Searching for Bobby Fischer was inspired by the life of chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin, as written by his father Fred Waitzkin. Josh (Max Pomeranc) is a regular kid who begins evincing signs of being a genius at chess. His father (Joe Mantegna) encourages this, hoping that it won't fundamentally change his son's healthy outlook on life.
But Josh is taken under the wing of cold-blooded chess instructor Bruce Pandolfini (Ben Kingsley), who indoctrinates the boy in the Bobby Fischer strategy. Unfortunately, Pandolfini emphasizes all of Fischer's negative traits, especially his contempt for his opponents.
Josh is in danger throughout the film of sacrificing his essential decency, but in a rousing conclusion, the boy is able to successfully blend ruthless competition with good sportsmanship.