In case you’ve been living under a rock, or too busy simply playing Chess, The Queens Gambit is a series on Netflix about a girl named Beth Harmon. The show has gained a lot of attention and notoriety, and for good reason.
Disclaimer: ChessJournal.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.
This is a guide to the show that will tell you everything you need to know about the show from the story, to the characters, to the actual Chess games throughout the series.
The story is based on the book titled, “The Queen’s Gambit”, written by Walter Tevis. We follow a young girl (Beth Harmon) as she rises as a Chess prodigy in the 1960’s. Beth loses her Mother and as a result, is put in an orphanage home where she meets the man William Shaibel, who is a janitor at the orphanage, who teaches her the game of Chess. Before long, Beth starts beating Mr. Shaibel.
Beth and her adopted mother travel across the country to various United States Chess tournaments with Beth winning them all and Beth eventually travels to Russia for the World Championship.
Beth “Elizabeth” Harmon is the main character in the show. She is a genius. She’s addicted to winning and hates losing. She struggles with her own demons like most geniuses do such as alcoholism and substance abuse.
William Shaibel is the janitor that works at the orphanage who teaches Beth the game of Chess. Beth learns at an astoundingly rapid pace and soon starts beating Mr. Shaibel. Mr. Shaibel then started contacting Chess coaches to introduce to Beth.
Harry Beltic is the first major opponent Beth faces in the show, like the first boss in a video game. The match took place at the Kentucky State Championship, her first notable game of the show. Beth winning this game and the tournament spread her name like wildfire across the nation. Beltic also appears later in the series and gives Beth a few books on Chess attempting to help her prepare for the stronger competitors she’ll be facing. For a complete list, see the article going over all the books mentioned in The Queens Gambit.
Watts is introduced as a Chess prodigy. Benny is the character that Beth connects to with the most because he is the most similar to how Beth’s brain works.
“Attackers may sometimes regret bad moves, but it is much worse to forever regret an opportunity you allowed to pass you by.”
– Vassily Borgov
In the show, Borgov is the reigning world champion in Chess. His name strikes fear in the hearts of players and is described as a machine by other characters in the show.
Beth climbs up the tournament ladder getting closer and closer to facing Borgov, like a final boss in a video games. Beth faced Borgov multiple times in the show, the PGNs of their best games are below in the Notable Games section.
Townes is a character introduced to Beth at the Kentucky State Championship.
One of the reasons the show is so great is not just the story, but the chess as well. This is the result of the show bringing on Chess masters Bruce Pandolfini as well as the GOAT of chess himself, Garry Kasparov were on set as consultants. This is why the Chess throughout the show is so good. Every game is based on a famous game from history.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will there be a second season of The Queens Gambit?
There will not be another season of The Queens Gambit because the series is a mini-series and was based on a book written by Walter Tevis. The story is complete. The ending of the last episode is in alignment with the last page of the book. So as much as we all want a second season, the story is done and was ended with perfection.
What made the Queen’s Gambit so good?
The show did everything right. The cinematography, the acting, the Chess, the storyline, as well as adding small details to make the scenes more dramatic even though some things wouldn’t happen in real life. For example, talking during a tournament match. There is zero verbal communication throughout the duration of any game in a tournament.
Why did Beth see chess pieces on the ceiling in Russia?
This is part of the “film business” aspect for the audience to make it more entertaining. Visualizing the board, whether it’s on the ceiling or with your eyes closed like you would with playing blindfold chess, is as common as opening with e4 is.
Is The Queens Gambit based on a true story?
The Queens Gambit is not based on a true story, however certain elements of the show are based on real events. The Chess games throughout the show are all based on real games that were played in the past. character of Beth Harmon is considered to be based on Bobby Fischer.