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Pawn Sacrifice by Edward Zwick

October 13, 2015

Pawn Sacrifice is a movie made by Edward Zwick and that came out on 16 September in France.


This film deals with the life of chess’ champion Bobby Fischer and his tournament for world’s greatest chess player against Boris Spassky. The story can seem simple, but it happens during the Cold War. As Fischer is American and Spassky is Russian, it takes a huge dimension.

That is not the first time that Edward Zwick  directs a historical movie. Indeed, he did Glory (about the first African American battalion during the Civil War) and The Last Samouraï with Tom Cruise (Japenese rebellion in 1877)

The story starts in the 1950s when Fischer was only 6 years old. His sister, Joan Fischer, taught him how to play chess. It quickly became an obsession for him. He had to win no matter what. At 12, he ended up 15 out of 66 participants in a championship composed of adults. Thanks to this match, the media began to talk about him.

At only 14 years old, he was the US adult chess champion. This competition is the previous level to the worldwide competition. He arrived 5th.


In 1962, he decided to stop chess after losing against Soviets. He accused them of cheating to take away all non-Soviet players from competitions. The movie deals with his reinsertion in competition with his manager and a priest good at chess. All along the film he will prepare his tournaments to go to the worldwide competition against the soviet chess master : Boris Spassky. Little by little, he climbed the ladder and eventually succeeded. The director Edward Zwick doesn’t hesitate to show us his mental troubles such as paranoia. He believed that every one was spying on him, trying to get information about him.

The competition took place in 12 sets in Reykjavik. He arrived late and lost the first set and didn’t show up for the second. He accused the public and the cameras of making too much noise so that it distracted him. As it was the Cold War, President Nixon tried to contact him to save the country’s reputation. He came back to the next sets and had a lot of extravagant requirements. Slowly, he won the next sets and was officially the worldwide champion before the end of the competition thanks to his advantage. The set before last  took place in a ping-pong room so there was no public and just one camera. The last set kept every one on tenterhooks and this is the day when Fischer surpassed himself. Spassky was so amazed by his playing that he stood up and applauded him. This was the first and the last time that someone reacted like this in chess.

After an all-life-fight, the movie ends on Bobby Spassky finally managing to win this status of worldwide champion at 29.


Tobey Maguire perfectly plays the role of Fischer. He also produced the movie that was blacklisted in the Hollywood factory a few years ago. His performance is all the more stunning as the shooting only lasted 41 days. To embody his character, Tobey Maguire read many chess books, exercised himself at chess against American champions and met close relationships of Fischer. I really think he could be nominated at the Oscars for best actor in a leading role.

His partner Liev Schreiber who plays Boris Spassky gave an intense performance too. He perfectly knew how to play with subtlety this mysterious and threatening character.

I really advise you to go and see the movie. Even if you don’t like chess, the movie is so much deeper than the summary can fathom. These conflictual situations and the scenario are very well done. Moreover, the actors’ performance are really worth it.

Let’s just hope that Leonardo Dicaprio won’t rub off on his best friend Tobey Maguire and  win an Oscar for it ! Or at least be nominated…

I hope you will like it as I did !


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