Netflix original series have almost a cult-like following, so it is no surprise that The Queen’s Gambit rose to extreme popularity in such a short time. According to Netflix, “62 million households chose to watch The Queen’s Gambit in its first 28 days. Its global reach has been extraordinary – from Russia and Hong Kong, to France, Taiwan and Australia.”
With that being said, it is a really great show. It follows the life of prodigy Beth Harmon, her rise to Chess fame, and her struggles with addiction and relationships. Even if you have never played chess, the drama of Beth’s life will surely captivate your attention and leave you craving more. Good news for you, EVPL carries the Walter Tevis book by the same name, The Queen’s Gambit.
Shows, like this one, can be great motivators to try new hobbies. If you are interested in learning more about chess, below are some great selections offered by EVPL.
Beginners, try Knack Chess for Everyone by Al Lawrence. With color photographs on each page, and simple explanations of pieces, rules, and moves, you’ll be ready to dominate the board in no time.
Perhaps you want to raise your own little Beth Harmon. Chess is Child’s Play by Laura Sherman and Bill Kilpatrick will be your best friend.
Chess openings are constantly mentioned throughout the show. Even the title is named after a chess opening. So, if you’re interested in improving your skill, check out Winning Chess Openings by Bill Robertie, which includes both The Queen’s Gambit and the Scillian Defense.
Want to know more about Beth Harmon? Unfortunately, she’s not a real person, but the character is thought to be loosely based on the author’s life. Here is a look into the similarities between Beth and Walter Tevis. However, some people compare Beth to chess champions Vera Menchik and Bobby Fischer. Fischer’s life story does have some strong similarities to Beth’s, and they both can be recognized as rockstar chess champions. Read more about Fischer in his biography, Endgame by Frank Brady.
Like Beth, Bobby Fischer brought a new popularity to chess. In fact, he is so well-known in the Chess world that several films have been inspired or made about Fischer. Check out the biopic, Pawn Sacrifice, and the HBO documentary, Bobby Fischer Against the World.
If the female versus male roles intrigue you, perhaps you want to learn about Phiona Mutesi, the first woman in Uganda to become a title chess player. You can read about her in The Queen of Katwe by Tim Crothers or watch the Disney film version by the same name.
The Queen’s Gambit series also gave viewers a peek into the tension between the Soviet Union and the United States. Beth’s intimidation of Vasily Borgov, or “The Russian,” mirrors the dynamic between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky. To read more about Chess and the Cold War, check out Daniel Johnson’s White King and Red Queen.
Finally, if you want to know what the experts have to say about the show, Chess.com published an article that includes definitions of the terms used in the series (for those of us who aren’t sure about the game’s lingo.) Aside from technicalities, the article touches on what the show got right and wrong. It is an engaging read for once you finish the seven-part series.
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