The Queens Gambit – the film

The Queens Gambit – the film

Just three weeks ago, I posted “Chess revisited concerning my recently renewed interest in playing chess.

My ear since was bent concerning the film titled “the Queens Gambit”. According to Wikipedia: “The Queen’s Gambit is a 2020 American coming-of-age period drama streaming television miniseries based on the 1983 novel of the same name by Walter Tevis. The title refers to the “Queen’s Gambit”, a chess opening. Netflix released The Queen’s Gambit on October 23, 2020. After four weeks it had become Netflix’s most-watched scripted miniseries, making it Netflix’s top program in 63 countries … The Queen’s Gambit follows the life of an orphan chess prodigy, Elizabeth Harmon, during her quest to become an elite chess player while struggling with emotional problems, drugs and alcohol dependency. The title of the series refers to a chess opening of the same name. The story is set in the mid-1950s and 1960s … In 1950s Lexington, Kentucky, an eight-year-old Beth, having lost her mother in a car crash, is taken to an orphanage where she is taught chess by the building’s custodian, Mr. Shaibel. As was common at the time, the orphanage dispenses daily tranquilizer pills to the girls to “balance their disposition”, which turns into an addiction for Beth. She quickly becomes a strong chess player due to her visualization skills … As Beth rises to the top of the chess world and reaps the financial benefits of her success, her drug and alcohol dependency worsens. With help from her oldest friend Jolene, whom she grew up with in the orphanage, she prepares for her biggest challenge yet, a major international chess tournament against the world’s best players in Moscow.

I confess, I have not watched the series, although I did watch excerpts, available on You Tube. I can’t comment therefore on the plot, acting etc., but can on the chess. I understand that extraordinary attention was given to the games played, bringing in top grand masters to ensure authenticity. Like many fellow chess enthusiasts, I was intrigued by the last game that was shown in detail, when the hero of the film, Beth Harmon, played and beat the world chess champion, playing the Queens Gambit (which yours truly has been known to play at a much more modest level).

Rather than comment on the details of the game (best done with an interactive chess board displaying moves made, anyway), I refer to three YouTube videos (where such a facility is made available and used to good effect) that between them added to my excitement.The game played in the film was based on a past chess classic but with improvements in terms of moves made (thanks to expert help and chess engines) it was by all accounts it was a beauty! (Question: with reference to the position above, white to play. What was Beth’s next move from which she would go on to win the game?)

I’ll let Magnus have the last word: “go out and play; have fun”.


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