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Old September 15th 03, 04:34 AM
Sam Sloan
 
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Default Searching for Bobby Fischer

Searching for Bobby Fischer

I just replayed the movie "Searching for Booby Fischer" on video. Of
course, I had seen the movie before, but this time I saw a few things
I had not seen previously.

I think that we as chess players can learn a lot from this movie. It
is a masterpiece in the way that it takes a subject most people would
find to be deadly boring and turns it into an exciting drama. Best of
all, the main events actually happened in real life and all of the
characters are or were real people, although some modifications were
necessary to make it into a good movie which the general public would
enjoy.

The plot line: Talented seven-year-old boy defeats his main rival to
win National Scholastic Chess Championship. Already, there is a little
fib. In real life, Joshua Waitzkin was about 13 when he won the
National Scholastic Championship. That was no big deal, so they had to
cut his age to seven to make the story more interesting.

In your typical Bruce Lee Movie, in the grand finale, Bruce Lee fights
the grand wizard to the death. Here instead, two seven year old kids
battle for the title. In the movie, the opponent is Jonathan Poe.
However, in real life, the final battle was fought by Joshua Waitzkin
against Jeff Sarwer.

To those familiar with the background, there is a reason for this name
change. Shortly after the real life tournament, the real life Jeff
Sarwer was taken away from the custody of his father by the child
welfare authorities. I do not know the details of what happened, but
it is clear that no court appointed guardian would ever agree to the
portrayal of Sarwer and his father the way that they are portrayed in
this movie.

So, the movie commits another fib. It says that the man who is
bringing the Sarwer character around to chess tournaments is not his
father at all. This man says that the parents have given the child to
his guardianship at age 4, that all he does is play chess and that he
never goes to school. The real life Sawyer, whom I once played in a
tournament (I beat him) never went to school either, but as far as I
know the man bringing him to chess tournaments was his real father.

Still, the guardian/father of Sarwer delivers one of the most
significant lines in the movie: "Eventually you realize that you have
taught them all that you can, and you just have to let them be what
they are."

Every line and every word of this movie is significant. It is a
masterpiece of writing and editing. This makes it easy for the viewer
to miss important points. It would sometimes be difficult to follow,
as the movie constantly shifts back and forth between real events and
fantasy. For example, there is actual footage of news broadcasts of
the real Bobby Fischer and as well as vintage photographs of Edward
Lasker, John W. Collins and other famous chess players.

There is the eternal conflict between the boy and his father. There
are also conflicts between the public school teacher and the parents,
the parents with each other, the parents and the coach, and the coach,
an actor, Ben Kingsley playing Bruce Pandolfini, and the chess hustler
in the park, Laurence Fishburne playing Vinnie a/k/a Vincent
Livermore.

In real life, Vincent Livermore died of AIDS just before the movie
came out. I asked Joshua Waitzkin about this (I asked the real life
Joshua Waitzkin, not an actor playing him in the movies) and he told
me that the character "Vinnie" is a composite based in part on Vincent
Livermore and in part on another chess player.

This movie has had a profound effect on the lives of several chess
players. The real life Bruce Pandolfini has become a wealthy man
giving chess lessons for $250 an hour to parents who are convinced
that their brilliant tyke needs lessons from the real Bruce
Pandolfini.

On the other hand, FIDE Master Asa Hoffmann is portrayed in the movie
as a raving schizophrenic who talks to himself. In real life, Asa
Hoffman does not do that and is a much stronger chess player than
Bruce Pandolfini, but Asa has a hard time getting paying chess
students, so he reduces himself to hustling strangers every day for
five dollars a game in Liberty Park near the former World Trade
Center.

It must be mentioned here that the producers of this movie paid the
real Asa Hoffmann a very large sum of money for the rights to have an
actor portray him, so Hoffman is not complaining. In the movie, the
Bruce Pandolfini character says that Asa Hoffmann is the child of two
Park Avenue lawyers and attended Columbia University. I learned
something here. I knew that the father of Asa Hoffmann was a prominent
lawyer. I did not previously know that his mother was an even more
famous lawyer who argued before the United States Supreme Court.

