Netflix’s mini-series The Queen’s Gambit based on the acclaimed novel by Walter Tevis, of the same name stars Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon helmed by Scott Frank.
The seven episodes follow the story of an orphan girl who aspires to become the grandmaster of the chess game. And the turn of events makes you believe that it is based upon a true story however that’s not the case.
The slow burn, feel-good series is particularly an excellent watch for those who adore playing chess but also for those who fancy to binge-watch something interesting.
The series kicks off, set in Paris during 1967, showing a young woman (Taylor-Joy) who wakes up startled and drags herself out of the bathtub, struggling to put herself together in her messy hotel suite, and gulps a few pills with an airplane bottle of vodka and races her self out for her chess match.
As she sits down across from her opponent, old memories start to run in her mind, and the story starts over 10 years earlier, and the story continues in flashback till the middle of Episode 6, which later catches up with the bit being told in Episode 1.
The nine-year-old Beth Harmon is brought to a Christian Orphanage after the death of her mother, who tries hard to settle in the new environment. The girl has no intention of learning all the girly stuff being taught at the orphanage to become a decent lady.
The girl however finds it interesting when she sees janitor Mr. Shaibel (Bill Camp), of the facility playing chess in the basement. From time to time she starts going to him to learn playing chess, which in those times thought something not suitable for girls to play.
The girl finds chess a fascinating world where she can control everything and plays imaginary chess by looking at the ceiling and in her head.
However, she becomes a little genesis under Mr. Shaibel’s guidance who at first was reluctant to teach her and didn’t share the trade’s secrets first. Beth is taken away by her adopted family, and Marielle Heller, as Beth’s new mom, who is going through a bad patch of her married life.
At first Beth’s new mom is not so keen about her chess-playing abilities but soon gives her acceptance for playing chess. Her new Mom finds out that playing chess would bring them money and traveling opportunities.
By the passage of time Beth, the shy school girl grows into an older, wiser, and more confidant young woman. Who however finds it hard to wrestle with a serious set of her inner demons, including drug addiction and alcoholism.
Beth’s story paints a subtle but effective picture of what growing up through the turbulent, ever-changing era of the 1960s must have felt like, especially for women who were not allowed to have too much on their plates.
The interactions with male masters of chess let her develop her own kind of personality who is annoyed at the losses and does not want to lose.
But in the end, she learns to overcome her demons and proves she deserves to be a woman champ of the game that too by defeating the grandmaster at his own home country, Russia albeit that it is the cold war period and Beth is an American.
The series might not set the world on fire as for many it won’t be that appealing to watch small wooden pieces being slid on the tables. The Queen’s Gambit is not a mystery, nor is it treated as a traditional sports story, but there are a few worthy life lessons being told with lush production, smart costumes, and unique editing techniques.
The limited series comes with 18+ watch guidelines.
P.S. Tried to avoid include spoilers in the review as much as possible.