*Warning, spoilers ahead!*
If you ever wanted to learn the magic behind how chess is played, or watch a story about an orphan’s journey into becoming a woman prodigy at chess while becoming a drug addict and alcoholic, Queens Gambit is the show for you!
The Queens Gambit, oddly enough, isn’t about a queen. It tells the true story of a girl orphan, lonely and misunderstood in the 1950’s. Beth Harmon, the main character, has grown up in the sort of grotesque orphanage that is painted in bland colors with girls in uniforms abusing anti-depressants they were given in order to ‘keep them in line.’ Beth, lost among the other girls, discovers a passion when she finds the orphanages’ janitor in the basement playing chess and decides to try for herself. She quickly becomes a natural and dives deep into the obsession, but has to rely on her pills to keep her alert while she plays. She becomes dependent on the drug. She is eventually adopted by a family that seems very nice but we quickly find out is not.
Beth’s new family has an alcoholic and drug dependent mother and a father who doesn’t love Beth and is always away (and perhaps cheating on the wife). The father abandons the family leaving the family poor and Beth without an outlet for her passion.
Later, Beth finds out that she can compete in chess tournaments for money. She enters into tournaments and quickly realizes that the chess community is dominated by men. She suffers her opponents sexist comments and assumptions, just to defeat them all.
The episodes continue with Beth winning more competitions and traveling across the country.
Along the way, she encounters losses and ties, but in the end prevails. Her mother overdoses on alcohol and pills and dies suddenly, but Beth ends up winning the world championship.
This show deals a lot with drugs, alcohol overdose, depression and loneliness. It tackles the male dominated time period, sexism many women in sports faced and even cultural issues between countries. Overall, it’s a great show to watch and even teaches the audience a bit about how to play chess.
After this show aired, not surprisingly, chess set sales skyrocketed. According to the New York Times, sales grew by 125% and people who once thought they couldn’t play the game were encouraged by the new Netflix series. The Queen’s Gambit not only gave those who felt like they couldn’t play the confidence, it also taught us that anyone can play chess and be good at it if they practice enough.
But if you don’t believe you can, go watch the show and buy a chess set to give it a try!