The Queen’s Gambit: a silent game of Passion, Progress and Revolution

The Queen's Gambit cover

Based on Walter Tevis’s 1983 novel of the same name, The Queen’s Gambit, is an American television drama (miniseries), directed by Academy Award winning director, Scott Frank, who manages to show us how passion and determination can open doors that have been bolted with the lack of opportunity.

Around 1960s, although the women class had the right to vote in the US, they were still subject to humiliation and were not considered equal to men. Meanwhile men in their pomp and glory were in the illusion that they ruled the world at their will. Identity crisis among women was a real problem; Even the best talents were not recognised or suppressed at the bud, by the male dominated society which is evident when Beth Harmon (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) asked Mr. Shaibel to teach her the game of Chess, he denied saying “women don’t play chess.”

Beth playing chess with Mr Shaibel

But the world was changing. Women were constantly striving to make their impact. Nine year old Beth Harmon learned the movement of each piece just by watching Mr. Shaibel play in the basement. Her request to learn the game was initially declined but when she told how the pieces moved, he was intrigued and took personal interest in teaching the game to her. Since then, Beth never stopped to learn. She proved her mastery at the Chess society where she won over all the players. That incident made her even more obsessed with chess like she was obsessed with tranquilisers.

Right after, Beth was adopted by a rich couple, Mr & Mrs Wheatly, which was indeed good for her but she found herself in a place where she was given clothes to make her look ‘lady-like’ but her request to buy a chess set was turned down. While buying her mom’s medicine, she came across a chess magazine where she learned about the Kentucky Chess League. Though her mother thought it to be an awful idea, Mr. Shaibel believed in her. He posted her a five dollars entry fee for the Kentucky Chess League which was the biggest win for the Beth Harmon and resulted in breaking the first taboo that said women cannot beat men in intelligence. Winning on her first official game opened unlimited doors and Beth had to take her adopted mother as her assistant to handle calls and other clerical work. Beth had not seen the world outside of the orphanage and everything was new to her but she was a quick learner.

After winning a series of tournaments, Elizabeth Harmon was among the top chess players across the globe but she lost against Benny (played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster.) Losing against Benny, she learnt the reason of her failure, which she used to win against him in another game.

A female winning at chess was not well perceived by men but Beth got a lot of fan following and media coverage, enough to make those matters so trivial that it didn’t bother her ever. When she played in Paris against Russian grandmaster, Borgov (played by Polish actor, Marcin Dorociński) she already had an audience- who expected her to win, though unfortunately, she chose to resign.


The Cold war was still in effect. The Soviets could not imagine losing any war against the U.S., at least not at Chess, but Elizabeth Harmon was determined to win in Russia against Borgov. I’m sure if you watch the series, you will definitely not want the girl to lose. When the two players finally sat for the biggest and world-changing game, I could feel my heart beating. Finally it was a win for Beth! The poster used to portray the fall of the King before the Queen, outside of the building in Russia was symbolic and meant a lot of things. The next day, on her way back home, Beth chose to walk to the airport to enjoy the new freedom she had achieved on behalf of every woman who were bowing before men until then.

The series is a must watch and it is currently Trending on Netflix.



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