THE QUEENS GAMBIT (2020) – My rating: 9/10

The Queen’s Gambit is a coming-of-age period drama miniseries based on Walter Tevis’s 1983 novel of the same name. The title refers to “Queen’s Gambit”, which is a popular chess opening. It was written and directed by Scott Frank, who created it with Allan Scott. Beginning in the mid-1950s and proceeding into the 1960s, the story follows the life and development of an orphaned chess prodigy on her rise to the top of the chess world while struggling with drugs and alcohol dependency. I absolutely loved this series.

The Queen’s Gambit begins in Lexington, Kentucky, with nine-year-old Elizabeth Harmon (Isla Johnston) riding in the back seat of her mother Alice Harmon’s (Chloe Pirrie) car.  Alice instructs Beth to “close your eyes” as she collides into an on-coming truck, which left Alice dead and Beth homeless. Beth had no visible signs of injury from the crash and was admitted to Methuen Home for Girls. As was common during the 1950s, the orphanage dispensed daily tranquilizer pills to the girls as well as a simple vitamin every day. While cleaning erasers in the basement, Beth accidentally witnessed the orphanage’s custodian Mr. Shaibel (Bill Camp) playing chess alone.  Meanwhile, she became addicted to tranquilizers, which allowed her to enhance her spatial intelligence. Beth became obsessed with chess as she started to visualize and play chess games on the ceiling while lying in her bed.  After several visits to the basement, Mr. Shaibel started teaching Beth the game of chess. She quickly becomes a strong chess player partly due to her visualization skills, which were enhanced by the tranquilizers. When she is able to beat him regularly, Shaibel introduces her to the local high school chess club teacher, Mr. Ganz (Jonjo O’Neill), whom she also beats. Ganz invites her to play a simultaneous exhibition against his entire club of twelve members. After the state passes a law outlawing the use of tranquilizers on children, Beth begins to suffer from withdrawal.  Her close friend Jolene (Moses Ingram) provides her with a tranquilizer, Beth beats Ganz’s entire class easily but later is caught stealing a large jar of the tranquilizers. She overdoses by swallowing several mouthfuls of pills and passes out.

A few years later, Beth (Anya Taylor-Joy) is adopted by Alma Wheatley (Marielle Heller) and her husband Allston Wheatley (Patrick Kennedy) from Lexington. As she adjusts to her new home, Beth begins high school, enters a chess tournament, and wins despite having no prior experience in competitive chess. She develops friendships with several people, including former Kentucky State Champion Harry Beltik (Harry Melling), United States National Champion Benny Watts (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), and journalist and fellow player D.L. Townes (Jacob Fortune-Lloyd). As Beth rises to the top of the chess world and reaps the financial benefits of her success, her drug and alcohol dependency becomes worse.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Queens Gambit.  As the episodes of this series fast forwards through Beth’s childhood, stopping at her young adulthood, we see drugs and alcohol almost destroy her life.  She meets many people on her journey, some that are good and some that are not.  She falls in love, plays many in tournaments, and gets herself into many tight spots.  The Queen’s Gambit is certainly an interesting series that is well worth watching.  While the focus is mostly on chess, it also covers the highs and lows of drug and alcohol abuse.  On review aggregator, Rotten Tomatoes, The Queen’s Gambit received an approval rating of 97% based on 97 reviews, with an average rating of 7.89/10. The website’s critic’s consensus reads, “Its moves aren’t always perfect, but between Anya Taylor-Joy’s magnetic performance, incredibly realized period details, and emotionally intelligent writing, The Queen’s Gambit is an absolute win. On October 28, 2020, the series became the most-watched series of the day on Netflix. On November 23, 2020, Netflix announced that that the series had been watched by 62 million households since its release, becoming “Netflix’s biggest scripted limited series to date.” The series won two Golden Globe Awards: Best Limited Series or Television Film and Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film for Taylor-Joy. She was also nominated for the Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Actress in a Movie/Miniseries and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie. The Queens Gambit is a series with seven episodes and streams on Netflix —  Check It Out!

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