I never thought I would be so enthralled with chess!
If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t heard about the series that has officially been declared Netflix’s most watched scripted limited series, The Queen’s Gambit tells the story of orphan chess prodigy who learns the game at a young age when living at an orphanage. We follow her as she works her way to becoming a master of chess while also struggling through the consequences of alcohol and drugs.
Fun fact, I learned how to play chess in an after school program in the fourth grade. You would think something would unlock from a deep part of my memory and I would remember anything about the game. Nope, nothing. When I first saw the trailer, I thought the whole aesthetic of the show looked really cool. I also had seen a few things with Anya Taylor-Joy in the past that I really enjoyed.
This show absolutely blew me away, especially with Anya Taylor-Joy’s performance. She is so striking, and can express so much with those big eyes without having to utter a single word. Watching her grow up from a young girl in an orphanage to a newly adopted teen, honing her craft and finally, into a fashionable young woman traveling the country, then the world. The friendships and people Beth meets along the way are so special and really leave a lasting impression on not only her, but also the viewer.
The competition scenes were remarkable. Who knew chess could be so compelling and nerve wracking! Learning that the games were basically choreographed and that every single time chess was seen being played, they were real games—even when you couldn’t even see their hands! Speaking of their hands, I read about how each character tried to have a distinct way of playing and how they would place the pieces on the board. Beth was very feminine, making her movements almost like a dance, setting herself a part from all the other players and to show that she was in the minority as one of the only women.
I listened to the audiobook shortly after finishing the series and while I really did enjoy it, it was nothing like my feelings towards the show. In the series, the intensity was heightened dramatically. Beth’s drug and alcohol abuse was a much bigger problem that almost cost her the one thing she cares about—the game. She can’t stop indulging in her addictions, buying an excessive amount of expensive clothes, and hurting the people who are only trying to help. She’s too young to really see that until she hits her lowest point. We also lose her visualizations that helped her when memorizing and planning out her moves. Being able to see that on screen helped us take a peek into the mind of a prodigy.
My favorite part that was added to the series happens in the final episode. After running into Townes in the lobby of her hotel in Moscow, Beth receives a call from her boys in New York. Having seen the paused moves from where she and Borgov have adjourned their game for the day, Benny, Harry, the Twins, and others are on the line to help her through the moves and find a way to win. Beth instantly breaks down (as did I), thinking she had ruined her friendships with all of them when she was on her last binge. All the important people that she has met through this journey come together to be there for her, and with her, as she accomplishes this tremendous feat. I was crushed when it wasn’t a part of the book because it felt like such a wonderful full circle moment that shows Beth that although she has felt alone for most of her life, she’s had such an incredible found family supporting her the whole time.
That ending is one reason why I really hope there isn’t a second season. I LOVE this show, but any more of it would ruin how it’s perfection. Take the show Scrubs—The finale to the eighth season was amazing and perfectly encapsulated the ending to the show. Then they made an unexpected ninth season without the main character and it is basically ignored when remembering the show. We need to realize that there is such thing as too much of a good thing.
If you have a chance over the holidays, I really recommend the show. It is about so much more than chess. And it has Dudley from the Harry Potter movies, all grown up!