The Queen’s Gambit: A Show About Chess that Captivated the World

By: Yair Shavrick  |  December 20, 2020

By Yair Shavrick, Opinion Editor


This article will have information that may give away plot information. If you would like to watch the show, I would recommend first doing so before reading this article. 

“The Queen’s Gambit”, a limited series on Netflix, portrays Beth Harmon on her journey to become the world champion of chess. The show takes place in the mid-1950s and portrays the struggles of sexism and adversity women at the time faced. This show has exceptionally high ratings, being the most viewed show on Netflix for many months, and reinvigorated a “chess craze.” Chess set sales around the country have skyrocketed, and the show’s feel-good plot easily explains this increase.

Beth, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, grows up in a female-only orphanage that is extremely strict and religious. In the time she spent there, she discovers the custodian worker, Mr. Shaibel, playing chess. She quickly becomes infatuated with the game and finds every possible time she can to return to the basement of the building and play with Mr. Shaibel. 

Concerningly, the orphanage staff place the children on medications, one of which seems to induce hallucinations and tiredness. Beth quickly becomes addicted to these pills because they allow her to envision chess being played on her bedroom ceiling, thus furthering her chess prowess. From this discovery onward, she quickly learns the ins and outs of chess, and within a few years she has the ability to defeat an entire high school chess team simultaneously. The reliance Beth has on these pills lasts throughout the entire show elegantly depicts the dangers of prescription drugs and their addictive properties. This can be identified as one of the main plotlines the show attempts and successfully tackles.

One of the reasons this show has such success is that it’s a limited series. This is a deviation from the norm of future seasons and extended plotlines is a lovely shock to viewers, as each character is developed well, the episodes are potent with information and plotline, and most importantly, character arcs are completed. This includes Beth’s love life, development of her friendships (which she struggles with throughout the show), and her chess standing in the world.

The show has been watched and enjoyed by the majority of viewers. Rotten Tomatoes, a review website of movies and television shows which is usually very strict and critical of shows, has given “The Queen’s Gambit” extremely high ratings. I personally thoroughly enjoyed this series as it intricately delves into the psychology of a hurt person who struggles to find help with addiction, emotions, sociability, and meaning in her life. This is a quality show which was crafted excellently and hooks the viewer with incredible writing and acting, and I highly recommend watching the show.