Pawn Sacrifice Delivers

pawn sac
By Sam Sloan

I was invited to an advanced screening of the movie Pawn Sacrifice held on Thursday, August 13, 2015 at 10AM in New York City, based on the fact that I had been a close friend of Bobby Fischer. I was invited to the screening by Katherine Matthews. Only three other people were there. Two were non-chess players who work for Chess in the Schools. I do not know if other advanced screenings were held. After the screening, I sent my comments on the movie as follows:

The movie was wonderful, marvelous.

It brought tears to my eyes.

I had no idea it would be so good.

It accurately depicted the turmoil going on within Fischer and the turmoil going on outside of him while he was on his way to the World Championship.

The movie is intended to provide entertainment and not to be historically accurate. However, there are mistakes in the movie and it would be best to have them corrected, if possible, before the release of the movie in September 2015.

The movie calls the Chief Arbiter Wolfgang Schmid. His actual name was Lothar Schmid. I see you have corrected it on the website but it needs to be corrected in the sound track too.

Carmine Nigro who was Bobby’s first and only teacher was not one of the top 25 rated players in the country. He was a Class B player but did not have an official rating. The movie depicts him as being with Bobby all the way from the beginning in about 1949 to the Fischer Spassky Match in Reykjavik Iceland in 1972. In reality, Carmine Nigro had only a brief relationship with Fischer lasting only a few years at most.

William Lombardy will not like the way he is depicted but that is his own fault as he refused to cooperate in the making of the movie. It shows Lombardy first meeting and becoming involved with him at the time of the Olympiad in Yugoslavia. That is not true. I first met both Fischer and Lombardy together at the November, 1956 Eastern States Open Chess Championship in Washington DC, so Fischer and Lombardy were together at that time. You scan see our pictures together at

The movie shows Lombardy continuously involved with Fischer from their first meeting until the 1972 match. Not true. Lombardy dropped out of chess in 1961 after deciding to become a Catholic Priest. He did not become involved with Fischer again until the time of the 1972 match. In between those years Fischer was mostly involved with Grandmaster Larry Evans.

It says that Fischer won his first round game against Grandmaster Ivanovich at the 1966 Piatigorsky Cup in Los Angeles. This is not true. There is no Grandmaster Ivanovich. Fischer’s first win in that tournament was against Grandmaster Ivkov in Round 3.

It says Fischer defeated Korchnoi in Round 5 of that event. This is not true. Korchnoi never played in the Piatigorsky Cup. Fischer did defeat Korchnoi in two earlier tournament games in 1962 but never defeated him in a tournament game after that.

It shows Paul Marshall informing Fischer that Nixon had tried to call him three times but had been unable to reach him because Fischer had taken apart the telephone receivers searching for bugs in the telephone. I doubt this is true.

It says that they had found bugs in Fischer’s room during the Interzonal chess tournament in Tunisia. I do not think this is true but I am sure Fischer was concerned about the Soviets and others spying on him.

It shows lawyer Paul Marshall first meeting Fischer in the park and then being involved with him for years leading up to the 1972 match. I do not know when Paul Marshall first met Fischer but I do not believe they had such a long relationship.

It shows Fischer’s mother having a man sleep with her in the apartment disturbing Fischer while he is trying to study chess. I would like to know the source for this. You should not put such a salacious thing in a movie unless you are sure of your source.

It shows Fischer analyzing the moves 1. P-KR4 P-KR4 Ridiculous. You should take that out. Have Fischer studying 1. P-K4 P-K4 instead.

It shows Fischer’s virginity being lost to a street prostitute in Los Angeles. This becomes the love interest in the movie. Fischer’s first known encounter with a woman was with a prostitute but it was in Argentina. Grandmaster Larry Evans brought Fischer to a whorehouse. Fischer lost his chess game right after that and had the worst tournament in his life. Fischer never mixed sex and chess again.

It correctly shows the most famous move ever made, Fischer’s blunder in Game 2 with 29. …. BxKRP. Spassky replied 30. P-KN3. However, the movie shows Fischer resigning immediately in disgust. In reality, Fischer did not resign then and was not yet lost. Fischer made another mistake. He could have drawn the game with 40. … K-Q4. The game continued until move 56. This is one of the most famous games ever played, so every chess player will recognize that you made a mistake when you say that Fischer resigned after 30. P-KN3.

These little mistakes will cause chess playing viewers to deride the movie.

Others will say that this that person or this or that event or incident should be included in the movie. I disagree. The story line should be simple and easy for non-chess players to follow. Having more characters would not help anything. I think the producers of this movie did a great job.

Editor’s Note: Pawn Sacrifice is currently playing at AMC Palace 20 in Elmwood and at The Theatres at Canal Place in New Orleans.

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