The blast fungus Magnaporthe grisea causes a serious disease on a wide variety of grasses including rice, wheat, and barley. Rice blast is the most serious disease of cultivated rice and therefore poses a threat to the world's most important food security crop. Here, I review recent progress toward understanding the molecular biology of plant infection by M. grisea, which involves development of a specialized cell, the appressorium. This dome-shaped cell generates enormous turgor pressure and physical force, allowing the fungus to breach the host cuticle and invade plant tissue. The review also considers the role of avirulence genes in M. grisea and the mechanisms by which resistant rice cultivars are able to perceive the fungus and defend themselves. Finally, the likely mechanisms that promote genetic diversity in M. grisea and our current understanding of the population structure of the blast fungus are evaluated.