Filled with glamour and intense staring. Queen’s gambit makes a game of chess dramatic and suspenseful.

A couple of months ago chess’s very own grandmaster, Hikaru Nakamura, started streaming online chess matches against strangers. He is widely known for the ways in which he makes the game fun to watch and would often play against other online celebrities just getting into the game. However, this sparked controversy as a part of the chess community wanted to gatekeep these new players out of the chess scene. 

This is one of the main themes from Netflix’s “Queen’s Gambit,” a seven-episode show adapted from the novel of the same name written by Walter Tevis. The story sends viewers on a globe trotting chess adventure. It tells us that someone’s race, sex, or otherwise should not stop them from achieving what they want to do in life. After watching the entire show in two days, I think I’m finally beginning to understand why it received a surge in popularity in recent months. 

Starring Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon, the show is a coming of age story that starts with Beth losing her mom and promptly being transferred to an orphanage where she becomes addicted to the administered tranquilizers. As the show progresses Harmon becomes interested in chess and soon becomes a young prodigy, allowing her to compete all across the globe in high stakes chess tournaments against grandmasters. 

This show succeeds in making chess fun to watch. As a person who doesn’t understand the game, I was still able to comprehend what was happening through the characters’ body language. With its grand crescendos and dramatic swoons during important chess matches along with sequences spaced out well and steady, the soundtrack also helps to clue in the audience regarding what was happening.

With this being said, I hoped that the show would give viewers more of a sense of what was happening. Some shots of the characters moving around pieces were good to look at but lacked substance to a person like me, one who doesn’t fully understand the game itself. The show expects you to trust what it’s doing or hope that you already know what’s going on. 

The side characters in the show are all very interesting. Most of them are players who start off doubting Harmon and end up losing to her at some point in the narrative. You’ll most likely find yourself becoming invested in these characters considering they do a lot to impact Beth’s success in her chess career. The scenes are filled with mixed emotions as these characters continuously reappear on screen at very unpredictable moments. 

However, the story itself is rather predictable. The story’s format has been played out dozens of times already with different sports. And while the show attempts to mix it up and keep its audience guessing by having her slip up a couple of times, it’s obvious what the ultimate outcome is going to amount to. 

The show’s cinematography is of high quality, which renders it to possess movie-like qualities. Chess sequences are intimate and sometimes feel appropriately claustrophobic while other shots of the world are grand. Not only this, but the show is also well edited and the color grading is a sight to behold with noticeable and glamourous contrast. 

With its short seven episode format, “Queen’s Gambit” is a show that’s very easy to binge watch that is worth your time. If you’re looking for an emotionally uplifting show that makes chess interesting to watch, then I’d urge you to put “Queen’s Gambit” on your list. 

Availability: “Queen’s Gambit” is now available to stream on Netflix. 

Title: “Queen’s Gambit” 

Star Rating: Four Stars out of Five

Good:

  • Beautifully shot and edited
  • Interesting Characters 
  • Makes chess fun to watch 

Bad:

  • Story itself is predictable 
  • Could do a better job of explaining the game
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