As a former chess player, I approached “The Queen’s Gambit” with a mix of curiosity and skepticism. Could a show about chess, a famously slow and cerebral game, truly resonate with a mainstream audience? While the series undeniably boasts a captivating aesthetic and strong performances, I wasn’t entirely convinced it captured the essence of the competitive chess world.

Beyond the Hype: A Fairytale for Chess Newbies?

The show follows Beth Harmon, a fictional prodigy grappling with loss and addiction. Orphaned at a young age, she finds solace and a hidden talent for chess within the orphanage walls. While Beth’s struggles with self-destruction are portrayed, the narrative leans towards a more optimistic tone. Her encounters with supportive mentors felt somewhat formulaic, lacking the grittier realities some chess players face.

This fictionalized approach is a double-edged sword. Unlike documentaries like “Bobby Fischer Against The World,” “The Queen’s Gambit” injects hope into Beth’s journey. However, for viewers familiar with the game’s demanding and often lonely path, the portrayal might feel overly romanticized.

Based on Walter Tevis’ 258-page novel, the series is indeed a work of fiction. While some might yearn for a true story, this fictionalized approach allows the writers to explore themes and create a captivating narrative.

A Glimpse into the Chess World, But Not the Whole Board

The series excels at capturing the atmosphere of chess tournaments – the tension, the quiet intensity, the ticking clock.

However, chess enthusiasts might find themselves wanting more.

According to chess champion Garry Kasparov, the actual gameplay on screen occasionally deviates from strategic logic. The show prioritizes narrative over intricate chess battles, which left me yearning for deeper dives into Beth’s strategic thinking.

Despite this, the show evokes a sense of nostalgia for seasoned players. The meticulous set design, the click of the chess clock, and the emotions etched on players’ faces during a critical match – these elements effectively recreate the competitive spirit of the game.

Beth Harmon preparing for her next chess match | screen grab from Netflix

Every chess player watching Beth’s matches could relive those days when they were actively playing in tournaments. Watching Beth play with men who doubted her skills sends nostalgia down my spine. And hearing Mr. Shaibel talk about chess sportsmanship reminds me of my father, who used to tell me to resign after a blunder (and not drag out the game out of respect for myself and my opponent).

My interest in “The Queen’s Gambit” was piqued not by the chess games themselves but by the glitzy presentation of the game and the era in which they took place. The show painted Beth as a talented but troubled lone wolf who gave up friendships for her chess career. It highlighted the hidden sorrows and costs that come with exceptional talent.

A 7/10: Enjoyable, But Not a Checkmate for Chess Enthusiasts

While “The Queen’s Gambit” garnered widespread acclaim, it didn’t quite capture the full magic of chess for me. The lack of in-depth chess strategy left me wanting more. Newcomers to chess might find it captivating, but for those already familiar with the game, there are more nuanced portrayals available elsewhere. Ultimately, “The Queen’s Gambit” is a visually stunning and well-acted show, but for chess players, it’s a respectable mid-game, not a checkmate.

By Issa

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.