Film: Pawn Sacrifice
Director: Edward Zwick
Cast:Tobey Maguire, Peter Sarsgaard, Liev Schrieber, Michael Stuhlbarg
Vishwanathan Anand, India’s first ever grandmaster, hosted a screening of Pawn Sacrifice on Thursday. Close to 100 chess enthusiasts, including children and grandmasters, attended the screening of the biographical movie on the legendary American grandmaster Bobby Fischer.
Set in the cold war era, Pawn Sacrifice maps the rise of Fischer and focuses on his 1972 world championship match against the then world champion Boris Spassky. Directed by Academy Award winning producer Edward Zwick, the film stars Tobey Maguire as Bobby Fischer and Liev Schreiber as Boris Spassky. Tobey Maguire does a great job playing the eccentric Bobby Fischer. The supporting cast, Michael Stuhlbarg and Peter Sarsgaard too blend into their roles as Fischer’s manager and adviser respectively.
The film has a lot of chess jargon making it difficult for those not schooled in the game of chess to follow the movie. By the end of the movie, it is difficult to understand why Game Six in the world championship is considered the greatest game ever played.
Anand, speaking during the event, commended the plot of the movie and urged chess lovers to watch the movie. “The Fischer-Spassky match is an important game in chess history. It brought the game into the spotlight around the world. The game got a lot of popularity after Fischer beat Spassky in the world championship,” he said.
The film also explores the deteriorating mental health of Fischer. Anand claimed that that the movie is not completely accurate, but neither is it completely inaccurate. He, however, denied noticing any signs of mental turmoil in Fisher when he met him before his death.
“Fischer was paranoid that the Russians were out to get him. That is partially true. There has been a lot of discussion about it and a lot of authors have written books about Fischer’s mental trouble,” he added. Spassky is pictured as a man of few words who travels with a brigade of people wherever he goes. For most part of the movie, the relationship between Spassky and Fischer is strained. But Anand pointed out that Spassky was fond of Fischer and was as close to him as a younger brother. He added that Spassky, as a person, is not exactly as he was portrayed in the movie.
Anand described Spassky as tolerant and kind. At the same time, Anand appreciated the research that the filmmaker had put into the movie. “During Fischer’s time, there were no computers to look up past matches. He was forced to visit specific shops that sold books that detailed past matches played by Spassky. Moreover, the notations of games played by the Russians were written in their native language. It was interesting to see Fischer visit a Russian-born immigrant’s shop in the movie to collect information on Spassky. It is said that Fischer learnt some Russian to read the notations in the books,” he explained.
Hailing Fischer as the trade union leader of chess players, Anand said that players like himself were able to play the sport professionally because Fischer voiced his criticism against the World Chess Federation at the time.
In the movie, Fischer demands a slew of changes in the workings of the federation and the way tournaments are conducted. Fischer labelled the tactics of the Russian players, who intentionally drew matches, as cheating. Chess aficionados can catch the movie from September 18 when it will hit screens in India.