The Queen’s Gambit is a 2020 American coming-of-age period drama miniseries based on Walter Tevis’s 1983 novel of the same name. The title refers to the “Queen’s Gambit”, a chess opening. It was written and directed by Scott Frank, who created it with Allan Scott. Beginning in the mid-1950s and proceeding into the 1960s, the story follows the life of Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), an orphaned chess prodigy on her rise to the top of the chess world while struggling with drug and alcohol dependency.
Netflix released The Queen’s Gambit on October 23, 2020. After four weeks it had become Netflix’s most-watched scripted miniseries, making it Netflix’s top show in 63 countries. The series received critical acclaim, with particular praise going to Taylor-Joy’s performance as well as the cinematography and production values. It also received a positive response from the chess community, and data suggests that it has increased public interest in the game.
The Queen’s Gambit follows the life of an orphan chess prodigy, Elizabeth Harmon, during her quest to become an elite chess player while struggling with emotional problems, drugs and alcohol dependency. The title of the series refers to a chess opening of the same name. The story begins in the mid-1950s and proceeds into the 1960s.
The story begins in Lexington, Kentucky, where an eight-year-old Beth, having lost her mother in a car crash, is taken to an orphanage where she is taught chess by the building’s custodian, Mr. Shaibel. As was common during the 1950s, the orphanage dispenses daily tranquilizer pills to the girls to “balance their disposition”, which turns into an addiction for Beth. She quickly becomes a strong chess player due to her visualization skills.
A few years later, Beth is adopted by Alma Wheatley and her husband from Lexington. As she adjusts to her new home, Beth enters a chess tournament and wins despite having no prior experience in competitive chess. Alma is initially resistant to Beth’s interest in chess, but after Beth wins her first tournament, Alma is fully supportive of her adoptive daughter’s sojourns to enter various chess competitions.
She develops friendships with several people, including former Kentucky State Champion Harry Beltik, United States National Champion Benny Watts, and journalist and fellow player D.L. Townes. As Beth rises to the top of the chess world and reaps the financial benefits of her success, her drug and alcohol dependency becomes worse.
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