Letter Essay # 4: Grandmaster – Asher Hafen

Letter Essay #4 Asher Hafen

Image result for grandmaster by david klass

Dear Reader


I have just finished a book called Grandmaster which is a  226 page realistic fiction novel. The book was written by David Klass, a acclaimed screenwriter and author of many popular novels. He used to be a competitive chess tournament player but gave up the game at Nineteen and returned once his children started to play chess themselves, and inspired by this experience, he wrote Grandmaster. Grandmaster is rated 4 stars on Amazon and is well loved by the public as a good read/story.


In Grandmaster Daniel Pratzer is a poor freshman in Highschool and is not very popular and wants to be at least popular enough to not get picked on but one day after chess club, two of Daniel’s fellow chess club members invite him to join them in a tournament in new york so Daniel accepts. Daniel isn’t very good at chess and wants to know why he was invited but eventually Daniel learns that the tournament is a Father and Son tournament and that his father is secretly a chess Grandmaster but gave up the game because it was unhealthy for him with his competitiveness, so Daniel convinces his dad, Morris Pratzer, to go to the tournament. Daniel and his two other teammates (each with their dad’s) go to the tournament and want to win but with serious damage occurring to Daniel’s his father, who starts having suicidal thoughts from the stress of Chess, it is going to be very dangerous and hard for Daniel who wants to win the tournament and all the while, keep his dad alive.


I was surprised when Daniel’s father was revealed to be a Chess Grandmaster. He was just the average man, who could wiggle his ears and do a decent Elvis impression. So how could this man be something so special and unique? I believe it is because everybody has something that their very good at whether it is dance,swimming, football, or in this case chess. It wouldn’t make sense for a person to have no skill that they are amazing at so it follows that Daniel’s father could be a chess grandmaster.


The theme of the book is that there really is too much of something good. Chess is generally considered as a good game for kids as it engages the mind in mental combat against another person. Morris as a young kid, would spend all of his time away from people studying chess and becoming lonelier and lonelier. Morris, in a moment of realization became aware that the game of chess was taking over his life and that if he didn’t stop soon, he would lose his life to the game. So he quit. This tells us that even though morris was playing a generally productive, healthy game, too much of it was bad so you can have too much of a good thing.


If I were the author, I would have changed the fact that Daniel was not popular. The book would have been more interesting if Daniel had his popularity at stake if he didn’t win the tournament. Tension would have built up more and the story would have overall been more engaging by increasing the amount problems Daniel has. With Daniel not being popular, there was less at stake for him if he lost… nothing would change, while if he was popular and lost, his reputation would suffer.


The passage that stuck in my head from the book is at the very beginning. When chess club finishes for the day and Daniel is walking out of the room, he is cornered by Brad and Eric. The way Daniel describes them vs himself shows how humble this poor freshman really is and it is honestly very cool.


“ Eric Chisolm was senior class president, a turbo-charged student and a super achiever with intense black eyes who had never gotten less than an A in his life…  He was the son of a heart surgeon, and everyone knew he was going to be the valedictorian, go to Harvard, and discover the cure for cancer.


Brad Kinney was less intense but more naturally talented. He was tall and rugged, with a grade point average that glittered as brightly as the huge trophies he won as captain of the swimming team and contributed to our school’s trophy case… He was the best chess player in our club—a master at eighteen who regularly won local and regional tournaments.


I was Daniel Pratzer, apparently also known in certain circles as Patzer-face. I was not tall or brilliant or rich. The admissions office must have accepted me because it was a weak year and my combination of mediocre scholarship and undistinguished extracurriculars was just enough to pass muster.

My grade average hovered above C+, resisting all my attempts to lift it into the B range like an airplane that has reached its operational ceiling and can’t gain a few more feet of desperately needed altitude.”


Most people wouldn’t describe themselves like Daniel would and it is a unique description of himself. It’s humbling and also kind of sad to see someone describe himself in such a bad light. This is one thing I will never forget about Grandmaster by David Klass. I would rate this book a 7 out of 10 and I’m satisfied with this very fun and dark book.


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4 thoughts on “Letter Essay # 4: Grandmaster – Asher Hafen

  1. Asher,
    I told you I had read this book, too. I thought it was okay. I wonder if the author has written anything since. I always wonder about writers whose first novels are basically a fictionalized account of their lives: do they have the imagination to write anything else? I thought the character of the father was a disguised version of Bobby Fischer, and if you haven’t seen the documentary Bobby Fischer Against the World, you should. I can tell you put in a fair amount of effort into this essay and blog post.
    Mr. Jockers

  2. Hello Asher,

    Well, this book probably reflects on how you like chess, to me, i wouldn’t see a person that doesn’t enjoy chess reading this book. Although its possible that can happen. It sounds that you really enjoy reading these certain books, even though it was rated 7 on your scale. That really LONG quotation could have been tinier though. Just use the dot-dot-dots (…) to get those good parts. It really helps me. Nice job!

    ~Elisabeth Berg

  3. Dear Asher,

    This book seems really interesting. I don’t love chess myself (But hopefully, as it has for many already, disrete math will change that) but I can see how this book would definitly do something like that. I really agreed with your response to your quoted passage, though. It is kind of wierd and sad that daniel would describe himself that way. This is also a book that I would add to my list for your 7/10 rating. Plus I really need more fiction pages (especially realistic).

    — Milo

  4. Hola Asher,
    as you know I read this book too (Well of course you know that, I gave it to you!) and I also did my letter essay on it. I really liked how you put a different perspective on your essay than I did and focused on the popularity of Daniel a lot of the time because I feel like that was an overlooked part of the book too. I think the idea you had of the author writing the book differently with Daniel’s popularity at stake was an interesting idea, but I think the author wrote it the way he did because he wanted to show the progression of Daniels social life you could call it through the story, and how it greatly improved. Overall, nice job!

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