There is a chess player who in real life acts the same way that the
Asa Hoffmann character in the movies acts. That is Larry Gilden, but I
have not seen him in years and I doubt that Joshua Waitzkin has seen
him at all.

In one of the early scenes, Bruce Pandofini takes Fred Waitzkin,
Joshua's father, to see a real chess tournament. The room is filled
with smoke and it is not possible to see from one end of the room to
the other. Playing in this smoke filled room are Joel Benjamin and
Roman Dzindzichashvili, playing themselves in the movie. The point is
that these are the best chess players in the country and yet they are
playing in squalid conditions.

However, I have never seen such bad conditions in a chess tournament.
Smoking has been banned in chess tournaments for years.

There are so many other little details like that that I cannot
possibly list them all, but the big conflict in the movie concerns
chess strategy. Beginners at chess usually want to move out their
queen right away, but experienced players try to keep their queen
safely behind their minor pieces. Bruce Pandolfini, the chess teacher,
teacher Joshua to play positionally and to keep his queen back.
Vincent Livermore, who plays Joshua two minute chess in Washington
Square Park, teaches him to bring out the queen early.

In one of his first tournaments, Joshua plays an early Qf3, in an
obvious beginner's attempt at a Scholars Mate in which White plays the
moves 1 e4 2 Bc4 3. Qf3 4. Qxf7 mate. An adult watching the game
smirks at this move. You have to be a chess player to understand the
reason for the smirk.

The climatic showdown comes when Joshua is on stage battling for the
championship. His rival Jonathan Poe arrives. It will be a fight to
the finish.

I have worked out the moves. I do not believe that anybody else has
done this, so please pay attention. The game starts with a Queens
Gambit Accepted as follows: 1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 c6
5. a4 Bf5 6. Ne5 e6 7. Bg5.

This game is being watched on TV by the parents and coaches in another
room. Laurence Fishburne says, "Bring her out". Bruce Pandolfini says
"Don't even think about bringing her out." They both repeat themselves
several times and exchange dirty glances.

What they are talking about is Joshua's next move could be either Qa5,
developing the queen perhaps prematurely, or Be7 or Nd7 which are both
normal developing moves.

This is a key point in the drama. Finally, Josh plays Qa5, disobeying
his teacher.

I tried to figure out which moves came next but it is apparent that
the next bunch of moves are just random moves or more likely were
edited in out of sequence. Eventually, they reach the following
problem-like position: White has a king on e6, rook on e5, knight on
e4, bishop on g5 and pawns on f6 and h4. Black has rook on c8, bishop
on d8, knight on b6, king on c2 and pawns on a7 and g7.

This looks like a problem created by Grandmaster Pal Benko, but
Taghian Taghian told me that Bruce Pandolfini and another chess player
worked it out. Pal Benko was a consultant to this movie, however. The
last move by White was Kd5. It is now Black to play and win. It is a
cute solution. I do not know how difficult it is, because I know the
solution already, since I had to work backwards from the final
position to get to this position. It is almost ridiculous to suggest
that any seven year old child could find over the board the solution
to this problem which was perhaps composed by Grandmaster Pal Benko.

OK Ready? The solution is: 1. ... gxf6 2. Bxf6 Rc6+ 3. Kf5 Rxf6 4.
Nxf6 Bxf6 5. Kxf6 Nd7+ 6. Kf5 Nxe5+ 7. Kxe5 a5 8. h5 a4 9. h6 a3 10.
h7 a2 11. h8=Q a1=Q+ 12. Kf5 Qxh8 White resigns 0-1

By the way, it took me about an hour of playing back and replaying
this video before I got all the pieces in their correct positions and
all the moves right too.

The point is that White has queened his pawn first but Black queens
with check on the long diagonal and wins White's queen. A cute and
unusual solution to an endgame study.

By the way, in real life the game ended in a draw.

