truly a beautiful, bittersweet interlude that serves to put under the glaring light of truth the amorphous, romanticized legend of Bobby Fischer. It's a dirty, confusing little search that goes nowhere, and is a telling metaphor for the life course of the once legendary champion.

One important comparison to the movie is the recounting of the Nationals that Josh finally wins. While what they put in the movie was exciting, to me it was nothing like the vibrant, tense denoument in the book. The come from behind save Josh pulled out in real life is the stuff of little legends all on its own.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable book, front to back, poignant, with the ring of truth on every page. I can't recommend enough to both chess players and non-players alike.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An inspiring book about the ordeals of a chess prodigy., September 1, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Searching for Bobby Fischer: The Father of a Prodigy Observes the World of Chess (Paperback)
"Searching for Bobby Fischer" is a very good book with many anecdotes and milestones in the life of Fred Waitzkin, and his chess playing son, Josh Waitzkin. At first, I considered this another boring biography, but as I started reading, I was drawn by it. It's not a biography...it is a 'real' book that describes many difficulties of being a chessplayer. The 'Washington Square Park' and 'Trip to Moscow' chapters captured my attention the most. I would reccomend this book to just about anyone, whether you play chess or not.
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13 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An uneven combination, November 1, 2003
By 
David Hood (Wesley Chapel, FL USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Searching for Bobby Fischer: The Father of a Prodigy Observes the World of Chess (Paperback)
3.5 stars rounded up to 4
I read this book well before a movie was even conceived, yet I will take the heretical view that the movie was better. The movie distilled what the book was about, Josh and his father, and excised the two weak sections.
The parts of this book that deal with Fred and his feelings about his son's chess genius are very well done. Waitzkin writes in a congenial, easy to read fashion that communicates the story well. He neither presents himself as a saint, nor a sinner.
The weak parts are the two digressions. The first is the trip to the now defunct Soviet Union with Bruce and Josh to watch the ill-fated first Karpov-Kasparov match. Though the politics of the old Russian chess scene can be of interest, they are jarring in this book of a father and his son.
The second weak section is Fred's trip to California to try to find Fischer. Of course he doesn't so we are treated to 2nd and 3rd or worse stories of Fischer's descent into his own world. Again, Fischer's life is interesting in a cautionary trainwreck way but is not really properly part of Fred and Josh's story.
Though this is not a chess book per se, an appendix with some of Josh's games would have been a nice thing to have. However, I'm not subtracting from my rating for that, just a suggestion.
The story of Josh and Fred and their journey through competitive childhood sport, chess here could be replaced by anything, is wonderful. The sidetrips however should have been edited.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A+ Chess Book, July 8, 2001
By 
Dave (Detroit, MI USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Searching for Bobby Fischer: The Father of a Prodigy Observes the World of Chess (Paperback)
This was an excellent book about chess in the USA and of course the life a real chess prodigy. I myself love chess and am interested in it and this book totally fulfilled my longing for a chess novel. Fred Waitzkin does an excellent job writing this book about his son. He writes the book from a very honest standpoint, clearly shown when he talks about Joshua's chess tournaments. I totally agree with Fred about how Bobby Fischer has changed the chess world. Fred was interested in chess, so his son became interested in chess. Just as my father did, in the 1972 match between Fischer and Spassky, he became interested in the game, and I am now, I'm just not a chess prodigy like Josh! This is a great book giving you a greater view of chess in the USA and also in the former Soviet Union. This is a great book! Read it!
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars superb ! excpet couple of chapters, July 15, 2005
By 
This review is from: Searching for Bobby Fischer: The Father of a Prodigy Observes the World of Chess (Paperback)
superb book!

postives:

1. insights into everything it covers

chess world, inights into a chess parent

2. smooth reading

3. the suspense in the last chapter itself is worth 5 starts

4. honest expressions about his feelings and his ideas

about others

5. the expression of the dilemma within him (or any chess

parent) on where this is headed.

negative:

1. couple of chapters seemed boring (irrelevant) at times,

but that could be me looking to get ahead with story

of him and his prodigal son.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating book about a boy and the chess world, April 14, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Searching for Bobby Fischer: The Father of a Prodigy Observes the World of Chess (Paperback)
Fascinating anecdotes and character portraits accompany the plot of a child prodigy's introduction to chess, his subsequent improvement and finally his victory at the children's national tournament. Intertwined in all of this is an eloquent story of the boy's relationship with his father. This look into the chess world was much better than the movie of the same name - a must read.
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Searching for Bobby Fischer: The Father of a Prodigy Observes the World of Chess
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