The Queen’s Gambit: A New Look on Chess

Lauren Riina


Some may say that chess is a bore. Some may say it is a lost art. However, the new Netflix show, The Queen’s Gambithas become an enticing view of chess through the eyes of a young female chess prodigy. 

The Queen’s Gambit originally surfaced as a book by Walter Tevis in 1983; with director Scott Frank and actors like Ana-Taylor Joy, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, and Bill Camp, it was able to become a limited series on an international company. 

The show follows Beth Harmon after she is recently orphaned when her mother dies in a car accident. Beth is thrown into Methuen Orphanage, a Christian home for girls that leads Beth to a self-inflicted tranquilizing pill addiction.  

Though Methuen seems corrupted and dangerous for Beth, she finds sanctuary in the basement, where she sneaks away from education and etiquette classes to play chess with the orphanage’s janitor, Mr. Chaibel. Just at 9 years oldBeth showed her prodigious chess skills, and she was able to play it respectively until she is caught stealing an abundance of pills from Methuen’s nurse ward. 

At the age of 15, Beth was adopted by a flaky husband and lonely wife who lets out her feelings into her piano and her wine glassIt is here that Beth can play chess again, and even enter local tournamentsAfter the husband leaves the family for his job in Denver, the two women resort to chess tournaments winnings to pay for their livelihood, leading Beth to become the star of the chess world for the next few years. 

As a common theme in TV shows and movies, fame leads characters into emotional destruction, and it reigns true in this show as well. Beth gets older, her mother passes, and Beth begins to doubt her abilities and falls into a pit of cigarettes, alcohol, and deprives herself of friends and compassion. She becomes alone and bitter, and it is only until her old orphanage companion comes to set her back on track to win the international title for chess. 

From afar, the show may seem bland. Why would people want to watch a multitude of chess games? The show somehow does it. I finished the series in 2 days and was entertained by Beth’s quick wit, spirited side characters, and the Russians. 

The only relations I had with chess was playing with my dad and brothers at a young age, but I have not played in years and have frankly forgotten most of the rules. You may have seen a game of chessmaybe even played with a relative to make your parents happy, but with people who watch the Queen’s Gambit and those who will, chess may now appear a little more interesting to those below the age of 60. 

As Beth Harmon says herself, “Chess isn’t always competitive. Chess can also be beautiful.”