Joshua Waitzkin (born December 4, 1976) is an American former chess player, martial arts world champion, and author. As a child, he was recognized as a prodigy, and won the U.S. Junior Chess championship in 1993 and 1994. The film Searching for Bobby Fischer is based on his early life.

Joshua Waitzkin
Joshua Waitzkin, 2005
CountryUnited States
Born (1976-12-04) December 4, 1976 (age 47)
New York City
TitleInternational Master (1993)
FIDE rating2464 (July 2024)
Peak rating2480 (July 1998)[1]

Early life and education


Waitzkin first noticed the game of chess being played while walking with his mother in New York City's Washington Square Park at the age of six. At age seven, Waitzkin began studying the game with his first formal teacher Bruce Pandolfini.[2] During his years as a student at Dalton he led the school to win seven national team championships between the third and ninth grades, in addition to his eight individual titles. In 1999, Waitzkin enrolled at Columbia University, where he studied philosophy.[3][4]

At ten years old, Waitzkin played a notable game featuring a sacrifice of his queen and rook in exchange for a checkmate six moves later. [5] At 11, Waitzkin and fellow prodigy K. K. Karanja were the only two children to draw with World Champion Garry Kasparov in an exhibition event where Kasparov played simultaneously against 59 youngsters.[6][7] At age 13, he earned the title of National Master, and at age 16 became an International Master.[6]

Waitzkin has not played in a US Chess Federation tournament since 1999,[8] and his last FIDE tournament was before 2000.[9] Waitzkin has also stated in an interview his reasoning for leaving chess

When people ask me why I stopped playing chess ... I tend to say that I lost the love. And I guess if I were to be a little bit more true, I would say that I became separated from my love; I became alienated from chess somewhat ... The need that I felt to win, to win, to win all the time, as opposed to the freedom to explore the art more and more deeply, and I think that started to move me away from the game and also chess for me was so intimate. It was something that I loved so deeply that when I started to become alienated from it, I couldn't do it in an impure way.[10]

Film portrayal


The script for Paramount Pictures' 1993 film Searching for Bobby Fischer (released in the United Kingdom as Innocent Moves) was based on a 1988 book by Waitzkin's father, Fred Waitzkin: Searching for Bobby Fischer: The Father of a Prodigy Observes the World of Chess. Waitzkin makes a cameo in the film, in a scene in the last quarter of the movie (at 1:21:52) where his father is watching a young Josh play Vinnie (Laurence Fishburne) from a bench. The real Waitzkin (16 years old at the time) can be seen wearing a black jacket/white hoodie playing chess right next to the film's version of Waitzkin and is sitting across from Josh's father (Joe Mantegna).[11]



Waitzkin is the author of two books: Attacking Chess: Aggressive Strategies, Inside Moves from the U.S. Junior Chess Champion (1995) and The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance (2008), an autobiographical discussion of the learning process and performance psychology drawn from Waitzkin's experiences in both chess and the martial arts.[12] He is also the spokesperson for the Chessmaster video game series, and is featured in the game giving advice and game analysis.[13][14]

Waitzkin has a chapter giving advice in Tim Ferriss' book Tools of Titans.

Martial arts


As a young adult, Waitzkin's focus shifted to the martial art tai chi. He holds several US national medals and a 2004 world champion title in the competitive sport of tai chi pushing hands.[15] Waitzkin also became a championship coach, leading Grandmaster William C. C. Chen's US Pushing Hands Team to several titles at the Tai Chi World Cup in Taiwan, guiding teammates Jan Lucanus and Jan C. Childress to their world titles.[16] Waitzkin is also a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under world champion and Brazilian jiu-jitsu phenomenon Marcelo Garcia.[17][18] Waitzkin is the co-founder of and The Marcelo Garcia Academy, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu school located in New York City.

Personal life


On April 23, 2010, Waitzkin married Desiree Cifre,[19] a screenwriter and former contestant on The Amazing Race.

See also



  1. ^ "Joshua Waitzkin - Chess Games". Archived from the original on August 13, 2023. Retrieved January 31, 2016.
  2. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: Josh Waitzkin: The Art of Learning (videotape) (News feature segment). ABCNews NOW: Perspectives with JuJu Chang. ABC News. n.d. Event occurs at 2:36–3:49.
  3. ^ "Notable Alumni". Archived from the original on July 15, 2014. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
  4. ^ Waitzkin, Fred (2017). Searching for Bobby Fischer: A Father's Story of Love and Ambition. Open Road Media. ISBN 9781504043038. Archived from the original on August 13, 2023. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
  5. ^ "Joshua Waitzkin vs Edward A Frumkin (1987) Heaven Can Waitzkin". January 6, 2005. Archived from the original on July 5, 2022. Retrieved October 22, 2022.
  6. ^ a b "Bio". Josh Waitzkin. Archived from the original on November 7, 2020. Retrieved August 19, 2020.
  7. ^ Reynolds, Maura (February 23, 1988). "Pupils No Match for Kasparov, Even Simultaneously". The New York Times. Archived from the original on January 30, 2018. Retrieved October 22, 2022.
  8. ^ "USCF membership info". Archived from the original on August 13, 2023. Retrieved December 4, 2011.
  9. ^ "Waitzkin FIDE card". Archived from the original on October 4, 2012. Retrieved December 4, 2011.
  10. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Josh Watzkin discusses ideas from his book "The Art of Learning", martial arts and why he stopped playing chess".
  11. ^ "Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993) - IMDb". Archived from the original on March 12, 2017. Retrieved December 7, 2016 – via
  12. ^ Tim Ferriss (November 27, 2016). "The Tim Ferriss Show:#204: Tools of Titans: Josh Waitzkin Distilled" (Podcast). Retrieved April 11, 2018.
  13. ^ "The Art of Learning Project". Archived from the original on September 2, 2018. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  14. ^ Rocky Citro, "The Old Josh Waitzkin Chessmaster Tutorials", We Learn Chess, March 14, 2016
  15. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Josh Waitzkin's The Art of Learning. Chess and Martial Arts". Shows Waitzkin's championship round at Chung Hwa Tai Chi World Cup 2004. Retrieved March 24, 2014.
  16. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Jan Lucanus vs. Chen Chi-Cheng Fixed Step Push Hands Championship Match ICMAC Orlando, FL 2005". Josh Waitzkin coaches Jan Lucanus' victory over Jiu jitsu World Champ. World Push Hands. Retrieved March 24, 2014.
  17. ^ "Josh Waitzkin Interview | On the Mat | Worlds Largest Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Gi and No Gi Belt Database". On the Mat. January 25, 2008. Archived from the original on November 29, 2011. Retrieved December 4, 2011.
  18. ^ "Josh Waitzkin interview « Another neijia blog". May 2, 2008. Archived from the original on September 21, 2011. Retrieved December 4, 2011.
  19. ^ "Wedding Under the Cherry Blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden". Archived from the original on January 17, 2013. Retrieved August 12, 2012.