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Pawn Sacrifice review

Posted by admin on October 1, 2015


Pawn to C4. Rook to H5. Knight to E6. This might seem like an odd set of references, but they are chess moves. Chess is a game that I have little experience in actual playing, but have seem everyone else in. My two best friends are adequate enough to play a good round and show how their better then me at something. I also see plenty of people, children and adults playing out in a park or inside a bookstore. What their saying to the world is, “ I’m a respectable intelligent person that knows enough about chess that I can be seen as aggressive”.

I might take up chess later on in life when I feel like I need another hobby. It’s not that I have no interest, but my current interests take a lot of time already. So you could imagine my surprise when my dad told me that the 1972 World Chess Championship was a big deal. Both names Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky were spoken like they were sports stars or even political figures. In a way, it’s true as each represented the USA and the Soviet Union. Pawn Sacrifice plays it’s game and tries to expose Bobby Fischer for who he really was.

As a boy growing up in Brooklyn, Bobby Fischer is a total introvert, choosing to ignore his mother’s Russian heritage and communist ways, completely immersing himself in a world of chess. He’ll play against himself if he has to, but he’s always seen trying to make his game better. Eventually his mother takes him to a local chess club that already knows that Fischer will become a great player. He becomes the youngest grandmaster and wins countless U.S. Chess Championships, while the rest of the world has to put up with his arrogant attitude and his never ending hunger for the world championship.

The problem is that the Soviet Union has the best players and one such player, Boris Spassky (played by Liev Schreiber) has been the face of the world champion for many years. Fischer (played by Tobey Maguire) wants nothing more then to prove that he’s better then the entire Soviet Union. The problem is that the late sixties were an era that started to show that Fischer was suffering from paranoia and delusions, often believing that the Soviets were spying on him. He even gives crazy demands that might have prevented him from playing in the 1972 match. The Soviets agree and the famous match is on.

Strictly as a movie goer, I though that Pawn Sacrifice was a pretty good historical story about a famous match. The best moment of the movie are the chess matches, which are few, but still manage to remain exciting thanks to the film’s cleverness to keep the look tight, but tense. It also does well to explain the game for non players, but I’m sure that should be little issue. What the movie doesn’t do well at is to try and tell us who Bobby Fischer was.

Don’t get me wrong. Tobey Maguire plays him very well. It’s more on the scripts blame. Sure we know that Fischer was a great chess player, had a lot of psychological problems and said some strange things, but it’s all stuff that’s been told. Something like Lincoln showed more about the personality of the president and Saving Mr. Banks dwelled into the stern personality of P.L. Travers.

The pacing can also come off as a little slow ironically as the filmmakers probably didn’t want too many chess games. I think they could have used some more.


I’ll give this four chess knight pieces out of five. Pawn Sacrifice is more likable as a historical recreation rather then an engaging narrative, but I’m glad I saw it. It reminded me that plenty of people play chess and that Tobey Maguire is an underrated actor. Consider playing this movie if you want to know more about a famous chess match. 


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