Sam Sloan

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Old September 15th 03, 06:13 AM
Sam Sloan
 
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Default Searching for Bobby Fischer

At 12:22 AM 9/15/2003 -0400, Lonnie Kwartler wrote:
Hi Sam,
The movie did some things for the audience such as amplifying the noises
made by the clocks and the pieces. The players also were announcing checks.
The character Vinnie was a much stronger player than Livermore in the
movie and in the book. I believe the other figure the character was based on
is senior master Morrison. The "grandmaster" playing Vinnie in the park, as
I remember it, was IM Kamrazi.
There were some inside jokes in the movie such as the real Pandolfini
asking the actor representing him a question as they both watched a game in
the park.
The position and moves of the final game were published somewhere online.
Lonnie


You just made two very good points and I was going to mention both of
them but forgot.

There is a real grandmaster playing chess in the movie. That is
Grandmaster Kamran Shirazi from Iran. It shows him playing Vinnie in
Washington Square Park. Of course, in real life, Livermore would stand
no chance against Shirazi.

What bothers me about the character Vinnie is that it is suggested
that he is a drug addict who sleeps in the park. As far as I knew,
Livermore did not sleep in the park or use drugs. However, he was in
the park every day. I saw him there shortly before he died. Also, the
rap of Vinnie, constantly talking during the game, was clearly an
immitation of Livermore. Livermore was reputed to be homosexual, which
would explain his AIDS, not drugs, but I know of no evidence for that.

Also, you are correct. Early in the movie, the real Bruce Pandolfini
is standing next to Ben Kingsley playing Bruce Pandolfini. The real
Bruce Pandolfini says "That's the next Bobby Fischer", pointing to
Josh.

I actually wonder if that was planned. Did the photographers
understand that the real Pandolfini was standing there? His name is
not in the credits. Many if not most of the people in these scenes are
actual players who are regulars in the park. Poe McClinton, a rated
chess master and park regular who is Black, has one line in the movie.
He says, "Quiet. Josh is here," when Josh comes back after having been
forbidden by his chess teacher from playing in the park.

On one of the wall charts shown in the movie there is a player named
Goodall. I have been wondering if that was our own Mike Goodall.

It has always bothered me that I would have been in this movie too,
except that I was detained in Virginia at the time.

Sam Sloan
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Old September 15th 03, 07:22 AM
Yeh Right
 
Posts: n/a
Default Searching for Bobby Fischer

On Mon, 15 Sep 2003 05:13:19 +0000, Sam Sloan wrote:

It has always bothered me that I would have been in this movie too,
except that I was detained in Virginia at the time.
Sam Sloan



Thank God for small favors......


--

Best Regards,
Yeh

"What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?"
-Nick Lowe






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Old September 15th 03, 04:22 PM
KidDon
 
Posts: n/a
Default Searching for Bobby Fischer

(Sam Sloan) wrote in message ...
Searching for Bobby Fischer


(snip)
_________________________________
Sam is not the first to analyse this game. It is also done here,
http://www.geocities.com/SiliconVall.../searching.htm,
although the analysis and "final position" are somewhat different.

KidDon
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Old September 15th 03, 05:34 PM
larry legallo
 
Posts: n/a
Default Searching for Bobby Fischer

On Mon, 15 Sep 2003 03:34:15 GMT, (Sam Sloan)
wrote:

Searching for Bobby Fischer

I just replayed the movie "Searching for Booby Fischer" on video. Of
course, I had seen the movie before, but this time I saw a few things
I had not seen previously.

snip some interesting chess stuff

The point is that White has queened his pawn first but Black queens
with check on the long diagonal and wins White's queen. A cute and
unusual solution to an endgame study.

By the way, in real life the game ended in a draw.


Wow. I haven't seen that kind of passion devoted to a film since the
poker group did a Sklanskian deconstruction of every hand in Rounders.
Nice job.

Searching for Bobby Fisher is a favorite of mine also. I don't know
about the accuracy of the chess, but the final match sequence is
magnificently designed and edited. I didn't realize how involved I
was in the match, or the movie, until Laurence Fishburne points at the
monitor and shouts "There it is!" Cut to Josh slamming his opponent's
queen. Even though you expect it to happen, it's still the kind of
electrifying moment that even most sports movies never achieve.

