‘The Queen’s Gambit’: Two chess players break down the Netflix series – YP
As competitive chess players playing for Hong Kong, we have seen many different games and many different opponents. But rarely have we seen such an exciting portrayal of the game as in The Queen’s Bet, the new mini-series from Netflix. Much of it truly reflects the “real” chess environment – although there are, of course, some artistic “upgrades”.
But after all, as protagonist Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) puts it, “Chess isn’t always competitive. It’s beautiful too. »
The framework of the tournament
The series gets the tournament setting pretty on point. For the most part, the depiction is as it is in real life, with panels arranged row by row in a competition hall.
It is also true that when it comes to the last board played (especially when it comes to the first board), players crowd to watch. Beth gets scolded for interrupting players, and that’s also true – you’re not supposed to talk!
Opponents rarely talk to each other during play unless absolutely necessary. Everything is expressed through facial expressions and body language.
So sometimes we watch intensely to study the psychological state of the opponent – whether they are confident, worried, or planning the next big move.
On the board
As chess players, we found ourselves carefully following the games on screen as they played out. To our surprise, the creators actually recreated historical games for the matches in the series. For example, the final round of Beth’s first tournament against Harry Beltik was based on a real match between Rashid Gibiatovich Nezhmetdinov and Genrikh Kasparian in 1995.
In this game, Beth even plays the famous Queen’s Sacrifice in her attack to win a checkmate in seven moves. This aptly paints Beth as the bold, daring orphan prodigy she is meant to be.
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Even outside the room, chess players are still expressing their ideas about how the games should have been played. There are always loud crowds outside the halls, where new friendships are formed. The series represents it beautifully.
In one of the episodes, Beth meets another player, Benny Watts, who informs her that “the C4 pawn” was a better move in Beth’s match against Beltik.
In disbelief, Beth continues to play the move on the board, then looks at it in awe – it was indeed the best move she could have made in that position. These moments are ubiquitous.
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As a player
Katherine: The depiction of the status of women in the chess scene is very realistic. Chess has always been a male dominated game. When I started playing tournaments in Hong Kong at the age of 12, I was often the only girl in the chess room. It was considered “shameful” for a boy if he lost to me.
It was just as difficult for Beth when she started competing. Organizers pair Beth with the only other girl in the “lowest” bracket and force her to play in the “beginners” open, despite being much more advanced.
On the bright side, once you place in a few tournaments, you become highly respected and quite “well-known” – as is the case with Beth.
What is missing
What isn’t really shown is that chess isn’t always so perfect or fun. Sometimes you just miss a simple calculation and end up losing the game. The series does its best to show the emotional toll of chess, through Beth’s addiction to her “vitamins” and depictions of her frustration after losing games.
However, Beth’s flair sometimes oversimplifies the game – it misses the extremely stressful and nervous aspects of competitive chess, such as preparing for each game as a test, and repeatedly checking your calculations on the board to make sure you have not missed a possible winning move by your opponent.
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The series shows the joys that chess evokes – the beauty, creativity and brilliance of the game. It manages to convey that the game is as alive as the characters in this fictional tale. The series also delicately balances the pursuit of chess with life beyond the board.
What’s exciting about the show is that in addition to focusing on Beth’s prodigious development in chess, it shares the relationships, struggles and complexities of a chess player’s life around and outside the game.