Certainly since Bobby Fischer played the match which made the game (bringing it down from its Nabokovian niveau to the level of popular participation) this is the first book to appear on chess which will attract this newly magnetized audience. Mr. Schonberg, New York Times correspondent and Pulitzer-winning critic, author of the great lives of pianists, conductors and composers in seriatim, has written a personality-oriented history of the game which had its origin in prehistoric times and which will develop ad infinitum: it would take a computer 1000 billion generations to chart the possibilities up to the middle game. Bobby Fischer, one of the two greatest natural players (Capablanca also had the aura), was not the only boor in devising irritating distractions (nose-picking has always been effectively used; Alekhine urinated publicly on the floor during a match; and Lasker smoked cheap cigars rather than his usual Havanas during competition). Then there's the fact that most of the members of Britain's famous Chess Divan cheated, when possible. Tragedy too seems part of the game's inevitable legacy: Paul Morphy -- one of the brilliant schoolboy prodigies -- died of melancholia verging on madness when under 50; Rubinstein, another idee-fixated obsessional, became more and more bizarre; etc. etc. Mr. Schonberg concludes with the famous Fischer-Spassky match when Bobby moved in as a killer (not to be heard from since?). Marcel Duchamp, incidentally, gave up painting for chess saying ""It has all of the beauty of art -- and much more."" Surely Schonberg would concur while also bringing it within the reach of any fascinated spectator of black and white.