Why do chess players still accept queening?
The Netflix series "Queen's Gambit"
The Queen's Gambit has become much more than a small TV series about chess. Seven episodes on Netflix caught the attention of audiences around the world, making the series number 1 in over 12 countries. The mini-series has sparked or rekindled the audience's interest in the royal game. Regardless of whether you first had to learn how to move the pieces or are already a grandmaster: "The Queen's Gambit" has something for everyone.
After watching the show, a lot of fans just want more! Well, Chess.com can help you with that. Here's a collection of content on Chess.com that is directly related to this brilliant show:
For those of you who have not yet seen the series, let's start with a brief summary: The series is based on the novel The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis from 1983. It plays during the Cold War and revolves around the life of the highly talented chess player Beth Harmon. This is how Netflix describes the series:
Beth (played by Isla Johnston as a child and Anya Taylor-Joy as an adult) ends up in an orphanage at the age of nine and develops a special talent for chess - and a fondness for the tranquilizers distributed in the home.
Haunted by her personal demons and fueled by a cocktail of narcotics and obsession, she transforms into an impressively skillful and glamorous loner determined to overcome traditional boundaries and survive in the male-dominated world of competitive chess.
The series was developed by Scott Frank (Minority Report, Logan, Godless) and Allan Scott (Don't Look Now, The Preacher's Wife). Scott Frank also directed the series. Filming for the miniseries began in August 2019 in the Canadian city of Cambridge. Parts of the series were also shot in Berlin.
Chess.com has already interviewed Scott Frank (the writer, director and executive producer of "The Queen's Gambit". You can read the interview here. If you read more about the "real" Beth Harmon (or at least the closest equivalent from the chess world) then this article by FM AndreyTerekhov on Vera Menchik is a good start.
If you've already seen the series, here's a great review from WGM Jennifer Shahade, Chess.com esports producer, Aran Graham and Chess.com boss IM Danny Rensch.
Play against Beth Harmon
On Chess.com you can now even play against a virtual Beth Harmon at different stages of her career. From the first Beth who just learned how to play chess to the Beth who took on the best grandmasters in the world.
You can first measure yourself against the 8-year-old Beth, who has just learned the rules of chess, and then work your way up to the stronger Beth-Bots!
As we learned in Peter Doggers' interview with Scott Frank, chess is portrayed correctly in the series. Legendary world champion Garry Kasparov and famous chess teacher NM Bruce Pandolfini were on the set to help with all the chess scenes, showing the actors how to play Moving pieces correctly and pushing the clock also helped with many of the chess terms used on the show, many of which are real games played by real players.
Here is an excellent lesson from Jeremy Kane that uses many of the positions from the series. And if you want to deal with chess in the series even more intensively, you will find a video by GM Simon Williams in which he shows the 5 best moves by Beth Harmon.
Although the chess in "The Queen's Gambit" was done very well, the keenest eyes have found some flaws. In the blog of the month of October, Chess.com member Rocky64 found an almost imperceptible error in a certain scene. And NM Sam Copeland found several bugs on his blog.
Many, many chess terms are of course used in the series. Here is an explanation of the most commonly used terms:
- You get to hear backward farmer in the first episode. This is a farmer who appears in many peasant structures.
- In chess, blunder stands for a really bad move that may even lose the game.
- Checkmate occurs throughout the series. A checkmate is the ultimate goal in chess.
- Chessboards can be seen in every episode. You play a game of chess on it.
- Chess clocks also appear in every episode. These are used to indicate the players' thinking time.
- Duels are a big part of the series. This means a series of games.
- Chess pieces can of course also be seen in every episode - sometimes they are even on the ceiling!
- Chess compositions can always be seen when Beth meets a problem composer. These are mostly constructed positions in which there is only one winning move.
- Ratings are discussed for the first time in the second episode. This number expresses the strength of a player.
- Chess strategy is also a term that accompanies us throughout the series. One strategy relates to long-term planning in chess.
- A draw is called a tie in chess.
- Endgame is the name given to the last phase of a game in which there are only a few pieces on the board.
- Swap is also the title of the second episode. An exchange means that one piece is exchanged for another.
