To say the least, the United States Chess Hall of Fame in New Windsor, N.Y., is a modest place - as Halls of Fame go.

Michael Hill of the Associated Press reports, "Go through the storefront office, down a flight of stairs and make the second right after the supply room. There it is: The U.S. Hall of Chess Fame.

"It's a far cry from Cooperstown. Cardboard plaques honoring past grandmasters, like Paul Morphy, don't draw adoring fans the way the monuments to sluggers like Joe DiMaggio do at baseball's more celebrated exhibition."

And a Russian book of opening chess moves on display, signed "Bobby Fischer, New York, May 1958, $1 Earth USA" tends to underline an unfair American stereotype: Chess is an esoteric game for nerds.

But the image of skinny guys with horn-rimmed glasses and slide rules hunkering over chess boards is becoming a thing of the past, say officials of the U.S. Chess Federation (USCF), home of the modest hall of fame and governing body of chess in this country.

With more than 54,000 paying members, the USCF's principal role is as a sort of matchmaker for chess players. A player can join, play a federation-sponsored match and receive a rating that will stand until his next match. The USCF rates about 400,000 games a year.

The USCF, a not-for-profit group affiliated with the International Chess Federation (FIDE), also offers its members a postal chess program, Chess Life Magazine, and discounts on chessboards, computers, clocks and other chess material.

- SIMULTANEOUS - Thirty or more chess players of varying skills and ages participated in the highly successful simultaneous exhibition last Saturday. It was held on the sidewalk in front of Sam Weller's Zions Book Store on South Main Street.

It was conducted by the genial and hero to the small fry, David Lither, former coach of the Rowland Hall-St. Mark's chess team and current instructor of the chess class. He was assisted - in that he turned over the final 10 games or so, to add to the fun - to Sergey Patelou, a Soviet grandmaster who has recently moved to Salt Lake City. Patelou is an architect by profession.

Lither and Patelou won every game except for two or three, much to the large crowd's enjoyment of the festive occasion. A number of parents were also on hand to watch the playing skills of their youngsters.

- GRANDMASTERS - The recent Pan-Pacific Grandmaster Tournament in San Francisco was hailed by former U.S. champion Robert Byrne of the New York Times as a first-rate invitational round-robin competition.

Sponsor for this tournament was the Mechanics Institute. All the expenses and prizes were underwritten by the Mechanics Institute, a private club that has supported chess events from time to time - a rare kind of sponsorship these days.

The plan was to have six American grandmasters and six foreign grandmasters make up the field, but American international master (a rating below the grandmaster) John Grefe was also invited.

Eugenio Torre, the top rated Filipino grandmaster for many years, took first place with an 8-3 score. He held the lead throughout with his brand of subtle positional play for which he has become noted. Among others, he defeated ZsuZsa Polgar of Hungary, the first woman to obtain grandmaster rank in years.

The final standings were: Torre, 8; Wolff, 7; Tal, Benjamin, Rogers, Christiansen, each 6; Fedorowicz, 51/2; Adianto, Ftacnik, Zsuzsa, each 5; Grefe, 31/2 and Browne, 3.

- SICILIAN - Victor Korchnoi of Switzerland, erstwhile challenger for the world championship, supposedly said, "Who ever wants to be champion of the world must be able to defeat Gary Kasparov's Sicilian Defense."

It was an interesting remark because the current titleholder's play in his favorite opening is so impressive that Anatoly Karpov, his challenger in five matches since 1984, has given up challenging it.

- CONGRATULATIONS TO THE SOLVERS! - Gordon Greene, Jack Crandall, Gene Wagstaff, Edwin O. Smith, Ted Pathakis, Hal Knight, Hal Harmon, Ardean Watts, Robert W. Lee, Alison Hermance, Steven L. Staker, Camrin Copier, Jim Reed, Larry Butler, Stephen R. Clark, Russell Anderson, Kay Lundstrom, Roger Neuman, William DeVroom, David Moody, B.J. Peterson, Raeburn Kennard, Aaron T. Kennard, Nathan Kennard, Richard Schow, David D. Kirk, Stephen R. Clark, O. Kent Berg, Stanley Hunt, David Wilhite, Ramon E. Bassett, Kim Barney and Joe Sias.