Based on the true story of Bobby Fischer (b: 1943 – d: 2008) and portrayed by Tobey Maguire, who is compelling as the American chess Grandmaster and World Chess Champion. The film unfolds against the backdrop of when McCarthyism (early ’50s) is rampant and a young Bobby Fischer is already showing signs of seeing advanced strategies play out on the chess board.
The story takes us from the beginning of Fischer’s display of genius in chess to becoming a worldwide sensation in the early ’70s, during the height of the Cold War. This was when the chess match for world championship between Fischer and his then-Soviet counterpart, Boris Spassky (well played by Liev Schreiber) face off in a chess championship taking place in Iceland and televised globally. The two prodigies are themselves the pawns of their respective sponsors, America and the Soviet Union, both also vying for the world power title. The match between the two men has become a representation of which nation, and which government, is supposedly superior.
An exciting movie that shows off Maguire’s excellent acting skills, his character also reveals the dark side of Fischer’s genius. Fischer’s genius is paired with a madness manifested by paranoia and magnified senses that distract him—like insisting on playing the opening matches with Spassky in the ping pong room where he says it’s quiet. Another real life American chess Grandmaster featured in the movie is Bill Lombardy, Fischer’s on again/off again halfway confidante, played by Peter Sarsgaard. Lombardy, then a Catholic priest, accompanies Fischer to tournaments, including the 1972 World Chess Championship held in Iceland.