Park City â€¢ When filmmaker Liz Garbus was working on â€œBobby Fischer Against the World,â€ she hoped it might debut at the Sundance Film Festival.
She never anticipated the World Chess Hall of Fame and Museum would wave the banner for the documentary, or that its Friday screening would bring together chess grandmasters and aspiring players who aim to make the game more popular in the United States.
â€œWhen you’re making a film you’re doing your work,â€ said Garbus, who directed the documentary about the enigmatic Fischer, who went from world chess champion to fugitive. â€œYou’re telling a story and you’re pulling it together as best you can.
â€œI was thinking about finding material about Bobby’s life. I never imagined all of this.â€
The World Chess Hall of Fame and Museum, which is scheduled to open in September in St. Louis, saw â€œBobby Fischer Against the Worldâ€ as a way to promote both its opening and chess.
â€œI’m thrilled they got behind us,â€ Garbus said. â€œChess is a wonderful, intellectual sport. It’s a great learning tool for children.â€
The museum’s involvement included bringing grandmasters Joel Benjamin, Alexander Shabalov, Irnya Zenyuk and Jennifer Shahade to play chess with Utah schoolchildren after the premiere at the Thomas Kearns McCarthey Gallery. Grandmaster is the highest title a chess player can attain.
â€œWe are kind of taking on all comers,â€ Shahade said. â€œThe kids are loving that.â€
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â€œThey’re really good,â€ said 8-year-old Andrew Roach, a member of the Rowland Hall chess club. â€œThey kind of position the pieces the correct way before they make a huge attack on their opponent.â€
Clearly, the kids weren’t going to beat the grandmasters. But both groups had fun â€” including when the adults coached the youngsters as they played against each other. â€œA lot of times I play a kid and I’m crushing them, and then I reverse the board,â€ Shahade said. â€œAnd then they’re winning and they get a chance to beat me. And it’s a challenge again.â€
â€œIt was a great experience,â€ said 10-year-old Nek Tarios, another Rowland Hall student. â€œThey are so good.â€
As for the documentary, the youngsters are a little less clear about Bobby Fischer than they are about chess.
â€œThe movie was pretty good,â€ Tarios said. â€œI knew he won the championship. I was devastated when he died. He was a really great man.â€
That’s a matter of debate in the documentary, but there’s no debating that Fischer was a great chess player.
â€œI really enjoyed the movie. And I hope it’s a way to get people interested in chess again like they were when Bobby Fischer won the World Championship,â€ said Shahade.
â€œBobby Fischer Against the Worldâ€ tells more stories about a man who was once among the most famous on Earth. Fischer eventually had his U.S. passport revoked, was given Icelandic citizenship and died there a recluse.
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