Life has begun to imitate art in the latest binge worthy Netflix series, The Queen’s Gambit. If you have noticed a rise in chess players around you, it’s likely because of the unexpected influence this show has had on individuals who would have otherwise never picked up a pawn.
What used to be a mundane board game meant for the elderly and math whizzes has now become a trending source of entertainment for Millennials and Gen Zers alike. For individuals who grew up playing chess the sudden surge of interest in the game has made for the perfect backdrop of family time where seasoned players are now teaching their younger kids how to play this intriguing yet complicated game.
The story of The Queen’s Gambit revolves around a young orphan girl who grew up in Kentucky during the 1960s. After befriending the orphanage janitor while watching him play check one day, she quickly realized that she had a knack for the game. Not only was she good, but her skill level and ultimately obsession for the game paved the way for a plot filled with triumphant success, low blows, and everything in between.
This hit Netflix show was created from the equally fascinating book of the same name. The popularity of the show was so great that the original novel found its way on the New York Times Bestseller list decades after it was first published. The Netflix adaptation has won several awards at the 78th annual Golden Globes Awards including Best Television Limited Series and Best Performance By an Actress in an Anthology Series or Motion Picture Made for Television. The show has found so much success that a musical production company has also been given the right to put together a theatrical performance based on the show.
Not long after the Queen’s Gambit hit the Netflix dashboard, the show quickly climbed in popularity. In the first month of the show’s release, over 62 million households tuned in to watch the miniseries. The Queen’s Gambit quickly secured the lead as the number one show in 63 countries and held on to its number one spot for several weeks.
The internet quickly displayed the popularity of the show’s influence. Google saw a surge in chess related entries with nearly double the traffic because of people looking up related questions and topics. The gaming industry has also seen a surge with chess sales climbing over 170%. As if that wasn’t a big enough impact, popular gaming streaming service Twitch has clocked in millions of hours of individuals watching chess tournaments as well.
So why has the show that revolves around what used to be a mundane topic garnered the attention of so many? Well for starters, there is the incredible acting portrayed by Anya Taylor Joy who plays the main character, Beth Harmon. Taylor Joy portrays a charismatic young woman who is as ruthless as she is lovable. This complex persona is followed up with intrigue as the audience sees her deal with real world issues including self medication and the need to belong. Throw in the fact that many young people can relate to the overwhelming pressure that Harmon puts on herself, and you’ve got a recipe for a character that is hard to ignore.
The quality of the characters and the acting bleed into all the other supporting characters who leave viewers with no choice but to invest their energy and understanding who they are and why they behave the way they do as well. The protagonists are rooted in reality and are battling demons that remain relevant even in today’s age. When it comes to the villains of the show, the audience can still make room for investing in the antagonists as viewers are left analyzing why some of them behave the way they do throughout the whole show. Common themes including sexuality, gender, addiction, belonging, and hope are all elements that string the show along, are portrayed tactfully, and have relevance even in today’s world.
The theatrics of the show are just as exceptional as the acting. With unique camera angles and an impeccable choice in costume and makeup, you really do feel like you are living alongside the characters during the 1960’s
When it comes to the topic of the game itself, viewers are left constantly asking questions about the game of chess and how it works. While the show does a great job filling in these blanks and explaining the basics, there is just enough curiosity left in the viewer where many who watch will continue to do their due diligence in understanding the game long after an episode has ended.
Many chest experts have also applauded how masterfully the art of chess is portrayed in the show. There are realistic game moves played and accurate descriptions of different game moves and strategies explained to viewers. The chess jargon is there and viewers want to understand it.
The Director of Business Development at chess.com, Nick Barton, shared with CNN that “It also doesn’t hurt that the chess scenes were a brilliant and mostly accurate portrayal of chess at the highest level.”
Barton goes on to explain that his website has also seen a surge in visitors and that people are interested in not only learning the game but learning the details of playing the game masterfully.
Perhaps one of the biggest, most unexpected draws of the show was the fact that so many people were left to figure out how to fill their time while they were quarantining at home because of the pandemic. Much like the show Tiger King at the start of the pandemic, the Queen’s Gambit offered a sense of escape in relief from all the chaos going on in the world.
Perhaps the only downside of the show is the fact that it ended too soon. While the mini-series is complete with only 7 episodes, it’s no wonder why viewers are left wanting more, especially since the show can easily be finished within a couple of days.