Until the Fischer-Spassky confrontation most Americans never understood what the rest of the world saw in chess. Since the Reykjavik antics began, however, the game has been enjoying a mini-boom from San Francisco to Boston. Demand is brisk for chess sets and instructional books—particularly Bobby Fischer's Chess Games.
Proprietors of chess clubs report membership increases of 40 to 50%. Alex Agre of Philadelphia's Franklin Mercantile Chess Club describes the weekend scene there as "gangbusters." San Francisco chess master Jude Acers says his personal appearance fees will hit $35,000 this year.
The Reykjavik factor has brought full employment and instant prestige to the ranks of U.S. international grand masters, who in ordinary times enjoy a status approximately equal to that of Gypsy violinists. Three grand masters ( Larry Evans, Robert Byrne and Al Horowitz) are in Iceland for the press, while two others—Sammy Reshevsky for New York's WNEW-TV and Isaac Kashdan for Associated Press—are employed at home.
Chess master and teacher Shelby Lyman has become an overnight cult hero on educational television. His phone exchanges with the laconic but unseen Edmar Mednis at the Marshall Chess Club in Manhattan ("Hello, Edmar? What do you think?" "Well, we don't think it looks too bad for Fischer") highlight the coverage.
In Atlanta an underground caf� called The Chessboard reports a burgeoning but somewhat misguided clientele. Its name has nothing to do with the game. It was bestowed by the owner, Anita Chess.