My Review of Pawn Sacrifice

Sep 20, 2015, 1:02 PM |

I saw Pawn Sacrifice in Evanston, Illinois, because the film would not be playing in Wisconsin until later September. Driving through more than an hour of heavy rain, flash flooding and lightning - NOT TO MENTION THOSE AWKWARD ILLINOIS ROADWAYS - made the movie that much more enjoyable. 

It was not a 'sitting on the edge of your seat' experience for me. I didn't expect that anyway. What I hoped for was a movie that was true to the chess player's experience and emotion, true to the game itself and, most importantly, carefully made. There is another movie which accomlished this: The Luzhin Defence (2000, Marleen Gorris). Although The Luzhin Defence was more playful and romantic than Pawn Sacrifice, it did manage to capture the feeling of competitive chess. 

Whereas in Luzhin we get a lot more background on the chess player's early years as a child, in Pawn Sacrifice the focus is more on Bobby's play in the 1972 World Championship. 

When I first saw the poster for this movie at a recent tournament... I said to myself, "This is it. This is great for chess." Bobby Fischer AND Boris Spassky being portrayed in a big film! I never once cared that Toby McGuire did not look exactly like Fischer and I absolutely loved that Liev Schrieber was playing Spassky... Both actors are great and the fact that the movie was about chess was enough. That it was about Cold War Chess was even better. THAT IT IS BEING SHOWN ALL OVER THE U.S. IS GREAT!

The movie is very well made. Allow me to list my grievances immediately, because they are few and not very important. 

I felt that more exposition on Regina, Bobby's mother, would have done well here. Afterall, she was a brilliant woman. The movie only focuses on her 'supposed' communist connections, rather than her academic achievements. (See this Tartajubow on Regina Fischer: )

Still the film HAD to show how intense the FBI, CIA and international involvement was for these people. It was real! 

Of course I never knew or met Bobby Fischer, so I cannot say that the movie exaggerated his personality; but there were a few moments that seemed overdone. I'll let you see it before I spoil it.

As I said my grievances are not important. Thankfully whoever was involved in keeping the chessly integrity in the movie did a wonderful job. From the Bishop Blunder in game 1 of the match, to the open chess jargon, and HOW the players in the film play. From adjusting pieces, to thinking faces, to hand gestures and how they move the pieces, I think it felt real enough to me.

As to the cheating, spying, and all the other craziness surrounding the match... I cannot say it was accurate or not, because i was not alive during the time and I certainly have never studied that championship match very keenly. 

Of course listening devices, radios, and other gadgets were around during the time... chess computers, earpieces, and wires... but what the movie does a great job in portraying is the absolute tension and paranoia of the two sides - USSR and USA. 

Even Spassky had his own breakdown. Fischer maybe just suspected what was really happening, and buckled under the pressure of doubt and supression. Whatever the case is, Pawn Sacrifice is an elegant movie that is true to chess and the players, and is a must for any chess player's film library. 

See this movie.