The Queen’s Gambit–A Passion for Winning

Queen's Gambit Netflix original

The Queen’s Gambit is a fictional story based upon the 1983 Walter Tevis novel by the same name.  A Netflix original series released October 30 of this year, the drama opens with a scene of an eight-year old girl, Beth Harmon (newcomer Anya Taylor-Joy), soon to become an orphan  residing at a bleak orphanage, Methuen, under a severe headmistress.  It is the mid-1950s and there are few options for an orphan, especially a little girl.

Struggling with loneliness, adoption and being a social misfit, Beth finds solace through learning chess from the janitor (Bill Camp) in the Methuen School’s basement. As she begins to earn begrudging recognition as a chess prodigy, emotional issues  with drug and alcohol dependency compete with her drive to win at all costs.   She is adopted as a teenager into a dysfunctional family. Her adoptive mother is both a support and an enabler in her addictions. If Beth Harmon doesn’t keep on winning, she will lose her soul in her aggressive fight for deliverance from her past.  

Watching The Queen’s Gambit the viewer may feel as if chess  is an endgame for survival. Other chess movies have also made the game a metaphor for redemption and transformation.  (Think In Search of Bobby Fischer and Queen of Katwe reviewed here on November 13, 2018). 

 Although the authenticity of the chess tournaments may be surprisingly riveting to some, for others they may slow down the pacing.  Nevertheless, Beth’s inner life and that of her friends and opponents still create a compelling story.  Watching Beth struggle on her journey to becoming independent and proud, –breaking  barriers to being the first female international chess grandmaster– is mirrored in each chess move.  You have to cheer for this underdog.  And some of the creativity in photographing the chess pieces truly is brilliant (including imagining a strategic slide of the queen’s pawn on the room’s ceiling).

Highly original and  surprisingly entertaining, this  mini-series is  a daring move indeed!

Availability:  Netflix streaming.

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7 Replies to “The Queen’s Gambit–A Passion for Winning”

  1. Diana:
    I am delighted to find your excellent review of The Queen’s Gambit. We finished the series about a week ago and found it engaging and fascinating. We don’t let ourselves binge watch (too much else to do), but this one almost got us.
    Thanks for a great review. We have already recommended the series to several friends–something we rarely do.

  2. Queen’s Gambit is one of the best drama mini-series I’ve seen in years. Absolutely adored it and savored each episode until the end! I was hoping it was a true story. Thanks, Diana for reviewing it!

  3. I loved this series! At first we thought it might be too formulaic, but it became a little more complex, interesting and engaging. For my Chess playing husband, he did find the chess competitions, etc. interesting, too, once we got “into” the story. When we finished the series (the last 3 episodes in one evening,) a review in the NYT showed up that has renewed my interest into watching the series again to relax and look for subtleties that I now want to look for after reading the NYT review.