I’ve never played a game of chess in my life. I’ve never even been truly interested in the subject of the game, and it just always seemed incredibly and drastically boring. However, here I was binge watching Netflix’s latest original new limited series, “The Queen’s Gambit,” which revolves around the unique world of chess. It made me think about how gifted you truly have to be to become the best at the mental “sport”.
Beth Harmon, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, is an orphaned chess prodigy that finds success with the game and builds an international career out of it. Her early life is heartbreaking. Viewers learn that she was born a product of an affair, and her mother couldn’t handle the consequences of it. We learn that Beth’s mother tried to kill them both in a car crash, but Beth walked away from the accident unscathed from any injuries. At 9-years-old, she saw her mother die and had to deal with the psychological damage of the aftermath.
Beth was then placed into an orphanage and befriended another older orphan, Jolene, who told her that older kids aren’t wanted and that they’ll be stuck there together forever. Jolene also suggested that Beth only take the green pills that the orphanage gave them at night because that’s when they work the best instead of during the day. Viewers soon realize that the orphanage gave tranquilizers to the kids. The nation shut down any further distribution of the drugs, but it was too late. Beth had already grown an addiction to the pills and couldn’t play chess the way she would have liked without them. Also, the pills helped her focus and figure out her opponent’s next move when she envisioned the chess board on the ceiling at night in bed.
Beth, a master at chess, was taught and practiced with the janitor who introduced her to the game. Beth was caught stealing more pills because of the age requirement restricting her, and she overdosed. Her story is then fast forwarded to a high school Beth about to be adopted by a family.
After years of dominating older opponents with chess and never seeming to lose, she’s countered with difficulties and challenges on her journey to become World Champion of the game. What I loved about watching Beth throughout her high school and collegiate years is that she traveled the world dominating man at their own “sport.” Young women weren’t seen as threats or dominant at a lot of events/activities involving men, but Beth always seemed to rock them, even the very best, to their core.
I actually really enjoyed this Netflix limited series and learning what a “Sicilion,” “Queen’s Gambit,” and more meant when it comes to the strategies of winning chess. This series definitely made me respect chess players and intrigued my thoughts of how they see the game in their minds. I binge watched this series in two days, and would definitely recommend it to anyone wondering what they should watch next.
By Kori Barnes, Junior, UNLV