A Review of “The Queen’s Gambit ”

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Photo/Netflix

“The Queens Gambit,” a newly-released Netflix original, stars around chess prodigy Beth Harmon.

Aika Orshybek, Staff Writer

*May have spoilers* 

Nowadays, it is absolutely normal for women to play the same sports as others do, but things haven’t always been this way. It hasn’t even been two centuries since women, globally, were considered to be actual free citizens with the right to vote, to have an opinion, to study, to work, to do what they wished to do, and to generally live their lives without being dependent. “The Queen’s Gambit,” a Netflix original and recently released TV-series, tells the story of a talented orphaned female chess player in the 1950s.

The main character, Beth Harmon, is played by Anne Taylor Joy, which is enough alone to make viewers expect and await a work full of pure talent. The show covers the buildup to Harmon’s greatest challenge: playing against a Soviet Union chess player. It is absolutely fascinating to observe the two players’ relationships considering the fact that this is happening during the Cold War. It’s wonderfully satisfying to see how chess players do what they do: play chess while staying out of political rivalry and cultural differences. But before reaching success, Harmon faced many worthy opponents and emotional challenges that oftentimes held her back.

The audience is aware of the fact that Harmon witnessed the death of her biological mother, a suicide that was supposed to involve both of them. Even though Harmon miraculously survived the terrible situation, nightmares of her childhood memories never stopped. Additionally, orphanages at those times weren’t properly considering the children’s health condition and would even drug them up in order to get them to behave, which unfortunately happened to Harmon. But she didn’t complain. Since the orphanage was the place where she found out about chess, she loved it dearly. The drugs she was given gave her the chance to enjoy the sport more often.  

Originally, Harmon was not allowed to play chess due to the rules of the orphanage. She would sneak out occasionally, but it was not enough for her. Because of this, she would drug herself up and play chess on her ceiling. Harmon’s drug addiction worsened the moment she became aware of her success as a chess player and her fame worldwide. At this point, the huge failure in the American orphanage system and its effect on many lives becomes apparent.  

Fortunately for Harmon, she soon leaves the orphanage and goes to experience real family life with her new foster parent. While staying in her new house, she enters her first competition and the exciting part of her chess career begins. She meets new people, makes new friends–and gets support from the old ones–finds a mother, makes money, enjoys her life, and plays chess. She lives her life traveling, facing challenges, getting help from her loved ones, and helping them. Isn’t that what life is all about? It doesn’t matter what gender, age, ethnicity, nationality, class background, and culture her opponents come from, because people are people and chess is chess.

These reasons come together to make “The Queen’s Gambit” a fascinating series. Not only is it entertaining, it is also educating and empowering. These messages are communicated to the audience through the strong and smart protagonist Beth Harmon.

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