Joshua Waitzkin

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Joshua Waitzkin
Joshua Waitzkin.jpg
Joshua Waitzkin, 2005
Country United States
Born (1976-12-04) December 4, 1976 (age 41)
New York City
Title International Master
FIDE rating 2464 (March 2018)
Peak rating 2480 (July 1998)[1]

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

Early life and education[edit]

Waitzkin was born in New York City and has a Jewish background. He began playing chess at the age of six, having discovered it while wandering through Washington Square Park in New York City. While playing blitz chess with the hustlers, he was "discovered" by Bruce Pandolfini, a chess author and teacher, who later took Waitzkin under his wing for a number of years. During his years as a student at The Dalton School in New York City, 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.[2][3]

The first master Waitzkin defeated was Edward Frumkin, in a game featuring a sacrifice of Waitzkin's queen and rook in exchange for a checkmate six moves later. Waitzkin was ten years old at the time.[4] At age 11, he and fellow prodigy K. K. Karanja were the only two children to draw with World Champion Garry Kasparov in an exhibition game where Kasparov played simultaneously against 59 youngsters.[5][6] Five years later, he earned the title of National Master, and at age 16 became an International Master.[5]

Waitzkin has not played in a US Chess Federation tournament since 1999,[7] and his last FIDE tournament was before 2000.[8]

Movie portrayal[edit]

The script for Paramount Pictures' 1993 movie Searching for Bobby Fischer 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 where his father is watching a young Josh play a character Vinnie from a bench. The real Waitzkin can be seen wearing a green/gray coat over a white shirt and standing behind a boy in a black sweatshirt who is playing chess right next to the film's version of Waitzkin.[9][better source needed]


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). He is also the spokesperson for the Chessmaster video game series, and is featured in the game giving advice and game analysis.[10][11]

Martial arts[edit]

As a young adult, Waitzkin's focus shifted to the martial art Aikido. He holds several US national medals and a 2004 world champion title in the competitive sport of Taiji Push Hands (Taiji Tui Shou).[12] Waitzkin also became a championship coach, leading Grandmaster William C. C. Chen's US Push 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.[13] Waitzkin is also a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under world champion and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu phenomenon Marcelo Garcia.[14][15] Waitzkin is the co-founder of and The Marcelo Garcia Academy, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school located in New York City.


On April 23, 2010, Waitzkin married Desiree Cifre,[16] a screenwriter and former contestant on The Amazing Race.


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Waitzkin's game against Frumkin
  5. ^ a b Bio - Josh Waitzkin
  6. ^ Maura Reynolds, "Pupils No Match for Kasparov, Even Simultaneously", The New York Times, February 23, 1988
  7. ^ "USCF membership info". Retrieved 2011-12-04. 
  8. ^ "Waitzkin FIDE card". Retrieved 2011-12-04. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ "The Art of Learning Project". Retrieved 29 November 2017. 
  11. ^ Rocky Citro, "The Old Josh Waitzkin Chessmaster Tutorials", We Learn Chess, March 14, 2016
  12. ^ "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 24 March 2014. 
  13. ^ "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 24 March 2014. 
  14. ^ "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. 
  15. ^ "Josh Waitzkin interview « Another neijia blog". May 2, 2008. Retrieved 2011-12-04. 
  16. ^ "Wedding Under the Cherry Blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden". Archived from the original on January 17, 2013. Retrieved August 12, 2012. 

External links[edit]