By Gayathri Suresh
On October 23, 2020, Netflix released a miniseries named “Queen's Gambit,” based on the novel by Walter Tevis. Although many critics called it an “unlikely success,” the show became one of Netflix’s most popular features. By November 23, 2020, the seven episode mini-series had amassed over 62 million views from households all over the world. It soon became the first series to top the Neilsen’s US streaming rankings for three weeks straight.
“'Queen’s Gambit'” is a coming-of-age drama based in the 1950s and 1960s, where a child chess prodigy rises through the ranks after becoming an orphan while dealing with severe drug and alcohol dependency. The lead role, Beth Harmon, was played by Anya Taylor-Joy, and the series featured special appearances from notable European actors including Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Bill Camp, and Christine Seidel.
Source by Jada Seto
Although the knight may have been knocked down, "Queen's Gambit" has risen above, bringing a record number of viewers to the chessboard.
The show begins when nine year-old Beth gets involved in a car accident, resulting in the loss of her mother. Beth is soon brought to an orphanage where she is given tranquilizers to make her more obedient and compliant, which marks the beginning of her addiction. She soon finds a home at the orphanage where Mr. Shailob, the school janitor, introduces her to chess and different high school competitions in the country. From there, she becomes obsessed with chess and becomes dependent on the tranquilizers in order to visualize her moves and concentrate.
As she grows older, Beth participates in highly competitive chess tournaments all over the country, earning cash prizes to support her recently divorced adoptive mother. Beth dominates every tournament and stumps all of her opponents, both with her skills as a chess master and her appearance as a woman. Making her way to international chess championships from Mexico City to Las Vegas and Paris, Beth begins to make headlines in the papers and makes new friends along the way such as the talented Harry Beltik and Benny Watts. Her experiences in competitions lead to the main plot of the series, beating Russian prodigy Borgov to become the world’s new chess grandmaster as a 17-year-old girl.
The expert combination between the coming of age and documentary genres makes "Queen’s Gambit" a perfect historical drama to watch with friends and family. The show not only depicts an enticing story, but it also debunks many stereotypes about women.
“They are experts at a complex game of moves and counteractions, and Queen’s Gambit accurately portrays the real sensation of chess...”
“I liked how 'Queen's Gambit' showed how no matter what your environment or situation is, you should find a way to grow and flourish. In the beginning, I was disappointed that people had such a hard time viewing a woman as an intellectual. As the show went on, I felt empowered because she was achieving many goals while being a normal teenage girl, which made me relate to her. The show helped me remain confident that I can do the impossible as a woman, contrary to common belief,” said junior Mariya Kooran.
The show helped people better understand the world of chess as well. From amateurs who play at the local park to renowned international competitors like Beth Harmon, chess players are not "nerds." They are experts at a complex game of moves and counteractions, and "Queen’s Gambit" accurately portrays the real sensation of chess.
“'Queen’s Gambit' showed me the different aspects and endless possibilities of each and every chess game. I was amazed by the unique moves one could make to turn the game around for their favor,” said senior Alyssa Kim.
The website chess.com reports several million new users since the release of the series and even more women getting involved in the previously male dominated realm of chess.