Josh Waitzkin first caught a glimpse of a chess set while 6 years old and walking with his mother in New York City’s Washington Square Park. He was going to play on the monkey bars, and instead he fell in love with the art that would dominate much of his young life. Josh’s first teachers were down and out hustlers–street virtuosos who took Josh under their wings and cleaned up their acts when their protégé came to play. The park guys taught Josh their aggressive, intuitive style of competition, which would remain his trademark for years to come. At age 7, Josh began his classical study of the game with his first formal teacher, Bruce Pandolfini.
From age 9 on Josh dominated the US scholastic chess scene. He won the National Primary Championship in 1986, the National Junior High Championship in 1988 while in the fifth grade, and the National Elementary Championship in 1989. At the age of eleven, he drew a game with World Champion Garry Kasparov in a simultaneous exhibition.
At age 13, Josh earned the title of National Master. He won the National Junior High Championship for the second time in 1990, and the Senior High Championship in 1991, as well as the U.S. Cadet Championship (under-sixteen). Between the 3rd and 9th grades, Josh also led New York City’s Dalton School to win 6 National team championships.
In 1993 Paramount Pictures released the film, “Searching for Bobby Fischer“, based on the highly acclaimed book of the same title written by Fred Waitzkin, documenting Josh’s journey to winning his first National Championship. That same year, at 16, Josh became an International Master and the U.S. Junior (Under-21) Co-Champion. In 1994 he won the U.S. Junior Championship and placed fourth in the Under-18 World Championship.
In addition to his intense chess life, Josh is also a gifted athlete deeply involved in the study of the martial arts Tai Chi Chuan and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Josh began studying Tai Chi Chuan with Grandmaster William CC Chen in the fall of 1998. He was drawn into the art by his love for eastern philosophy and by the desire to begin a learning process anew, as a total beginner, away from the spotlight that constantly followed his chess career. In William CC Chen, Josh found the teacher that he had always searched for, “A great master with the humility and generosity that true ‘Quality’ is all about.”
In addition to Josh’s intense competitive life, he is a renowned writer and teacher in the fields of learning and performance psychology. In 1993 When Josh was 18, Simon and Schuster published Josh’s first book, “Attacking Chess.” Now a staple in any chess player or fan’s library, Josh’s youthful book combines autobiographical anecdotes with the strategies that propelled him to the top of the scholastic chess world.
Josh’s recently published, “The Art of Learning“, which is part autobiography, part chess memoir, part martial arts philosophy. Essentially, Waitzkin offers his own approach to becoming a student and applying certain disciplines and habits toward learning and eventually mastering any skill.