If you’re still buzzing after Beth Harmon’s triumph in The Queen’s Gambit, let’s dive even further into the excellent Netflix miniseries. From whether it’s based on a true story of a chess prodigy to what a “Queen’s Gambit” is exactly, we’ll hopefully have all your questions covered.
Warning: Spoilers ahead
Is it based on a true story?
While The Queen’s Gambit comes across as an inspirational sports story, it’s an adaptation of a 1983 fictional coming-of-age novel of the same name written by American novelist Walter Tevis. Tevis was a chess player himself and consulted real-life chess masters to ensure he accurately depicted the intricacies and rules of professional chess. So no, Elizabeth Harmon isn’t based on a real orphaned chess prodigy from the ’50s and ’60s. But if you’re looking for a female chess player to read up on, Judit Polgar of Hungary is generally considered the strongest female chess player ever.
What’s the Queen’s Gambit?
The Queen’s Gambit is a chess opening that involves three plays. It’s the move Beth uses in her final winning match against Vasily Borgov, the Russian world champion. Beth, starting as white, plays her pawn to Queen four. Borgov plays his pawn to Queen four and then Beth plays her pawn to Queen Bishop four. That’s the Queen’s Gambit.
How does Beth’s real mother die?
When Beth was 9, her real mother Alice committed suicide by driving into an oncoming vehicle. She first drives to Beth’s father’s house, where his new wife answers with their young son. Alice asks Paul for help with taking care of Beth, but Paul frantically rushes her away from his new family. He says she can come back another time and they’ll talk, but it’s been five years since they last saw each other and he’s clearly moved on. With nowhere to take Beth, Alice attempts to kill them both in the crash. Beth miraculously survives, but suffers from emotional issues throughout her life.
What pill does Beth take?
At Beth’s orphanage, the Methuen Home for Girls, the children are given tranquillizer pills to make them compliant. When a law is passed forbidding this and Beth’s pills are taken away, she suffers withdrawals and continues to struggle with her addiction to the drug.
How does Mrs. Wheatley die?
After her whirlwind romance with pen pal Manuel in Mexico City ends, Mrs. Wheatley doesn’t show up to Beth’s match with Borgov. Beth returns to her hotel room to discover Mrs. Wheatley dead. The coroner expects it was hepatitis, an inflammatory condition of the liver. Mrs. Wheatley was an alcoholic, running up a huge bill on margaritas at the hotel.
How does Beth beat Benny Watts?
The first time Beth plays Benny Watts, the reigning US champion, at the US Open in Las Vegas, he defeats her. Later, with the help of ex-Kentucky state champion Harry Beltik, Beth learns to study her opponents and all the big games in their careers, instead of just improvising in the moment. She buys a copy of Chess Review with a feature on Watts and asks him questions about himself in person, like why he carries around a knife (he says it’s protection from “whatever”). In the final match of the US Championship in Ohio, Beth swiftly defeats him in 30 moves. She allows him to play the same move he played to defeat her the first time — trading queens — but this time she’s prepared.
How does adjournment work?
When Beth plays her final match against Borgov in Russia, he requests they adjourn until the next day. This means he must write his next move on a piece of paper and seal it in an envelope. The director will then kick off the next session with the prepared move. This ensures neither player knows what the board will look like when it’s their next turn.
Why does Borgov want to adjourn?
In the final match between Beth and Borgov at the Moscow Invitational, Beth appears to be the more tired of the two, after playing several long matches in a row. But it’s Borgov who requests they end the session and pick up the following day. This decision could point to Borgov’s interview in a tape Beth watches while training with Harry, where Borgov talks about coming up against people half his age, like Beth, and doesn’t know how long he can continue winning. “I can fight against anyone but time.” It’s possible he too is tired and, recognizing Beth’s fatigue, believes it fair to call the adjournment. He might also already feel threatened he’ll lose, so retreats to consult the other Russian players — Beth stumbled upon Borgov helping previous world champion Luchenko in the adjournment of their match a day or two before.
Who’s Iepe Rubingh?
The Queen’s Gambit is dedicated to Iepe Rubingh, the inventor of chess boxing, who died aged 45 in May this year of unknown causes. Chess boxing is a hybrid sport, where competitors compete in alternating rounds of chess and boxing.