Today in history, September 1, 1972… American chess legend Bobby Fischer beat Boris Spassky of the then Soviet Union to win the international chess crown in a match made for the cold war era, in Reykjavík, Iceland.
In 1993, Laurence Fishburne co-starred in a drama titled Searching For Bobby Fischer, which wasn’t about the chess master, but rather was based on the life of another chess prodigy, Joshua Waitzkin, who wasn’t even born when Fischer won the 1972 title. The title of the film speaks to Waitzkin’s desire to be the kind of winner that Fischer was in his prime.
But I’d like to point you to another film in which the rules of the game of chess play a pivotal role in the progression of the film and the influence it has on its characters.
I’m referring to Boaz Yakin’s 1994 drama Fresh, which I rarely hear mentioned anymore, despite how fresh (pun intended) the movie is, with a stellar cast that included Giancarlo Esposito, Samuel L. Jackson, N’Bushe Wright, and Sean Nelson, as the titular character.
In Fresh, Boaz Yakin’s feature debut, a 12-year-old drug runner nicknamed Fresh (Nelson), a precocious, introspective kid, uses chess philosophy, steadfastly taught to him by his estranged father (Samuel L. Jackson), a speed chess player/hustler, as the chess board becomes a metaphor for life, as seen through the eyes of young Fresh, who plots a coldly brilliant plan to save himself and his junkie sister (Wright) from a world of drugs and violence.
If you haven’t seen Fresh, it’s well worth a look! And lucky for you, it’s on DVD, as well as VOD via Netflix and Amazon.com; also someone uploaded the entire film onto YouTube!
Here’s scene 5: