Pawn Sacrifice

Bobby Fischer Movie


15 September 2015| No Comments on Pawn Sacrifice     by Sean Chavel


I always thought I wanted to see a movie on chess champion Bobby Fischer until I got one. This one unfortunately. Pawn Sacrifice is an All-American movie that is partisan to the American hero myth. Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire) is a mentally troubled paranoid, which in another movie if explained with finer depth would have been interesting. But simply in this movie: Bobby hates his mother, he hates the Russians, and he regards himself as the greatest chess player in the world. Besides the rotten personality issues, I think it would have been appropriate of the movie to let us gain insight into his chess strategy. Liev Schreiber plays Russian Boris Spassky, and at least he is allowed to give a full-rounded and sympathetic performance as a man who wants a dignified win.

Now is the time to break to you my most horrible criticism: This movie is not made for chess fans. Which is a problem since the core audience, I imagine, are chess players. See, if it were a movie for chess fans, director Edward Zwick would have bothered, I hope, to supply better visual coverage of the chess board, instead of alternating between his two choices of low angle shots with no depth perception and ultra extreme close-ups of pieces taking each other. With all the quick cuts, you don’t see any of Bobby’s game process. Ever. Not even during Game 6 of the 1972 World Championship Match, so important, the film mentions in the epilogue that it’s the greatest chess game ever played. But we get awful camera angles that shows us everything except the board.

Some interesting material is here, I guess I learned a little about Bobby Fischer since he was before my time. I was in the dark on his bio despite myself being an avid chess player. However, Fischer is such an obnoxious twit that I actually fell more in sympathy with Boris Spassky and wish it was he who won. Spassky, despite having security entourage, enters the room as a gentleman and approaches the game of chess with a certain classy nobility. He doesn’t make obnoxious demands, unlike Fischer who at one point demands to play in an airless ping-pong room with all spectators removed and one unobtrusive television camera.

Fischer is all hissy-fits. I’ve been trying to figure out why, say, Leonardo DiCaprio is so fascinating as an abrasive megalomaniac in “The Aviator” or “The Wolf of Wall Street” and why I can’t stand Tobey Maguire here. Maybe it’s because DiCaprio comes off as an eccentric extrovert in an exciting way, but with Bobby Fischer, it’s all sulks and whines. His one eccentric episode is losing his virginity to a hotel escort (Evelyne Brochu, bringing some needed sass to this movie).

Zwick is the one responsible for ruining this movie. He once made “Glory” (1989) and “Legends of the Fall” (1994), which are more underrated than not and in which I’m entirely grateful for. But for a long time now he has made jingoistic movies with seriously contradictory intentions (“Blood Diamond,” “Defiance”).

And yes, in the chess movie “The Searching for Bobby Fischer” (1993) the director Steven Zallian supplied enough shots to understand the board so we could interpret the players’ strategy.

114 Minutes. Rated PG-13.


Film Cousins: “Searching for Bobby Fischer” (1993); “The Luzhin Defence” (2000); “Bobby Fischer Against the World” (2011); “Computer Chess” (2013).

Pawn-Sacrifice_ Bobby Fischer movie

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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