The Queen’s Gambit Has Inspired New Interest in Chess

This Netflix mini series is helping to fuel the resurgence of playing chess.

Nov 12, 2020


The Queen’s Gambit Has Inspired New Interest in Chess | This Netflix mini series is helping to fuel the resurgence of playing chess.

Whether you play chess or not, The Queen's Gambit, a seven-week Netflix mini-series has made this mentally challenging game a household item. Based on the novel of the same name that was authored by Walter Tevis, this small screen thriller that premiered on October 23, 2020, could inspire an interest you never knew you had.  

The Queen's Gambit, according to the Singapore Tatler, follows the life of Beth Harmon – played by Anya Taylor-Joy – who is placed in an orphanage after the death of her mother in a car accident. While living there, she finds an unexpected talent for chess thanks to a kind janitor who teaches her the game. She also becomes addicted to tranquillizers.

The dramatic series shows Beth’s constant battle to rise to the top in the competitive world of chess while battling her addiction to drugs and alcohol. While some may think this sounds boring, it is far from that and the chess action is surprisingly realistic.

“It is as close as possible to the authentic atmosphere of chess tournaments,” Garry Kasparov, a chess grandmaster, who consulted on the series told The New York Times. He checked movements and positions for accuracy and designed the moves for the important games in the series.

While the new mini-series can be credited with bringing this two-player game that has been around for over 1,000 years to the masses, a revival has been taking place since the first lockdowns in the coronavirus pandemic in the spring of 2020 according to Sporting News.

Many chess players shared their concerns with each other in chatrooms of online chess websites. One Australian player living in Perth wrote: “things are going to get worse,”  and one player from Italy wrote, “It’s very hard here,” Sporting news reported. These chat rooms became virtual communities for locked down players.

The most visited online Chess site gained more than 700,000 members in just a few weeks and there are more than 9 million online games being played daily. And the video platform Twitch has seen a doubling of viewership since the beginning of the pandemic.

“It might sound a little weird that, you know, chess streaming has a community, but really it does,” Daniel Naroditsky, a grandmaster who broadcasts games on Twitch multiple times each week told Sporting News. “The people who visit my stream often have a very important place. And so, for them, that two, three hours of interaction and banter and, you know, friendly roasting, that's friendship for them and social interaction that really fills up the monotony [during lockdowns].”

Alexandra Botez, another Twitch streamer and a long-time advocate for women in chess said she has been pleasantly surprised with the growing number of new female chess players on the site recently.

“You have an equal amount of girls who are playing chess in elementary school, in middle school, and all of a sudden they start dropping out in high school because [they are not encouraged to play and compete],” Botez said. “If we can address some of those things by creating a more positive environment where you have more confirmation that you can also be a top player because you see other female players are doing really well, that could really change and make the community better.”

While this uptick predates the release of the mini-series by a few months, it is clear that there is a major revival of this classic strategy game going on. Since keeping fit mentally is just as important as physically during these trying times, chess is a good way to manage stress whether you play as a beginner or an expert.

If you don’t know much about chess, check out The Queen's Gambit and pass the popcorn while you are introduced to the game, one pawn, knight, or queen at a time.

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Bonnie has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.