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Searching for the Other Bobby Fischer

Oct 5, 2007, 7:43 PM 4



For the past few days I've watched with fascination the re-emergence of Jeff Sarwer, most notably so at chessgames.com.

It's possible that even some of those who read the book, Searching for Bobby Fischer by Fred Waitzkin won't recognize Jeff Sarwer as the real-life model for the character Jonathan Poe, Josh Waitzkin's nemesis. Fewer still might realize that Sarwer and his sister Julia were respective under-10 World Chess Champions and gained a certain degree of media attention. The attention, however, started focusing more on their peculiar lifestyle than on their chess talents. They lived a gypsy style existence with their father, Mike Sarwer, drifting here and there, living for chess (no public school for the Sarwers!), especially Jeff's. Their unconventional father seemed controling and demanding and has been characterized as depressive. The media focus brought them to the attention of Canada's child protection agency. The Sarwer's successfully eluded the authorities, but felt the need to flee Canada. In the late 1980's they disappeared completely.  During this time, according to Julia in the opening paragraphs of what promises to be an intriguing memoir called Silent Conversations, they lived oversees, primarily in Europe, living the same vagabond life.


Jeff has a website, JeffSarwer.com. But he is also a premium member at chessgames.com where he's given some updates. While he hasn't played in any tournaments since childhood and claims to be unfamiliar with chess theory through books, he had maintained an interest in chess. One would reasonably guess that, as he aged without rerally exercising his chess talent, it would atrophy. However, recently, Jeff entered an open rapids tournament, the first one since childhood, and was given the provisional rating of 2300. How this was determined is unclear. Out of a field of 86, of which 4 were GMs and 2 were FMs, Sarwer netted third place, losing only one game (to the second place winner, GM Piotr Bobras, 2558).  His attacking game, evident in the two games from the tournament that he published at chessgames.com, is as phenomenal as the idea of Sarwer remaining so strong in seclusion. (In fact, he's probably stronger now than was Josh Waitzkin at his height). Also at chessgames.com are his games with Josh from so many years ago.

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