Introducing the Chess profile of Josh Waitzkin, the American Chess prodigy who was compared to the legendary Bobby Fischer as the young player was on his way to earn the International Master title from FIDE. For more information on FIDE and ratings, see the step-by-step guide on how to get a FIDE rating.
Full name: Joshua Waitzkin
Title: International Master
Born: December 4, 1976
Place of Birth: New York, United States of America
World Ranking: 1442
Rapid: Not rated
Blitz: Not rated
Classical (Std): 2464
Josh Waitzkin was born in New York in the United States of America and became a chess sensation from a very young age. He became interested in the game when he would watch those who played as he walked through Washington Square Park with his mother to go and play on the monkey bars as he loved to do. At the time, he was only the tender age of six. By observing them play, he was able to start to learn more about the game which led him on his journey as he decided to take up the craft himself.
You might know Waitzkin from the book and movie that portrayed his talent for chess. One of the best Chess movies, Searching for Bobby Fischer, was the movie which was based on the book Searching for Bobby Fischer: The Father of a Prodigy Observes the World of Chess, written by his father, Fred Waitzkin. Paramount Pictures released the movie in 1993, the same year that Josh won an International Master’s title and became an Under 21s US Junior Co-Champion. The film told the story of how Josh made it to his first win at The National Championships and the journey it took to get him there.
Josh went on to write a book called The Art of Learning: A Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence. Here, he outlines how being successful and winning competitions both in chess and tai chi allowed him to discover a process for learning that can be adapted to other areas of life outside of these disciplines: general life, business, and sports. The literary professional Tom Stoppard referred to the book as “well written” and “captivating” in The Observer (2 April 1989, page 45), demonstrating that Waitzkin had endless talents that stretched beyond that of chess and tai chi (he had an aptitude for writing also). Nigel Short told The Spectator< of the truth and honesty with which Waitzkin expressed in his book and supported him for his works and integrity (8 April 1989, pages 30-31).
Waitzkin has since started the “Josh Waitzkin Academy” for the biggest chess computer game in the world, Chessmaster. He has championed the academy since 1997, back when it began.
Today, Waitzkin is the proud founder of The JW Foundation, a non-profit organization with the goal of providing a platform with learning principles to help people better develop their education. He runs as president of the company which has been in operation since 2008. The company provides consultation services in the area of performance psychology, a subject dear to his heart since he was able to find out how to master the art of winning. The process of learning and developing one’s creative abilities are deemed important aspects of performance for Josh. Today, he’s embarking on a new endeavor to further broaden his vast range of skills and abilities and is enjoying exploring the world of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ).
Josh was first taught chess by two street hustlers. They taught him how to play the game aggressively but with intelligence. He continued with this style throughout his career and it would be the same one to earn him great success. At age 7, his study of the game took a more classic route and that’s when he paired up with his first recognized coach, Bruce Pandolfini.
Josh went on to dominate at chess in school competitions across the entire country. In 1986, when he was 9, he won the National Primary Championship, and two years later won the National Junior High Championship while he was in the fifth grade.
When he was only 10, Waitzkin came out trumps against Edward Drumkin, a renowned chess player. It only took him six moves to win the match and he did this by giving up his queen and rook to deliver the checkmate his opponent’s way. The next year, he tied with the World Champion, Gary Kasparov. The game was only a friendly match and with no professional recognition, however, it was nonetheless an amazing feat on Waitzkin’s part, especially at such a young age. There were only two out of 59 kids that were able to match their opponent, of which Josh was one of them.
In the year 1989, when Waitzkin was just 12, he won the National Elementary Championship. The following year, he became the National Master of the United States and won The National Junior Championship that same year for a second time. He kept winning, and the next year came in at first place at The Senior High Championship and won The US Cadet Championships during that year too (1991). He then went on to win six National Team Championships with his school, New York City’s Dalton School.
Josh went on to finish in first place two years in a row at the US Junior Chess Championships, in 1993 and 1994. By the time he was 16, he had received the title of International Master.
Here are some of Josh Waitzkin’s most prestigious achievements and winnings:
- National Chess Champion (8 times)
- United States Championship (1995)
- US Junior Chess Championships (1993 and 1994)
- International Master title (aged 16)
- National Primary Championship (1986)
- National Junior High Championship (1988 and 1990)
- National Elementary Championship (1989)
- Senior High Championship (1991)
- National Master (age 13)
- US Cadet Championships (1991)
- National Team Championships (6 times)
- US Junior Co-Champion (Under 21s)
As mentioned, Josh wasn’t only talented in playing chess. He has achieved great success with tai chi also. He won the Push Hands National Championships 13 times and was titled the Push Hands World Champion twice.
Did you enjoy reading about Josh Waitzkin? If you did, you might be interesting in reading other player profiles such as Hikaru Nakamura, Emanuel Lasker, and Paul Morphy.