The Queen's Gambit – Checkmate, Patriarchate

REVIEW
by Naya Guseva
17.11.2020
International Children's Chess Tournament in Moscow. At the age of 12, I lost sight of the enemy's chess piece that in a few minutes made its decisive move - not in my favour. I didn't get to the last stage of the tournament, played for another year and wouldn't dare connect my future life with chess. One wrong combination could ruin the whole game, and a wrong move could break a strategy. Scott Frank in the mini-series The Queen's Gambit (2020) on Netflix checked every detail and got the winning combination of an inspiring story: charming Anya Taylor-Joy in the lead role playing the most elegant sport.
The novel of the same name by Walter Tevis was long-awaited for filming. It was supposed to be Heath Ledger's directorial debut and the leading role of Ellen Page, but work on the film broke off together with the actor's life. After almost ten years, Allan Scott's script was finalized by Scott Frank, turning the film into a multi-hour screen adaptation.

Somewhere in the 1950s, orphan Beth Harmon started playing chess with a caretaker and soon found recognition at the school's theme club. Absolutely everything in the girl's life was developing rapidly: her professional ability to play, her tranquilisers addiction, and the awareness that the world of 64 cells is much more interesting than the outside one. Then Beth is adopted, and this becomes the starting point of her loud chess career.
At first, you might think it's a biographical story, but Tevis has simply combined his chess love with a really strong woman. He respected smart girls and always singled out losers, so he added a little bit of everything to Beth. Because of this symbiosis, the heroine gets an unexplained genius and destructive way of life: the more important the tournament, the more tough Harmon's pathetic state.
A distinctive feature of the series is its verisimilitude despite the almost fantastic history of the heroine. The only thing the viewer can really doubt is the hallucinogenic chessboard that Beth sees almost every night. But given the heroine's addiction to alcohol and sedatives, this detail is quite understandable.

The series draws a surprisingly precise parallel to the real game. The episodes are not just named by the stages of the chess round: in each episode, we see a new slice of the heroine's life that affects her behaviour, her attitude towards her career and life in general. Frank has created a strategy with killer precision, just as the heroine does. Harmon analyses and replays her rounds, and the viewer gets the information about Beth's past, when she was not yet in the orphanage, in each series. Frank consistently explains the heroine's behaviour, but constantly hints at her excessive fixation. "Don't think about what has already been done", says her foster mother Harmon.

No matter how much a phenomenal chess player tries to think ahead, sooner or later she loses control: whether it's a week-long gambling or an unexpected move by her main opponent, Russian player Vasily Borgov. Harmon is much easier to part with people in real life than with the pieces on the field – and the one she loses once again is rightly affected by her insanity at the game. She does not understand girls' parties and dreams of a traditional family, does not attach importance to the size of the winnings, and the first intimate experience for her is just a tick that can be immediately forgotten. So all that is left to others is to accept Beth as she is and not let her get drunk "in the junk" as the heroine dreams after losing the game. No frustration in her personal life drives Harmon out of the picture like a defeat – which is something unbelievable in case of her career.

The heroine does not understand why she is put in the first game with the only girl in the tournament, why an article about her tells about the phenomenon of women in chess and not her merits, and why men are much more offended by losing to Harmon and not someone else. Chess is still a very sexist sport: rating systems are divided by biological sex, and a woman is not allowed to participate in a championship on an equal footing with men. For Beth, this is absolute savagery, and her case is truly unique, because chess players rarely receive international recognition. In the series, the idea of feminism is a background one and therefore organic. It is true that chess is predominantly a male game, but that does not mean that anyone will play giveaway with a girl.
And only Borgov notices that
Harmon is primarily a strong
opponent, not an emotional woman.
In addition, the only women's group
Beth was in was an orphanage, after
which she was surrounded only by men
(of course, chess players, because she
simply was not interested in others).

Thanks to its exceptional truthfulness, the series is incredibly moving. The viewer cares about each tournament and at the same time enjoys what she sees: the duo of cameramen and costumes creates an atmosphere after which they simply do not want to return to the real world.

In his heroine, Frank illustrates the words "Our whole life is a struggle", and Harmon's biography seems to be played on a chessboard. Some people find the series even too sentimental: the expressive acts of the heroine with Carlos River's piano soundtrack sometimes turn the story of struggle into a drama about adolescence. But thanks to these moments Frank managed to create an inspiring story about a strong woman who was able to win not only all the world prizes but also an exclusively male world. Most likely, after watching the movie you will have a desire to go and achieve your goals – don't resist and seize the moment. And I will wipe the dust off the chessboard.
 
