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‘The Queen’s Gambit:’ a story of friendship, loss and chess

The Queen’s Gambit

“The Queen’s Gambit” is a Netflix limited series that follows the story of Beth Harmon, a young chess prodigy portrayed by Anya Taylor-Joy, who struggles with her traumatic past and her growing dependency on drugs and alcohol. This story takes place throughout the 1950-60s and is based on Walter Tevis’s novel which was published in 1983.

“The Queen’s Gambit” was an inspirational story revolving around the competitiveness in the world of chess, which I know next to nothing about. Luckily, my lack of chess knowledge did not affect my understanding of the story being told. 

A queen’s gambit is a chess opening, popular for its power in attacking an opponent. The title became relevant as I learned more about Beth and her desire to learn everything there is about the board game. She would constantly read books and befriend opponents just so she could get even a fraction closer to becoming the world’s best chess player. 

The first episode titled “Openings” starts with a scene of Beth in her 20s, being woken up with a knock on her door at a hotel in Paris in 1967. She is late for a tournament with the Russian world champion, Vasily Borgo. We are then taken back in time to when Beth was just a young girl, after a gruesome car accident that took her mother’s life. This was a great way to capture my attention as it gives credibility to Beth’s abilities, yet doesn’t quite give her knowledge of chess away.

The rest of the story follows Beth’s journey in an all-girls orphanage, where she finds herself meeting the custodian in the basement, Mr. Shaibel, played by Bill Camp. She’d watch Mr. Shaibel play chess by himself with curiosity, wondering whether or not she should approach the grumpy old man. Mr. Shiabel teaches Beth how to play and is mesmerized by Beth’s natural talent with the game she falls in love with. 

Beth is eventually adopted and is on the path to live a normal life, or as normal a life as one can have while living with addiction. She spends the rest of the show finding her place in the male-dominated world of chess.

Beth’s story is very compelling. I was very intrigued with how the director, Scott Frank, focused on Beth’s character development early and completely, as she is just a young girl trying to find her place in the world. This is something most young people can relate to. The director addressed many life events any other teenager in the United States would go through. I truly enjoyed watching Beth grow up into a remarkable young woman.

Frank was nominated for an Academy Award for best-adapted screenplay, and he was also nominated for a Golden Globe for best screenplay. Other awards he received include the Writers Guild of America Award for best-adapted screenplay and the Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America.

Costumes, hair, makeup, lighting and visual effects were a very effective aid in telling Beth’s story. They made the entirety of the show quite moody, yet very believable to fit the timeline.

Overall, this show was very intriguing. The director and all of the supporting actors did a fantastic job contributing to the story of Beth’s journey with chess. 

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