- Blitz chess is also played in the series. It is usually used to describe games in which each player has 5 minutes or less to think about the entire game.
- Fork is a tactic in which one of your own pieces (usually the knight) attacks two opposing pieces at the same time.
- Grandmaster is the highest title a chess player can achieve.
- Notation is called writing down the moves. This allows you to replay a game at a later point in time and analyze your mistakes.
- Shepherdmate is a checkmate that can be seen in the first episode. Usually, the shepherd's checkmate is the first checkmate that beginners learn.
Although Beth Harmon and the other players in The Queen's Gambit are fictional characters, there are many references to real and famous chess players. Here are some of the players mentioned in the series:
Jose Raul Capablanca
Jose Raul Capablanca is mentioned in the second episode where Beth asks the school librarian if there are any books on chess - Beth even leafing through one of his books. Capablanca was the third world chess champion (1921-1927) and is known for his legendary endgame skills and his brilliant positional game; in the eight years from 1916 to 1924 he did not lose a single tournament game. He is widely considered to be one of the best players of all time.
Paul Morphy was the embodiment of romantic attack chess and the strongest player of the entire 19th century. The American chess genius had a relatively short career, but he convincingly defeated the best players in the world and his game against Karl von Braunschweig and Graf Isoard is considered one of the best games of all time.
Vasily Smyslov was the seventh world chess champion and still holds the record for the most medals at Chess Olympiads with a total of 17 medals, and is known for his technical skills in the final.
Mikhail Botvinnik was the sixth world champion and held the title from 1948 to 1963 (with brief interruptions in 1957 and 1960). He is considered one of the strongest players of all time and coached three subsequent world champions (Garry Kasparov, Anatoly Karpov and Vladimir Kramnik).
Alexander Alekhine is mentioned by various characters throughout the series. In the fifth episode, Benny Watts says that Beth "attacks like Alekhine" - a player known for his vicious combinations in complex positions. Alekhine was the fourth world champion and taught the chess world that rules and principles can be broken based on a concrete analysis of specific positions.
Boris Spassky was the 10th world champion (1969 to 1972) and is a chess legend. He was absolutely world class from 1957 to 1978 and became a worldwide celebrity during his 1972 World Cup game with the American child prodigy Bobby Fischer.
Samuel "Sammy" Reshevsky was one of the greatest American players in history. He won the US championship seven times and played for the world championship in 1948. In his long career he defeated every world champion from Emanuel Lasker to Bobby Fischer.
Efim Bogolyubov was a world-class player who played twice against Alekhine for the world championship; he became the first FIDE world champion in 1928 and won the Soviet championship twice.
Nona Gaprindashvili became women's world champion at the age of 20 and held the title for 16 years (from 1962 to 1978). She was the first woman in history to receive the grandmaster title and is still considered one of the strongest chess players of all time .
Many other famous chess players are mentioned in the "Queen's Gambit". Including Francois Philidor, Wilhelm Steinitz, Jacques Mieses, GM Reuben Fine, Ernst Grunfeld, GM Wolfgang Uhlmann, Hans Kmoch, Vasily Panov, GM Miguel Najdorf, Vladas Mikenas, GM Jonathan Penrose and many more.
In the series, however, not only well-known players and many chess terms appear. Openings also play an important role. Here are some of the openings discussed or played in the series.
The Queen's Gambit
The Queen's Gambit is not only the eponym of the series, it is also the most-played opening. The opening is an excellent metaphor for Beth's life: sacrifices and hardships bring her to the top. Both the accepted and rejected Queen's Gambit are played in the series.
The Queen's Gambit comes about through the moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4:
Now Black can capture the c-pawn with the move 2 ... dxc4 and thus accept the gambit, or reject it with the move 2 ... e6. For beginners we have a lesson on the Queen's Gambit and for advanced players there is also an excellent lesson from GM Gregory Kaidanov that you are welcome to take a look at.
The Sicilian Defense
The Sicilian Defense is also mentioned very often: Mr. Shaibel, the caretaker, showed Beth this opening in the first episode, this aggressive opening, which Beth liked immediately. It is also Black's most popular answer to the move 1.e4 in the real world of chess.
