The movie is based on the life & times of David MacEnulty who taught schoolchildren of the Bronx Community Elementary School 70 to play at competition level, eventually winning New York City and the New York State Chess Championships. The screenplay portrays whistle-blowing and a mid-life crisis that combine to remove Richard Mason (played by Ted Danson) from his old job & current lifestyle. He becomes a substitute teacher and is assigned to a fourth-grade class in a South Bronx school. In the class are students with parents who are drug addicts or in jail or just scrambling to pay the bills. Few of them see a purpose in school other than meeting society's requirements, and he struggles, mostly in vain, to reach them. Then a student whose father is in jail sees Mason in the park playing a simultaneous exhibition, and beating fourteen opponents at once. He asks to learn the game. One thing leads to another, and soon the entire class is interested in the game. Mason convinces them that on the chessboard it doesn't matter how much money you have or what clothes you wear or where you come from, and that it's only the moves you make, then and there. The class forms a team to compete in ever-larger tournaments.
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