The Queen’s Gambit: Excitement from Chess

By Diego Caceres, Staff Writer

In the 1960s, Beth Harmon, a girl grief-stricken from her mother’s death, seeks to become a master chess player. On her path, she grapples with substance addiction: the key to her success. A mature series, the show focuses on Beth’s path to stardom.


At the center of the show is Beth, our strong-willed protagonist, who must persevere through it all. Anya Taylor-Joy steals the show (as usual) and never lets up. Beth is confident and relentless; she is always looking for the win. Her steely gaze after demolishing opponents is enough to make any player resign.


Beth lives in an orphanage as a young girl. There, she forms a bond with Mr. Shaibal, a janitor who is also good at chess. Their bond is an excellent example of what makes the episodes flow so well.


A show about chess could never survive on its own without great characters. The Queen’s Gambit pulls you in without needing to know a single thing about the game. I could care less about chess, but whenever Beth crushes one of her opponents, it is like she slam-dunked a touchdown (I watch movies, not sports).


Mr. Shaibal, her adopted mother, and her friends support her in her endeavors to conquer chess, a game dominated by men. They guide her on her journey, leading her all the way to Russia, where some of the greatest chess players are born. None of them stand a chance of winning against Beth, yet we see her struggle to win without using substances as a crutch. Since she was put on a high pedestal at such a young age, every loss feels devastating, explaining why she clings to her addiction. When Beth loses, she gets angry, a feeling only amplified by her substance use (the show has a lot of it).


Addiction is a central recurring theme throughout the season and acts as the main conflict in most episodes. When characters use substances in TV shows or movies, it often feels unnecessary. The Queen’s Gambit understands the purpose of its inclusion and strays away from promoting it in any way. We see Beth struggle with her addiction as it often leads her to make unprompted, harmful decisions. Her addiction takes a toll on her, affecting who she is as a character and creating conflict that drives most of the show.


One of my favorite quotes from the show is “Anger is a potent spice. A pinch wakes you up. Too much dulls your senses.” It perfectly sums up the main conflict of the show and who Beth is as a character.


Chess, addiction, and death are difficult topics to manage, but the show weaves them together seamlessly.


Overall, I give the show an 8/10. I would recommend it to anyone with a Netflix subscription.