The Sicilian defense is reached after moves 1.e4 c5:
Although many variants of the Sicilian defense are shown in the series (the dragon variant, the Levenfish attack, the Rossolimo, the Scheveningen system and more), the Najdorf variant is most often mentioned and played, with Benny Watts playing in the first game against Beth Najdorf und Beth also plays it himself. Due to its many sub-variants and extensive theory, it is a very difficult opening - a challenge that does not intimidate eight-year-old Beth, however.
The Najdorf variant of the Sicilian defense is reached after moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6:
Here is a quick lesson on the Sicilian Defense.
The Caro-Kann Defense is another mainstream opening that appears in the miniseries, with Beth's friend and opponent in the final round of the Kentucky Championship, Harry Beltik, playing that defense against her, and Benny Watts is talking to a few others about it too this opening when Beth meets him for the first time. In contrast to the Sicilian defense, the Caro-Kann is not particularly aggressive and has a very solid reputation. It is reached with the moves 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5:
Here we have a short lesson on the Caro-Kann Defense for beginners, and more advanced players are sure to enjoy this series by GM Sam Shankland. And here you can also watch a video from IM David Pruess about this opening:
Beth played this ultra-modern opening for White against Mr. Ganz, the chess trainer at Duncan High School. In contrast to the popular openings 1.e4 and 1.d4, the game of the Reti opening does not start with a pawn move, but with the knight move 1.Nf3:
You can find more information about the Reti opening here
The King's Gambit
Shirley Munson, a student of Mr. Ganz and treasurer of the chess club, asks Beth if she also plays the King's Gambit. That dialogue takes place while the two girls are on their way to Beth's simultaneous event at Duncan High School's Chess Club. The King's Gambit is one romantic attack opening and was one of the most popular openings in the 19th century. Lately, however, this opening has fallen out of favor, at least at the very highest level. It starts with the moves 1.e4 e5 2.f4:
Here is an introductory video about the King's Gambit, and here is an in-depth lesson from GM Simon Williams about the opening.
The Marshall Attack (Spanish Opening)
When Beth spoke to her stepmother at the US Open, she mentioned that she had played "the Marshall". It refers to the Marshall attack - an aggressive and complicated variant for Black in the Spanish opening. The Spanish opening is reached with the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5:
The Marshall attack is heralded by the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.La4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 and 8.c3 d5:
NM Jeremy Kane explains this complicated opening variation in this lesson.
Do you want to know what happened in each episode? Here we have a brief overview of each episode:
Episode 1 - openings
After her mother dies, eight-year-old Elizabeth "Beth" Harmon is sent to an orphanage. There she sees the caretaker, Mr. Shaibel, playing chess in the basement and asks him to teach her the game. She soon developed an obsession with chess, but also an addiction to the sedatives that the staff gave to all orphans.
Episode 2 - Exchange
Beth is now a teenager and is adopted by a family who live in the suburbs. While she is having a hard time getting used to her new life, she devises a plan to enter a chess tournament.
Episode 3 - Doppelbauer
Beth enters a tournament in Cincinnati and her performance puts her in the spotlight. Many tournaments and media appearances later, Beth set the goal of participating in the US Open.
Episode 4 - Middlegame
Beth takes Russian lessons and even develops some friendships; she enters an invitation tournament in Mexico City, where she plays against Grandmaster Borgov for the first time; Beth's stepmother accompanies her to the tournament and meets an old friend there.
Episode 5 - fork
Beth is back in Kentucky and meets a former rival there who offers to prepare her for the US championship.
Episode 6 - hanging game
After training with Benny Watts in New York, Beth plays a tournament in Paris, where she meets Borgov again, but one night of drinking destroys all of her dreams.
Episode 7 - Endgame
Beth meets a friend from the orphanage again and grapples with her past and her priorities. She is traveling to Russia to play the biggest match of her life.
We hope you enjoyed this article and the miniseries. Keep an eye on this article though, as we will continue to expand it!But you can already tell us in the comments which episode you liked the most.
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