Of course, my favorite line comes a few moments later when Josh tells
the other boy, "You've lost......you just don't know it yet." Kind of
sums up life for many of us g.


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Old September 15th 03, 05:52 PM
Sam Sloan
 
Posts: n/a
Default Searching for Bobby Fischer

On 15 Sep 2003 08:22:30 -0700, (KidDon) wrote:

(Sam Sloan) wrote in message ...
Searching for Bobby Fischer


(snip)
_________________________________
Sam is not the first to analyse this game. It is also done here,
http://www.geocities.com/SiliconVall.../searching.htm,
although the analysis and "final position" are somewhat different.

KidDon


Thank you for pointing out this excellent site. It is very well done
and has a wealth of details I did not know. For example, it identifies
the smoke filled room where the grandmasters are playing as the Bar
Point which was on the corner of 14th Street and Sixth Avenue and was
run by Bill Goichberg. That explains the squalid conditions.

I did find a few small errors however.

It says that Svetozar Jovanovic is a FIDE Master. Actually, he is only
an 1800 player. He is obviously a very good teacher however, as his
teams have won more national championships than anybody else (at least
I think more than Sunil Weeramantry has won).
http://www.64.com/uscf/ratings/10081599

It says that Bruce Pandolfini in the movie charged $30 for a chess
lecture. Actually, he was offiered $30 but did not agree. He finally
agreed to $50.

Most importantly, it has a difference in the final chess position and
in the analysis. According to his version, Black has a rook on c7.
However, I just played back the video and checked and the Black rook
is on c8, as I have stated. This change does not affect the outcome.
More importantly, he gives a different order of moves. Again, I am
100% sure that my moves are correct and his are wrong. Also, he says
that 2. Bxf6 was a mistake and 2. Nxf6 should draw. However, there is
no difference and also White could draw at any time with either move
by playing 7. Ra5 and grabbing the a-pawn.

In spite of these mistakes, this website gives us the most important
new fact of all. It says that the nervous tuna-fish dad is Kalev
Pehme. Kalev Pehme is also the new editor of Chess Life Magazine !!!

Sam Sloan
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Old September 15th 03, 06:07 PM
Paul Rubin
 
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Default Searching for Bobby Fischer

The book by Fred Waitzkin was also excellent. I also liked Fred
Waitzkin's less-sycophantic-than-you-might-fear book about Kasparov,
titled "Mortal Games".
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Old September 15th 03, 06:48 PM
Etj718
 
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Default Searching for Bobby Fischer

Grandmaster Kamran Shirazi

What ever happened to Kamran Shirazi?I have not heard from him in at least 2
years.
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Old September 15th 03, 07:17 PM
Sam Sloan
 
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Default Searching for Bobby Fischer

At 08:09 AM 9/15/2003 -0700, Elliott Winslow wrote:

At 12:22 AM 9/15/2003 -0400, Lonnie Kwartler wrote:
Hi Sam,
The movie did some things for the audience such as amplifying the

noises
made by the clocks and the pieces. The players also were announcing

checks.
The character Vinnie was a much stronger player than Livermore in the
movie and in the book. I believe the other figure the character was based

on
is senior master Morrison. The "grandmaster" playing Vinnie in the park,

as
I remember it, was IM Kamrazi.


Morrison? I don't remember him but it rings a bell.
They call Kamran "Grandmaster" in the movie, but that's how it would be in
the park. I think I've been called that a few times even. [Not in this
lifetime...]

They don't show the end of that game, by the way. And you can't see if
Kamran is winning or not. He looks uncomfortable, which is appropriate when
you're "pegged".

Livermore would have had a fair chance against Shirazi at speed chess, not
"no" chance" -- but I'd bet on Kamran.

Sloan wrote:
What bothers me about the character Vinnie is that it is suggested
that he is a drug addict who sleeps in the park. As far as I knew,
Livermore did not sleep in the park or use drugs.


Cocaine. I saw the traditional white-powdered upper lip on an occasion or
three in the Village.

