The Queen’s Gambit Review

The break meant an extra few hours to sit down and laze around without the guilt of exams, classes and dreadful group assignments. However, it also meant an opportunity to catch up with some of Netflix’s new releases. I watched some favourites like the Haunting of Bly Manor and David Attenborough’s stellar documentary on climate change, A Life On Our Planet but what stopped me dead in my tracks and led me down the binge-watching rabbit hole is The Queen’s Gambit. 

The limited drama series is more than just about the thrilling game of chess and women breaking sporting stereotypes, it also manages to place focus on harsher topics like addiction and trauma.

Actress Anna Taylor Joy plays the role of Beth an orphan who is taught the sport of chess by a janitor and grows an extraordinary knack to it.

The only thing that the little 9-year-old girl looks forward to more than the game are the little green pills that keep the children at the orphanage calm and sedate. 

She initially stocks them up and then gulps down handfuls of the pills in order to stay up all night and hallucinate different chess strategies from the ceiling of her bedroom wall.

These “harmless” minute pills - we later find out are tranquillizers - become the starting point of her dangerous addiction to narcotics. 

Beth is adopted by a family that is hanging by a thread but does not hold her back. She joins chess competitions where she is initially undermined however her skills, confidence and jaw-dropping fashion-forward fits gain her the respect of her male counterparts. 

This story does not only reflect on substance abuse but also the abuse of self-caused by over-ambition and how damaging a fixation on perfection can be. She became overridden by the idea of winning and saw losing a game as a reflection of her own mental inadequacy: 

“Chess isn’t always competitive. Chess can also be beautiful. It was the board I noticed first. It’s an entire world of just 64 squares. I feel safe in it. I can control it. I can dominate it. And it’s predictable, so if I get hurt, I only have myself to blame.”

Her pain reminded me of the importance of being kind to oneself.

The beauty of this show lies in its ability to shine a light on a game that is often neglected or side-lined.

A world in which chess is revamped into the biggest sporting event and where winners are seen as heroes and fortunes are made by intellectual heavyweights. It makes chess sexy and brainpower something to aspire towards.