“The Queen’s Gambit” Ending – Russian Park Chess, Explained
The following contains spoilers for Netflix’s limited series ending, The Queen’s Bet.
That Beth Harmon, the Bobby Fischer chess prodigy The Queen’s Bet— finishes the series in the lead, beating Vasily Borgov in Russia at the Fischer versus Boris Spassky is not so surprising. The story of a homegrown American underdog taking on a Cold War superpower in international sport has only one end in this country, and that end is victory. But there was also a lot of subtlety behind the end of The Queen’s Gambit. Subtlety and also confusion.
Ultimately, it’s unclear what the final match meant for Beth’s place in chess. The Moscow tournament was not to decide the title of world chess champion; it was simply an invitational event. Since we don’t know Beth’s Elo rating (the number used to rank chess players in the world), it’s unclear if beating Borgov (the supposed world number 1) gave Beth the top spot.
Beating Borgov served a different purpose in the series, however. And the victory set up the show’s final move, Beth in the park with the Moscow street players. Here’s what it all means.
How did Beth beat Borgov?
Throughout the series, Beth (played beautifully by Anya Taylor-Joy) repeatedly relies on her intuition while performing, and her most effective moves are noted to be done quickly. In other words, Beth isn’t so much planning her plays piecemeal, but reacting to her opponent. Against Borgov, she is forced to make her moves more deliberately after the match is adjourned, giving her time to prepare. With the help of former rivals-turned-friends Benny Watts and Harry Beltik, she decides to memorize scenarios, playing for the first time in any series. It’s a change that signals both Beth’s evolution as a player and her socialization as a character. she does not play alone, but with the help of close friends. (As Benny has said before, American individualism has always hurt their chances against the Soviets.)
How Beth actually defeats Borgov has to do with a series of surprising moves, following her Queen’s Gambit opener. (The YouTube channel The gadmator chess chain breaks down every move in the game here.)
It’s worth noting that the opening of Queen’s Gambit – where White swaps his pawn to control the center of the board – highlights many of the series’ themes. Ultimately, the gambit is a sacrifice, a hedge. You have to give up something early to win. Characters such as Harry, Jolene, and Mrs. Harmon all sacrifice something for Beth, who, in turn, makes several sacrifices throughout the series. (In the final scene, Beth’s white jacket and hat form the shape of a pawn – the piece that’s sacrificed.) The biggest trade: her drug addiction.
Who was the old chess player in the park at the end?
Instead of ending with victory over Borgov, the series instead ends in a park in Moscow. Several features of this ending are significant, including the cinematography. The use of a portable camera – often used for Beth’s benders – appears in the final scene when Beth leaves the car and walks through a Moscow park, indicating that her love for chess may have supplanted her addiction to chess. pills; she is now getting high in the game, so to speak.
The park game is also the first time we’ve seen Beth play chess outside. His first matches took place in the basement of the orphanage, and many matches since then have taken place in equally drab settings. Beth’s literal rise from the basement to the wild could mean freedom from addiction as well as a healthier relationship with gambling.
Ultimately, the ending is all about the fun; it is about chess as a game played in the world. It’s about curiosity and fun and the relationship between teachers and students, regardless of age and gender.
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