PARK CITY – When filmmaker Liz Garbus was working on “Bobby Fischer Against the World,” she was sort of hoping it might debut at the Sundance Film Festival.

What she wasn’t anticipating, however, was that the World Chess Hall of Fame and Museum would wave the banner for the documentary. That, in addition to an enthusiastic screening on Friday morning, the film would bring together grand masters and child chess players and be the centerpiece of an effort to make the game of more popular in the United States.

“No, when you’re making a film you’re doing your work,” said Garbus, who directed the documentary about the enigmatic Fischer, who went from being the World Chess Champion to being a fugitive from justice. “You’re telling a story and you’re pulling it together as best you can.

“I was thinking about finding material about Bobby’s life. I never imagined all of this.”

The World Chess Hall of Fame and Museum, which is scheduled to open its doors in September in St. Louis, saw “Bobby Fischer Against the World” as a way to promote both its opening and the game of chess.

“I’m thrilled that they got behind us and brought these guys out here,” Garbus said. “Chess is a wonderful, intellectual sport. It’s a great learning tool for children.”

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Several local children got the chance of a lifetime at a reception at the Thomas Kearns McCarthey Gallery in Park City on Friday afternoon, after the documentary premiered. The kids got to play against Grandmasters – the highest title a chess player can attain – Joel Benjamin, Alexander Shabalov, Irnya Zenyuk and Jennifer Shahade.

“We are kind of taking on all comers,” Shahade said. “The kids are loving that.”

“It’s different from playing my level of player,” said 8-year-old Andrew Roach, a member of the Rowland Hall chess club. “They’re really good. The masters, they kind of position the pieces the correct way before make a huge attack on their opponent.”

Clearly the kids weren’t going to beat the Grandmasters. But both groups had fun with it – including when the adults were coaching the youngsters as they played against each other.

“A lot of times I play a kid and I’m crushing them, and then I reverse the board,” Shahade said. “And then they’re winning and they get a chance to beat me. And it’s a challenge again.”

“It was a great experience,” said 10-year-old Nek Tarios, another Rowland Hall student. “They are so good.”

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