The Queen’s Gambit: Netflix’s most elegant and satisfying limited series

The Queen’s Gambit
Netflix original miniseries

Creators:  Scott Frank and Allan Scott
Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Bill Camp, Moses Ingram, Marielle Heller, Harry Melling, Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Marcin Dorociński

There are all kinds of good web series to indulge in these days. Thanks to streaming services and the internet, we have access to numerous brilliant works of art. Launched in October (I know my review comes in quite late), The Queen’s Gambit is one such well-made miniseries that’ll be a rare treat for your brain.

The story takes us through the life of Elizabeth Harmon, a chess prodigy, and her becoming the best chess player in the world. Orphaned at nine after an accident, she finds home at a Christian girls’ orphanage where she happens to discover chess watching the janitor play. While she starts to learn chess she also uses her creativity, her innate ability of quick learning to study and practice the moves every night.

The girls were given tranquillizers daily at the orphanage, and this use of the drug resulted in an addiction for Beth who comes to realize it once she ceases to visualise when they stop giving them the pills abiding by new government laws. After a few years, now a teenager, Beth gets adopted by a seemingly dysfunctional couple. While trying to adjust to her new life, she enters into chess competitions and starts winning endlessly. But with unstoppable success comes greed, alcoholism, and drug abuse. Will young Beth overcome this shroud of negativity, or will she perish into the maze-like world in her head?

Intelligent, quintessentially charming, and oozing of an uncanny sharpness of the mind, Anya Taylor Joy is destined to make it big in the world cinema. Not only has she done justice to her onscreen character but has reintroduced a new genre of actors to admire. Blessed with talent and beauty, Taylor Joy has accumulated a lot of attention from across the globe with her hard work. Marielle Heller as Alma Wheatley, who adopts Beth and later acts as her manager has very accurately portrayed the character of depressed alcoholic fighting hard to get over a sad phase in life. The relationship between Beth and her adopted mother is portrayed in a very subtle, grey, and yet meaningful way. While she gets reminded of her biological mother from time to time with bits of leftover memories, she never tends to compare the two.

Some noteworthy actors who play very important supporting roles to enhance Beth’s persona are Jacob Fortune-Lloyd as Townes, a fellow chess player and Beth’s first love; Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Benny Watts, another young prodigy and the reigning US chess champion; Moses Ingram as Jolene, who becomes Beth’s closest friend at the Methuen Home; Marcin Dorociński as Vasily Borgov, the current Soviet-Russian world champion chess player and Beth’s ultimate competitor. Also, it was quite lovely to have seen Harry Potter’s Dudley again onscreen! Harry Beltik, portrayed by Harry Melling, is a significant character in series acting as one of the many catalysts in Beth Harmon’s life.

Award-winning creators Scott Frank and Allan Scott are marvellous. Frank’s previous directorial project Godless was another detailed story set in the wild west dealing with the complexities of human characters and psyche. Needless to say, how classy the cinematography and acting were, the series shot to the top charts in a matter of weeks. The chess community applauded the show for accurate study and research of the game which gave it a more realistic feel. Chess being one of the most famous board games has bounced back up in the list of people’s gift to children and those practising mind meditation, thanks to The Queen’s Gambit, which is also one of the most popular openings in chess and is used by many of the top chess players.

This period-drama miniseries is yet another step forward in all the right directions in the entertainment world. They address the male dominance in the game, questioning Beth’s success over and over again for being a woman, for her fashion choices etc. The story once again brings to fore the crucial nature of friends and mentors. It reminds us how success or failure isn’t the fruit of just one person’s hard work but also a collective effort of a band of supporters and influencers.

The creators have very meticulously given people a new way to admire the beautiful game, highlighting chess on a pedestal open to all. With the near-perfect portrayal of complex human emotions, desires, wrong choices, and healthy competitions, — this novel-inspired series is bound to make one think, and rethink before taking decisions in life, and of course, make you want to pick an interest in learning the game.


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