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The true story of ‘Queen’s Gambit’, the chess series that is succeeding

Lady’s Gambit tells the story of Beth Harmon’s rise and triumph. Photo: Netflix


Lady’s Gambit is the new Netflix miniseries starring Anya Taylor-Joy that follows the tale of talented chess player Beth Harmon. And although the series is inspired by the fictional character of the homonymous novel written by Walter Tevis, the author was inspired by some real chess players to develop the story of the protagonist.

Although the novel’s writer, who died in 1984, called his work “a tribute to intelligent women” in an article in The New York Times published in 1983, in fact, to create his protagonist character Beth Harmon was inspired by several players. real chess professionals. They were all men, including himself, as he was an avid competitor of the sport.

I started playing chess with my sister and the children on my street. I once won a $ 250 prize and became a Class C player, “he explained in an interview with the Times before his death.

For those unfamiliar with chess competitions, a Class C player is one who has obtained a score between 1400 and 1599, figures that mark the percentage of probability of winning compared to any other player. That is, although Tevis came to be in the ranking, his percentage was far from that of the protagonist of Queen’s Gambit, Beth, who when playing internationally would hold a score of at least 2400 probability of victory.

Photo: netflix

However, the Netflix series doesn’t just take inspiration from the Tevis novel. Its creators have also drank from the real story of another great and highly mediatic chess player, the American Bobby Fischer. Her story was already brought to the screen in the 2014 film The Fischer Affair, starring Tobey Maguire and from her they have also taken some elements to put together the life and achievements of Beth Harmon.

As explained by the scriptwriter and director of Lady’s Gambit, Scott Frank, in an interview with Entertaintment Weekly: “I had seen The Fischer Affair, Ed Zewick’s movie, and that made me realize that I didn’t have to show the board too much. Much of the movie focused on the faces of Liev Schreiber and Tobey Maguire, which is all you need to know, “he explained in reference to how much of the dramatic load of the series is based on the performance of Taylor-Joy.

In fact, Lady’s Gambit tells the story of the rise and triumph of Beth Harmon, which culminates in his trip to Russia to compete with the best players in the Soviet country. Something similar happened in real life when Bobby Fischer won the world championship in 1972 against the Russian player Boris Spassky, although in reality the final was played in Iceland and not in the USSR as in the Netflix series.

Other aspects of Beth’s story, such as her medicated childhood or her alcoholism – which in a way helps her succeed in the world of chess – are also inspired by the author’s own life. Tevis himself said of his novel ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’, starring an alcoholic alien, that the story was actually “a very disguised autobiography”.

All six chapters of Lady’s Gambit is now available on Netflix.

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