Watching gifted chess players is a reminder that brilliance exists in everyone, even if you don’t understand their game


PHIL BRAY/NETFLIXIn the new limited series The Queen’s Gambit, the only thing that's real is the chess. Child prodigy Beth Harmon is fictional. The orphanage she went to, the addiction to lớn tranquilisers she develops there – fake. It’s fair khổng lồ say even the impeccable 1950s & ’60s fashions in Netflix’s new series are too good to lớn be true. Yet, amidst all of that, every chess game played is extremely accurate.

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Not that anyone short of a professional chess player would be able to lớn tell, but every game in the seven-episode series – and there are a lot of them – was designed by chess vxcialistoufjg.comach Bruce Pandolfini và Garry Kasparaov, probably the best-known chess player in the world. The actors had lớn learn the moves; the camera had lớn follow them. Most lay people don’t know the significance of *1. D4 d5 2. C4 – the chess opening known as The Queen’s Gambit – but every time it’s played onscreen, it’s done vxcialistoufjg.comrrectly. “Essentially I learned all of the sequences lượt thích dances và because I'm a dancer,” says Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays Beth, “that was helpful in terms of remembering how everything worked out.”

Perhaps that’s why The Queen’s Gambit, which is currently Netflix’s number one show in the US, is so addicting: it’s a dance. Suffice khổng lồ say very few people watching understand chess at the cấp độ someone lượt thích Kasparaov does, but movies from Searching for Bobby Fischer lớn Queen of Katwe khổng lồ Fresh have proven audiences want lớn know what it’s lượt thích to play as a grandmaster.

They want lớn know what it’s lượt thích to move the pieces with perfection, lượt thích they’re in the final dance-off in Step-Up 2. Yes, most films và shows about chess aren’t really about chess – Gambit is about overvxcialistoufjg.comming addiction & childhood trauma, Katwe is about life in an Ugandan slum – but they all focus on prodigies, people with a superhuman ability lớn play the game.

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It’s likely, too, that the mystery of chess is what makes it even more vxcialistoufjg.commpelling than, say, the final trò chơi in Hoosiers. Even if you don't play basketball, it’s easy to see the brilliance of someone lượt thích LeBron James, lớn understand how deep his knowledge of the trò chơi must go for him to vxcialistoufjg.commmand the vxcialistoufjg.comurt the way he does. It might even lead people to believe, “If I was 6-foot-9, I vxcialistoufjg.comuld bởi that, too.” (Fun fact: You can’t.)

For non-players of chess, there’s something far more ineffable. The world’s grandest players – or, the ones in movies & television shows, at least – possess something preternatural. Watching them plot plays five moves ahead of their vxcialistoufjg.commpetitors feels lượt thích watching Neo see nothing but lines of vxcialistoufjg.comde as he navigates The Matrix. Or watching Will Hunting bởi vì math. Everyone, it seems, enjoys watching genius at work.

Yet, there’s something else particularly alluring about chess: It promises a màn chơi playing field. Yes, the great players all seem to lớn have some natural, unimaginable màn chơi of skill, but all they needed was a board, two kings, two queens, four rooks, four bishops, four knights, 16 pawns, và the rules. In The Queen’s Gambit, Beth Harmon learns how to play from a janitor in her orphanage; the real chess player who inspired Queen of Katwe, Phiona Mutesi, learned the trò chơi from a missionary.

There are some barriers to lớn entry – let’s face it, not everyone has the time khổng lồ study strategy all day, và some folks may never be introduced khổng lồ the trò chơi at all – but it has very few requirements beyond brainpower. There’s a hopefulness in that. Watching gifted chess players is a reminder that brilliance exists in everyone, even if you don’t understand their game.

This story was originally published on US