IM Joshua Waitzkin

Full name
Joshua Waitzkin
Born
Dec 4, 1976 (age 44)‎
Place of birth
New York, United States
Federation
United States
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Joshua Waitzkin is an American international master, martial arts competitor, and writer. Waitzkin's stellar success as a chess player during his early years was the subject of the book and movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer."


Chess Career

Josh Waitzkin became fascinated with chess when he was six years old after seeing people playing the game in Washington Square Park in New York City. According to Waitzkin, the park's chess hustlers were his first chess teachers and taught him the aggressive playing style he cultivated throughout his career.

After playing at that park for a year, Waitzkin grabbed the attention of legendary chess trainer NM Bruce Pandolfini. The renowned coach took Waitzkin under his wing and helped to propel him into the competitive chess world.

Joshua Waitzkin.
IM Joshua Waitzkin. Photo: Wikimedia Commons, CC.

After two years of training, Waitzkin took the chess world by storm. He won the National Primary Championship in 1986, the National Junior High Championship in 1988 (despite being only in fifth grade), and the National Elementary Championship in 1989.

The game below shows Waitzkin's combative "chess hustler" style. During the 1987 New York Open, the 11-year-old boy had the white pieces against Edward Frumkin. The young chess savant sacrificed his rook on move 25 to set up a beautiful king hunt involving a brilliant queen sacrifice.

Waitzkin earned his national master title when he was only 13. He won the National Junior High Championship again a year later, in 1990, and the National High School Championship in 1991.

Waitzkin became an international master at the age of 16. That same year, he was the co-champion of the U.S. Junior Chess Championship. A year later, he won the U.S. Junior Championship and earned fourth place at the Under-18 World Championship.

Another fantastic example of Waitzkin's attacking prowess is on display in the game below. Facing none other than IM Sofia Polgar, Waitzkin with the black pieces outwitted his opponent in an impressive tactical skirmish.

Waitzkin played his last rated tournament in 2000 after losing his love for the game. He claimed that outside pressure and his coaches' insistence to go against his natural aggressive playing style made him lose his passion for chess.

Book, Movie, Game Franchise, And Beyond

Waitzkin's stellar performance as a young chess player made him famous after his father published the book "Searching for Bobby Fischer." The book tells Waitzkin's story and gives readers the chance to learn about the young boy's trajectory to chess mastery and the obsession in the United States with trying to find the next GM Bobby Fischer.

In 1993, Paramount Pictures released the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer" based on the book. The film received positive reviews from critics and chess professionals alike and became a classic among chess fanatics. The movie even made it to the top of Chess.com's list of Chess Movies You Do Not Want To Miss.

The book Searching for Bobby Fischer tells Joshua Waitzkin's story.
Book cover for "Searching for Bobby Fischer" by Fred Waitzkin. Photo: Penguin Books.

In 1997, Ubisoft invited Waitzkin to be the spokesperson for the Joshua Waitzkin Academy of the famous chess franchise Chessmaster. The games brought many chess and life lessons by Waitzkin.

Joshua Waitzkin in Chessmaster.
Joshua Waitzkin is the spokesperson for Chessmaster's Joshua Waitzkin Academy.

Today, Waitzkin is a martial arts champion and writer. He has also co-founded the Marcelo Garcia Academy in New York, a training facility for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

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