Bobby Fischer's audaciousness -- his ""bad manners and indifference to customary social behavior and to the personal feelings of others verge on the transcendent"" -- becomes the springboard of patzer Steiner's perusal of the whys and wherefores of the chess genius. In a curious way Spassky's depression parallels Fischer's arrogance (bishops of opposite colors?): both find their raison d'etre in a mere game, both risk their very being on the freedom of a four-inch figurine. Steiner traces Fischer's predecessors from Morphy (perhaps Fischer's only rival for cheek) through Steinitz, Capablanca, Botvinnik, Petrosian, and others; simultaneously, he offers examples from their games, including the match in Iceland. It is not an esoteric analysis of the moves, but it reveals the violence, autism, and intoxication of the game. Quoting Nabokov: ""Each move enacts the numbing postulate of modern cosmology that there is not a motion in the universe which does not affect and is not affected by every other motion, that ali mass and energy interact in a lattice so finespun, so multidimensional that we cannot even conceive of a model."" In a little understood process of Gestalt reasoning, the master senses ""that something must be happening around Q5"" (quoting Keres). This peculiar ability -- somehow related to mathematical and musical gifts -- is focused on an ultimately trivial phenomenon: symptoms of stress and unreality are almost unavoidable. Steiner may not be a chess whiz, but he understands the complexities of the game, and he is an alert, astute writer.