“The Queen’s Gambit” is a Exhilarating Story About Chess


Gisell Ponce


Netflix’s “The Queen’s Gambit,” is record-breaking. Since its release, the series has stayed at number one on the trending list for nearly a month and has become Netflix’s most popular limited series.

Set in the 50s and late 60s, the series follows Elizabeth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), who is left an orphan at eight years old. At her orphanage, Beth is introduced to chess by the orphanage’s custodian, Mr. Shaibel. Beth advances as a chess genius and travels through the prestigious ranks of the male-dominated sport.    

The series could be perceived as slow at first but this pace is necessary, as the audience can gather details and piece them together. The journey that the audience takes in seeing the story progress is far from uninteresting.

The series does an exceptional job of capturing chess in a way that is engaging for the audience. In each chess match, an exhilarating atmosphere is created through cinematography, screenwriting, and editing. There’s a distinct feeling created for each match. Fast cuts and lively 60s pop music accompany scenes where Beth delivers swift moves that astonish her opponent. As Beth focuses on a match, new edits are made to move closer to the intensity of the game. Orchestral music compliments the moves and mannerisms of each player. A combination of these techniques captures the drama and conflict of each match effortlessly. 

Taylor-Joy has received critical acclaim for her previous works in films such as “The Witch” and “Split,” and has demonstrated a powerful performance once again. The role of Beth Harmon belonged to Taylor-Joy, as she delivered an admirable job of Beth’s devotion to chess. Taylor-Joy’s depiction of Beth through the years is natural and doesn’t make Beth feel like a completely different character. 

Taylor-Joy’s body language reveals the state of each match. Emotions are captured through Beth’s look of frustration and attentiveness.  The audience does not need to know much about the chessboard to catch a thrill.

Quality wardrobe follows Beth’s character development. Different color palettes are given to Beth’s wardrobe at her lowest and highest. A part of Beth’s unique power is her fashion and femininity. The series tackles the relevant issue of today, being that people who are in touch with their femininity are to be taken less seriously.

 Beth’s story progresses with the help of dimensional characters that are effectively written for the screen. Through her chess journey, Beth is influenced by Mr. Shaibel (Bill Camp) and other skilled chess players such as Harry Beltik (Harry Melling), Benny Watts (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), and  Townes (Jacob Fortune-Lloyd). Beth’s most notable relationship is with her uplifting friend Jolene (Moses Ingram). 

The series is based on the Walter Tevis novel by the same name, published in 1983. Tevis wrote Beth based on his own experiences with chess and drug addiction, and chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer. Creator and directors Scott Frank and Allan Scott’s depiction of the book is effectively portrayed in the series’ seven episodes, through the use of noteworthy details. 

Chessboard authenticity is captured by real-life chess masters serving as technical consultants. Real chess books and monthly copies of the “Chess Review” adorn Beth’s room. Historical accuracy is also seen in each city portrayed in the series. 

An intimate depiction of themes of alcoholism, drug addiction, friendship, and motherhood is portrayed in the series, with each character playing a key role in adapting these themes.

 The series tackles common fundamentals of sports such as teamwork and personal growth, while also capturing much more. A feeling of contentment can be found within the adversity that Beth faces. It reassures that life’s worst moments can change one’s life for the better, and even be a nudge to become a beast at chess. 

 Viewers were evidently moved by the series, as online chess classes saw a record amount of interest. “The Queen’s Gambit,” is a unique story about chess, and it’s interesting qualities make it worth watching.