Sent to an orphanage at age nine, Beth develops an uncanny flair for chess and a growing dependence on the tranquilizers given to children.
Plunged into a new life in suburbia, teenage Beth studies her classmates and hatches a plan to enter a chess tournament.
The trip to Cincinnati propels Beth and her mother into a whirlwind of travel and press coverage; Beth sets her sights on the U.S. Open in Las Vegas.
Russian class opens the door to a new social scene; in Mexico City, Beth meets Borgov,while her mother cozies up to a pen pal.
In Kentucky, Beth reconnects with a former opponent who offers to help sharpen her game ahead of the U.S. Championship.
Beth heads to Paris for her rematch with Borgov, but a wild night sends her into a self-destructive downward spiral.
A visit from an old friend forces Beth to come to grips with her past and rethink her priorities, just in time for the biggest match of her life.