Joshua Waitzkin

  • Last updated on 1/17/11, 10:24 PM.

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Joshua Waitzkin (born December 4, 1976) is an American chess player, martial arts competitor, and author. As a child, he was recognized as a prodigy, and won the U.S. Junior Chess championship in 1993 and 1994. He is the only person to have won the National Primary, Elementary, Junior High School, High School, U.S. Cadet, and U.S. Junior Closed chess championships in his career.

Waitzkin was born in New York City. He began playing the game at the age of six, having discovered it while wandering through Washington Square Park in New York City. It was there, while playing blitz chess with the hustlers, that he was "discovered" by Bruce Pandolfini, a chess author and teacher, who later took Waitzkin under his wing for a number of years. During his years as a student at The Dalton School in New York City he led the school to win seven national team championships between the third and ninth grades in addition to his eight individual titles.

The first master he ever defeated was Edward Frumkin, in a game featuring a remarkable sacrifice of Waitzkin's queen and rook in exchange for a checkmate in six moves. Waitzkin was only ten years old at the time.

At age 11, he and fellow prodigy K. K. Karanja were the only two children to draw with World Champion Garry Kasparov in an exhibition game where Kasparov played simultaneously against 59 youngsters. Two years later, he earned the title of National Master, and at age 16 became an International Master. His focus has since shifted to the martial art Tai Chi Chuan, in which he has won four push hands tournaments.

Nevertheless he remains a well-known and popular chess figure, largely owing to Paramount Pictures' 1993 movie Searching for Bobby Fischer, directed by Steven Zaillian. The script for this film was based on a 1988 book by Joshua's father, Fred Waitzkin: Searching for Bobby Fischer: The Father of a Prodigy Observes the World of Chess.

Josh announced the formation of The JW foundation on April 8, 2008.

"The JW Foundation is dedicated to helping teachers, parents, and educational institutions nurture the unique potential of children and young adults. Our mission is to help students discover a creative, resilient passion for learning while embracing and overcoming challenges".

The organization recently launched a new initiative and website, The Art of Learning Project. The site features resources for educators interested in developing a more engaged understanding of the learning process.

Joshua Waitzkin is the author of Attacking Chess: Aggressive Strategies, Inside Moves from the U.S. Junior Chess Champion (1995) and The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance (2008). He is also the spokesperson for the Chessmaster computer game series, and is featured in the game giving advice and game analyses.

In The Art of Learning, Waitzkin recounts the story of his years as a chess competitor from his own perspective. He describes how movie fame challenged his concentration on the game, how he took up Tai Chi as a form of relaxation, and then discovered that the same learning techniques he employed in chess enabled him to advance rapidly in martial arts as well. He subsequently studied eastern philosophies and psychology of learning. It also gives students and parents a way to discuss their "Art of Learning."

Waitzkin is active in the fight against Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. He does not have Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy; however, a close friend of his, Jonathan Wade, suffers from the medical condition.

He has not played in a US Chess Federation tournament since 1999  nor in a FIDE tournament since before 2001.

Josh is also a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under world champion and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu phenom Marcelo Garcia with a goal of becoming a world champion in that martial art by 2010 or 2011.


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