“Pawn Sacrifice” a Rare Intellectual and Emotional Treat for Movie Buffs and Chess Fans
Over the weekend I saw the film “Pawn Sacrifice” about the intense Bobby Fischer-Boris Spassky 1972 World Chess Championship. Tobey Maguire, who had executive producer credit, playing the great Bobby Fischer, displayed in full his vastly underrated acting abilities. And Liev Schreiber, who played Boris Spassky, deserves a best supporting actor Oscar nomination. Being a Soviet grandmaster, Spassky was a stoic, but the controlled subtleties Schreiber presented were absolutely masterful, much like his powerful performances on his TV show, “Ray Donovan.” Lots of great acting in this tense drama.
In a flashback, the film alluded to Bobby Fischer’s “Game of the Century” [October 17, 1956], a mind-blowing chess game. At the time, Bobby, a thirteen-year-old prodigy, let adult U.S. Grandmaster Donald Byrne capture his queen—the most powerful piece on the board. A mistake? No! Bobby then proceeded to destroy Byrne with his minor pieces.
Incidentally, earlier in that game, Bobby offered Byrne his knight, too, also a trap, a subtlety that illustrated why Grandmasters wept at Bobby’s play, as mentioned in the film.
The Antiquities Dealer and the “Game of the Century”
I used Bobby’s “Game of the Century” for the critical clue in my soon-to-be-completed suspense/mystery/thriller, The Antiquities Dealer. The novel’s main character, David Greenberg, deduces that a hurried text sent by a kidnapped graduate student refers to this game. From that clue, David uses Kabbalah gematria to pin down the location of—well, I won’t tell you what everyone’s seeking. [Hint: The object of everyone’s quest could benefit all of humanity!]
Incidentally, gematria is an Assyro-Babylonian system of numerology adopted by the Jews centuries ago, used to convert a word or phrase into a numerical value, and is still big in Kabbalah today. As I explain in The Antiquities Dealer:
“This Jewish numerology tradition is, in fact, one of the 32 methods used to analyze the Torah and other Hebrew texts, using mathematics. The first known use of gematria is an inscription telling us the Assyrian ruler Sargon II (700s BCE) built the wall of Khorsabad 16,283 cubits long to match the numerical value of his name. Even today, a monetary gift among Jews based on the number 18 is considered lucky because the numbers for the two letters of the word chai, meaning ‘life,’ add up to 18.”
Does this sound twisty and complicated? So will the plots and themes of my novel, The Lies That Bind (Nov. 2015, TouchPoint Press). That’s part of my style. But I work hard to make this all pretty easy to follow—and the roller coaster ride is a helluva lot of fun along the way. I think, too, when I tie up all the subplots and loose ends, the reader experiences a full catharsis, both intellectually and emotionally. No thin soup for me!
So go see this film—and study Fischer’s games!
What’s your take on “Pawn Sacrifice”? on Bobby Fischer?
Watch for The Lies That Bind's November release date and how to order!