However, he was in
the park every day. I saw him there shortly before he died. Also, the
rap of Vinnie, constantly talking during the game, was clearly an
immitation of Livermore. Livermore was reputed to be homosexual, which
would explain his AIDS, not drugs, but I know of no evidence for that.


Well, gee, Sam, what would evidence look like?

He never hinted at his preferences to me, but others claimed to know.
Certainly there are people you as crusading journalist could interview.

Poe McClinton, a rated chess master and park regular who is Black,


Right color, wrong rating. 2100s. He kept it under 2200 throughout the
1990s. Probably a career move.

has one line in the movie.


You can hear him going on from the very beginning, far more than one line.

It has always bothered me that I would have been in this movie too,
except that I was detained in Virginia at the time.


And I was detained in New Windsor, putting out a magazine.

=e


Thank you for these corrections. So, apparently Livermore was a
cocaine addict who perhaps slept in the Washington Square Park.

I had thought that Jerry Poe McClinton was a 2150 player but two days
ago somebody told me that he was a 2250 player, so I mistakenly
assumed that he was correct.

Joshua Waitzkin, the real person, not an actor playing him in the
movies, told me that "Vinnie" was a composite of two characters.
Vincent Livermore was one. The other was a player I had never heard
of. So, I do not think it was Morrison, because I have heard of him.

Sam Sloan
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Old September 15th 03, 08:08 PM
Sam Sloan
 
Posts: n/a
Default Searching for Bobby Fischer

Just to show how far the reach of my e-mailing goes, I just received a
reply from Grandmaster Pal Benko in Hungary, the real grandmaster, not
an actor playing him in the movies.

Benko says that he did not compose this endgame and never would, as it
has several flaws.

I apologize to Benko. I should have realized immediately that this was
not a Benko problem. In the first place, it is standard in problems
and endgame studies that the first move is never a check or a capture.
There are some exceptions, but certainly not like this one where
almost all the pieces are traded off from the first move.

Next, the position is unrealistic. White's last move was Ke6. However,
instead he could have played Pawn f6xg7 winning immediately.

Also, the problem is cooked. "I have never made an endgame like that,
just putting up pieces to trade them. Even at the end, instead of 7.
Kxe5, 7.h5 draws. Matter of fact, I suggested something else but It
was found too complicated."

So, the original information given to me by Taghian Taghian, which was
that this endgame was composed in part by Bruce Pandolfini (the real
Bruce Pandolfini, not an actor playing him in the movies) was probably
correct.

Sam Sloan


On Mon, 15 Sep 2003 03:34:15 GMT, (Sam Sloan)
wrote:

I tried to figure out which moves came next but it is apparent that
the next bunch of moves are just random moves or more likely were
edited in out of sequence. Eventually, they reach the following
problem-like position: White has a king on e6, rook on e5, knight on
e4, bishop on g5 and pawns on f6 and h4. Black has rook on c8, bishop
on d8, knight on b6, king on c2 and pawns on a7 and g7.

This looks like a problem created by Grandmaster Pal Benko, but
Taghian Taghian told me that Bruce Pandolfini and another chess player
worked it out. Pal Benko was a consultant to this movie, however. The
last move by White was Kd5. It is now Black to play and win. It is a
cute solution. I do not know how difficult it is, because I know the
solution already, since I had to work backwards from the final
position to get to this position. It is almost ridiculous to suggest
that any seven year old child could find over the board the solution
to this problem which was perhaps composed by Grandmaster Pal Benko.

OK Ready? The solution is: 1. ... gxf6 2. Bxf6 Rc6+ 3. Kf5 Rxf6 4.
Nxf6 Bxf6 5. Kxf6 Nd7+ 6. Kf5 Nxe5+ 7. Kxe5 a5 8. h5 a4 9. h6 a3 10.
h7 a2 11. h8=Q a1=Q+ 12. Kf5 Qxh8 White resigns 0-1

By the way, it took me about an hour of playing back and replaying
this video before I got all the pieces in their correct positions and
all the moves right too.

The point is that White has queened his pawn first but Black queens
with check on the long diagonal and wins White's queen. A cute and
unusual solution to an endgame study.

By the way, in real life the game ended in a draw.

Sam Sloan

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