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The Queen’s Gambit

Ava Brânzan, 5A



“The Queen’s Gambit”: the story of an orphan girl who became an international chess champion. Elizabeth Harmon was just a normal 9-year-old girl when her mother died in a horrible car crash while they were in the same car. Elizabeth survived, but her mother died right in front of her eyes. After the car crash that scarred Beth forever, she was left in the care of Methuen Home. What Beth didn’t know was that the orphanage would help her discover her future career and passions. Nevertheless, everything comes with a price... One day, she went down to the basement to clean the erasers and found an old man playing chess. He was a worker, a person whom she had seen earlier that day. After observing him play for a while, Elizabeth asked the man if he could teach her how to play chess, as she found it quite interesting. The janitor hesitated, implying the fact that he doesn't play with strangers, but he ended up agreeing. Soon enough, Harmon started mastering chess. It was all she could think about. She used to play chess on the ceiling at night while sitting on her bed, but the only thing that could make her concentrate was a certain pill. Those pills were given to children at Methuen Home to reduce stress, along with some pills that could help them grow stronger. There were consequences, though - the tranquillizers provoked an addiction for Beth, which was tremendously dangerous for an average person, let alone a child. When she was a teenager, she got adopted by a couple - the Wheatleys. Under the couple's care, Beth was able to participate in a chess tournament. At first, no one took her seriously because she was a girl, but then she managed to defeat all of them.


Women chess players weren’t found very often because it was the 1960s, therefore Harmon was a surprise for the other players and an inspiration for the rest of the girls.


Later on, Beth became one of the top chess players in the world. At first, she went to chess tournaments so she could win money because her family wasn’t exceptionally wealthy, but the girl ended up winning lots of money and playing against the world chess champion: Vasily Borgov.





ABOUT THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT


The Queen’s Gambit is a book and limited series. The book was written by Walter Tevis in 1983, with some changes regarding the plot, and the original has about 243 pages. The series was based on the book and it was released on the 23rd of October 2020 on Netflix, having a total of 7 episodes each with about 50 minutes. This thriller won about 13 awards and is Netflix’s most-watched scripted miniseries. Its title comes from a chess opening called The Queen’s Gambit.


Starring Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth (adult), this series portrays addiction to drugs and alcohol, a problem in today’s society that also existed in the 20th century. When Beth was young, she was given tranquillizers in the orphanage, which helped her relax, especially if she took them at night. After she got adopted, Elizabeth didn’t have access anymore to tranquillizers, therefore she couldn’t concentrate as well as before. Although she didn’t have her own money to buy pills, her adoptive mother took them when she was sick. Given this opportunity, Beth started stealing some pills from her mother and taking them without her knowledge. Thus, she was able to play chess again.


The Queen’s Gambit presents Harmon’s addiction to drugs and alcohol and also the misery that they brought her, yet it also talks about feminism and the way women were judged based on their gender in the past centuries. Some people even consider it the best fiction chess book ever written.


I would tell you more, but I wouldn’t like to give you spoilers; the rest is for you to see. The series is available on Netflix, and the book can be found online or in libraries such as Cărturești. This series can make you want to start playing chess and unlock a new passion of yours or even a new movie/book genre that you like. You do not need to know how to play chess to watch this series or read this book, so give it a try!

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