The Queen's Gambit – Checkmate, Patriarchate

REVIEW
by Naya Guseva
17.11.2020
International Children's Chess Tournament in Moscow. At the age of 12, I lost sight of the enemy's chess piece that in a few minutes made its decisive move - not in my favour. I didn't get to the last stage of the tournament, played for another year and wouldn't dare connect my future life with chess. One wrong combination could ruin the whole game, and a wrong move could break a strategy. Scott Frank in the mini-series The Queen's Gambit (2020) on Netflix checked every detail and got the winning combination of an inspiring story: charming Anya Taylor-Joy in the lead role playing the most elegant sport.
The novel of the same name by Walter Tevis was long-awaited for filming. It was supposed to be Heath Ledger's directorial debut and the leading role of Ellen Page, but work on the film broke off together with the actor's life. After almost ten years, Allan Scott's script was finalized by Scott Frank, turning the film into a multi-hour screen adaptation.

Somewhere in the 1950s, orphan Beth Harmon started playing chess with a caretaker and soon found recognition at the school's theme club. Absolutely everything in the girl's life was developing rapidly: her professional ability to play, her tranquilisers addiction, and the awareness that the world of 64 cells is much more interesting than the outside one. Then Beth is adopted, and this becomes the starting point of her loud chess career.

At first, you might think it's a biographical story, but Tevis has simply combined his chess love with a really strong woman. He respected smart girls and always singled out losers, so he added a little bit of everything to Beth. Because of this symbiosis, the heroine gets an unexplained genius and destructive way of life: the more important the tournament, the more tough Harmon's pathetic state.
A distinctive feature of the series is its verisimilitude despite the almost fantastic history of the heroine. The only thing the viewer can really doubt is the hallucinogenic chessboard that Beth sees almost every night. But given the heroine's addiction to alcohol and sedatives, this detail is quite understandable.

The series draws a surprisingly precise parallel to the real game. The episodes are not just named by the stages of the chess round: in each episode, we see a new slice of the heroine's life that affects her behaviour, her attitude towards her career and life in general. Frank has created a strategy with killer precision, just as the heroine does. Harmon analyses and replays her rounds, and the viewer gets the information about Beth's past, when she was not yet in the orphanage, in each series. Frank consistently explains the heroine's behaviour, but constantly hints at her excessive fixation. "Don't think about what has already been done", says her foster mother Harmon.

No matter how much a phenomenal chess player tries to think ahead, sooner or later she loses control: whether it's a week-long gambling or an unexpected move by her main opponent, Russian player Vasily Borgov. Harmon is much easier to part with people in real life than with the pieces on the field – and the one she loses once again is rightly affected by her insanity at the game. She does not understand girls' parties and dreams of a traditional family, does not attach importance to the size of the winnings, and the first intimate experience for her is just a tick that can be immediately forgotten. So all that is left to others is to accept Beth as she is and not let her get drunk "in the junk" as the heroine dreams after losing the game. No frustration in her personal life drives Harmon out of the picture like a defeat – which is something unbelievable in case of her career.

The heroine does not understand why she is put in the first game with the only girl in the tournament, why an article about her tells about the phenomenon of women in chess and not her merits, and why men are much more offended by losing to Harmon and not someone else. Chess is still a very sexist sport: rating systems are divided by biological sex, and a woman is not allowed to participate in a championship on an equal footing with men. For Beth, this is absolute savagery, and her case is truly unique, because chess players rarely receive international recognition. In the series, the idea of feminism is a background one and therefore organic. It is true that chess is predominantly a male game, but that does not mean that anyone will play giveaway with a girl.
And only Borgov notices that Harmon is primarily a strong opponent, not an emotional woman. In addition, the only women's group Beth was in was an orphanage, after which she was surrounded only by men (of course, chess players, because she simply was not interested in others).

Thanks to its exceptional truthfulness, the series is incredibly moving. The viewer cares about each tournament and at the same time enjoys what she sees: the duo of cameramen and costumes creates an atmosphere after which they simply do not want to return to the real world.

In his heroine, Frank illustrates the words "Our whole life is a struggle", and Harmon's biography seems to be played on a chessboard. Some people find the series even too sentimental: the expressive acts of the heroine with Carlos River's piano soundtrack sometimes turn the story of struggle into a drama about adolescence. But thanks to these moments Frank managed to create an inspiring story about a strong woman who was able to win not only all the world prizes but also an exclusively male world. Most likely, after watching the movie you will have a desire to go and achieve your goals – don't resist and seize the moment. And I will wipe the dust off the chessboard.
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