Netflix is on a roll this year as it has yet another winner with this 7 episodes limited series The Queen’s Gambit. Based on a best selling novel of the same name by Walter Tevis, the story about the amazing rise of a chess prodigy in the form of a young orphaned girl, Beth, in the 1960’s plays like it’s based on a true story but alas, it is pure fiction. While the story of the unexpected rise of a 9 year old girl from sullen and gawky to a glamorous and confident world chess champion who first learnt the game by playing with the janitor in the basement of her orphanage, is pure creative writing at its page turning best, one can’t help wishing that Beth was real.
The story is so focus on telling us Beth’s story that her character is in practically every scene! The extremely talented Anya Taylor-Joy plays the older Beth while Isla Johnson (who has some uncanny resemblance to Taylor-Joy) plays her when she was a young 9 year old at the orphanage. A lesser actress would have screwed things up but we are thankful for the perfect casting of Taylor-Joy here as she killed it in what is probably one of her career’s best in her very young career. She needed to act a lot without dialouge and it is to her credit that she manages to convey her character’s thoughts with her body language and her mesmerizing eyes. At the end of the day it is not only the characters in the story that become taken over by her, but the audiences at home as well.
Chess is not the most exciting of games and indeed its competition around the world no longer has the prestige and popularity that it used to as depicted in the movie. Nevertheless, The Queen’s Gambit manages to make the chess look sexy, and I am not surprised when I read that the sales of chess boards had sky rocketed since this series debuted.
If I have anything to gripe, it would be that my hopes to learn some tricks or be enlightened to how a person gets to become as good a player as the champions, were not fulfilled. Beth’s chess playing skills seem to be a natural for her and like some sort of super hero power, although she was seen to be spending enormous time studying books on the game and analysing famous games to prepare herself for the championship. Well, at least I got to know what a Queen’s Gambit means. This refers to the chess opening moves whereby the white player appears to sacrifice the Queen’s bishop pawn (see figure above). Finally, I have to say that like all great movies about champions, the story is inspiring and uplifting. I like the positive message and optimism that the ending suggested. This is something I really appreciated especially given that there are so much negativity in the world and movies today.