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Chris Melnick: Reads &Watches-Chess

October 1, 2022



        To start this month’s column, I want to celebrate Shawn Rodrigue-Lemieux, newly crowned World Chess Champion in the under-18 age group.  Shawn is the first Quebecer and only the second Canadian to achieve this honour.


        One of the recommendations I have for this month is the movie Queen of Katwe, based on the book of the same name.


        Chess is literally the game of kings and queens. So what happens when a little girl from Katwe, the largest of 8 slums, bordering the Ugandan capital of Kampala, picks up her first rook?  This is a Disney movie like no other.  Based on the true story of Phiona Mutesi, who became the first chess player to achieve the Women Candidate Master Title in Uganda while still in her teens.  The movie is shot with brutal honesty, no fairies or princesses here to buffer reality and is a stark reminder of how life can be in a country that provides neither public health care nor education.  As of May 14, 2021, Phiona graduated from Northwest University in the U.S. with a Bachelor’s degree in Arts and Management.  Her dream is to return to Uganda and work with the children of the slums. 


        I highly recommend this film for the whole family and if you do watch it, stay tuned for the final ending, which is beautiful and inspiring.


        Queen of Katwe is available at the Winnipeg Public Library in the following formats:


Queen of Katwe


Call number:  DVD FILM/TV QUEEN


Queen of Katwe




The queen of Katwe: A Story of life, chess, and one extraordinary girl’s rise from an African slum.

Author:  Tom Crothers

Call number: 794.1092 Mutesi

Format:  Book: 


The queen of katwe: A Story of life, chess and on extraordinary girl’s rise from an African slum

Author:  Tim Crothers

Call number – large type: LT 794.1092 Mutesi

Format:  Book



        The second recommendation is the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer, based on the book by Fred Waitzkin, detailing his son Josh’s love of chess and achievements in the game.  At a young age, Josh was recognized as a chess prodigy and won the U.S. Junior Chess Championship in 1993 and 1994.  The focus of the movie is Josh and his development as a chess player and not on Bobby Fischer.  A quick internet search on Josh Waitzkin took me through his interest and career in the martial art of Taiji as a young adult, leaving chess behind.  He holds several US medals and a 2004 World Championship Title in the sport.  Josh then became a championship coach and founded a number academies teaching the martial arts. 

        Currently Waitzkin is focusing on foiling, which is, as Josh describes it on his website, an evolving water sport akin to surfing. Unlike surfboards, foiling uses hydrofoils: submerged wings that connect to the board with a mast.


        Unfortunately the book is not held at Winnipeg Public Library but the movie is, in the following formats:


Searching for Bobby Fischer

Author:  Mantegna, Joe


Format:  DVD


Searching for Bobby Fischer

Author: Fred Waitzkin

Call number:  eAudiobook

Format: eAudiobook


        The third movie for recommendation is Pawn Sacrifice, which does focus on Bobby Fischer.  The movie moves chronologically, for the most part, focusing on Fischer’s genius as a chess player and the mental health challenges he faced as well as some of the disturbing views he held.  All told Fischer was an American chess grandmaster and the 11th World Chess Champion, winning his first of 8 straight U.S. Championships at the age of 14.


        The movie culminates at the 1972 World Championship, with Fischer winning the title match against the USSR chess champion Boris Spassky. Fischer was portrayed as representing the United States and hence the free world and Boris Spassky representing the USSR and hence the unfree world, at the height of the Cold War.  As stated on Wikipedia, the match was publicized as a Cold War confrontation between the US and USSR, the match attracted more worldwide interest than any chess championship before or since. In 1992, he reemerged to win an unofficial rematch against Spassky. It was held in Yugoslavia, which was under a United Nations embargo at the time. His participation led to a conflict with the US government, which warned Fischer that his participation in the match would violate an executive order imposing US sanctions on Yugoslavia. The US government ultimately issued a warrant for his arrest. After that, Fischer lived as an émigré. In 2004, he was arrested in Japan and held for several months for using a passport that the US government had revoked. Eventually, he was granted an Icelandic passport and citizenship by a special act of the Icelandic Althing, allowing him to live there until his death in 2008.


        Pawn Sacrifice is available at the Winnipeg Public Library in the following format:


Pawn Sacrifice

Author:  Zwick Edward film director

Call number:  DVD FILM/TV PAW

Format:  Video disc


        A quick search for “Chess – non-fiction” turned up eight pages of books, videos, etc. on playing the game of chess.  These range from chess fundamentals to complicated strategies.  I haven’t read any of them but am sure that, if you search for a book on chess, you’ll find what you need at good old WPL.


If you finished reading this column and want to mark the occasion, just shout out loud and clear



And now for this month’s Yiddish proverb

Az me zucht, gefint men.

If you seek, you will find.


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Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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