Professional Chess Players Examine the Accuracy of Netflix’s ‘The Queen’s Gambit’
By now you’ve heard all about The Queen’s Bet, a recently released Netflix series that follows the fictional life of an orphaned chess prodigy named Beth Harmon. While critics call the series “irresistible” and “thrilling,“Is that really correct? To answer this question, chess pros and sisters Alexandra and Andrea Botez recently reviewed the show on Twitch (while playing chess, of course), giving their expert take on the series.
The Botez sisters say the series surprisingly portrays much of chess tournaments and the culture of the sport with precision, including nerves, study and intense focus. Sure, sometimes there’s a wonky setup or an unlikely scenario, but not enough to make even a professional chess player lose sleep.
“I will say that at some point she will go to the US Open and she has 1800 and then they say it’s a prodigy, so there are very small details that don’t add up,” says Alexandra, who is a chess master. “But that’s only if you’re a chess player. Don’t be a chess player about it.
The chess pro adds that the series is the most accurate depiction of chess she’s seen in entertainment, sharing that those she’s spoken to in the chess community feel the same way.
“It’s the closest we’ve gotten in film so far – and I don’t think they need to be absolutely perfect all the time,” says Alexandra, adding, “They actually make the sexy chess in film – competitive chess.”
Not only that, but the performance was even enough for the sisters to miss the competition, with competitive scenes at times reminiscent of the high-stress buzz of tournaments.
“There’s not a single chess movie or show that made me say, ‘Wow, I want to get back into competition,'” Andrea says. “It made me miss studying for a tournament and having a really intense game match and all the pressure and everything.
When it comes to depicting what it’s like to be a woman in chess, the Botez sisters say the series downplays the sexism that is still widespread in chess. According to the couple, the fact that sexism is not the focus of the series could be seen as both a positive and a negative.
Alexandra says the creators managed to make a “show about a female chess player that isn’t about being a woman in chess.” She explained that the character was treated more like a man, “almost showing what it would be like if chess were less gendered” and giving viewers the opportunity to admire a chess heroine who is “still respected for her abilities”. .
“At the same time, it could be bad that they minimize [the sexism] because it’s not really true to the way she plays as a girl,” Andrea says. She adds that the scenes which does not have minimizing sexism in sport were the most specific and relevant, in his view.
As chess players who began studying at the age of six, the sisters thought the series portrayed young chess talent with authenticity. The women also said the sports obsession theme was perfect. According to the duo, obsession is a quality seen in top chess players around the world, with many prodigies and elite players sacrificing everything for chess.
Alexandra says, “Obsession is a double-edged sword because it helps you become the best, but…
“…tunnel vision distracts from other priorities you should have in life and other pleasures,” her sister Andrea continues.
The Botez sister also enjoyed the period of the series, which is set in the 50s and 60s. This period obviously predates the advent of computers, giving a vision of the study of chess and the analysis of games before technology.
And with the period comes the overall aesthetic and fashion, which is pretty glamorous on the show. The sisters say it’s a refreshing departure from the “chess bum” trope that often dominates the media.
“I kinda like the fact that it doesn’t just represent the bad artistic version of chess,” Alexandra says, with both women saying the series shows the opportunities that chess provides.
So in case peer pressure isn’t enough to make you watch The Queen’s Beteven chess pros give it a big thumbs up and relate to the series in a meaningful way.
As Alexandra said, “I really felt like I was reliving a lot of unique and exciting things that are really hard for me to explain to anyone else.”
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