Modern Living: New Game in Town

In New York, customers in bars sip their drinks and stare intently at the television play-by-play. In Alexandria, Va., two young men play the game on the sidewalk outside a Laundromat while waiting for their wash to dry. In a San Francisco department store, an expert plays twelve games at a time —and 1,000 people show up to watch. Across the nation, these and thousands of others have become hopelessly addicted to what suddenly is America's favorite board game: chess.

Until recently, most Americans who gave any thought to chess dismissed it as a...