The Queen's Gambit (miniseries)

The Queen's Gambit
GenrePeriod drama
Created byScott Frank
Allan Scott
Based onThe Queen's Gambit
by Walter Tevis
Directed byScott Frank
Music byCarlos Rafael Rivera
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes7 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)
  • Marcus Loges
  • Mick Aniceto
CinematographySteven Meizler
Editor(s)Michelle Tesoro
Running time46–67 minutes
Production company(s)
  • Flitcraft Ltd
  • Wonderful Films
Original networkNetflix
Original releaseOctober 23, 2020 (2020-10-23)
External links
Official website

The Queen's Gambit is an American coming-of-age period drama miniseries based on Walter Tevis's 1983 novel of the same name, created for Netflix by Scott Frank and Allan Scott[1][2] and written and directed by the former. Beginning mid-1950s and proceeding into the 1960s, the story is about an orphaned chess prodigy on her rise to becoming the world's greatest chess player while struggling with emotional problems and drug and alcohol dependency.

The Queen's Gambit was released on October 23, 2020. After four weeks of viewing it has become Netflix's most-watched scripted limited miniseries.[3] It has received critical acclaim for Anya Taylor-Joy's performance as Beth Harmon as well as for the cinematography and production values. It has also received a positive response from the chess community, and is credited with spurring a resurgence of public interest in the game.[4][5]


The Queen's Gambit is a fictional story that follows the life of an orphan chess prodigy, Beth Harmon, during her quest to become the world's greatest chess player while struggling with emotional problems and drug and alcohol dependency. The Queen's Gambit is a chess opening. The story begins in the mid-1950s and proceeds into the 1960s.[6]

The story begins in Lexington, Kentucky, where a nine-year-old Beth, having lost her mother in a car crash, is taken to an orphanage where she is taught chess by the building's custodian, Mr. Shaibel. As was common during the 1950s,[7] the orphanage dispenses daily tranquilizer pills to the girls, which turns into an addiction for Beth. She quickly becomes a strong chess player due to her visualization skills, which are enhanced by the tranquilizers. A few years later, Beth is adopted by Alma Wheatley and her husband from Lexington. As she adjusts to her new home, Beth 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; gifted but arrogant chess prodigy Benny Watts; and journalist, photographer, and fellow player D.L. Townes. As Beth continues to win games and reaps the financial benefits of her success, she becomes more dependent on drugs and alcohol.

Cast and characters


  • Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon, an orphan who matures into a competitive young adult fueled by a desire to become the greatest chess player in the world while masking a growing addiction to the drugs and alcohol that allow her to function.
    • Isla Johnston as young Beth
    • Annabeth Kelly as five-year-old Beth
  • Bill Camp as Mr. Shaibel, the custodian at the Methuen Home for Girls and an experienced chess player who teaches Beth how to play the game.
  • Moses Ingram as Jolene, a rebellious teenage girl at the Methuen Home who becomes Beth's closest childhood friend.
  • Christiane Seidel as Helen Deardorff, director of Methuen Home for Girls.
  • Rebecca Root as Miss Lonsdale,[8] the choir director at Methuen.
  • Chloe Pirrie as Alice Harmon, Beth's deceased mother who was a professor at Cornell University before experiencing a downward spiral in her mental health.
  • Akemnji Ndifornyen as Mr. Fergusson, the orderly at Methuen.
  • Marielle Heller as Alma Wheatley, who with her husband Allston adopts Beth as a young teenager and later acts as a manager for Beth's chess career.
  • Harry Melling as Harry Beltik, a champion player Beth defeats in her first tournament and later befriends.
  • Patrick Kennedy as Allston Wheatley, Alma's husband and Beth's estranged adoptive father.
  • Jacob Fortune-Lloyd as Townes, a fellow chess player for whom Beth develops an unrequited love.
  • Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Benny Watts, a notorious fellow chess prodigy who is one of Beth's strongest competitors, and later a mentor and friend.
  • Marcin Dorociński as Vasily Borgov, the current Soviet world champion chess player and Beth's strongest competitor.


  • Sergio Di Zio as Beth's father
  • Dolores Carbonari as Margaret, Beth's high school classmate.
  • Matthew Dennis Lewis and Russell Dennis Lewis as Matt and Mike, twin brothers who serve as registration officials at Beth's first tournament and go on to become her friends.
  • Janina Elkin as Mrs. Borgov, wife and translator for Vasily Borgov.


No.TitleDirected byTeleplay byOriginal release date
1"Openings"Scott FrankScott FrankOctober 23, 2020 (2020-10-23)
Elizabeth "Beth" Harmon is orphaned when her mother dies in a car crash. She is taken to an orphanage, where the children are given tranquilizing pills to make them compliant. While cleaning erasers in the basement, Beth discovers the custodian, Mr. Shaibel, playing chess, who after repeated requests reluctantly agrees to teach her the game. She becomes obsessed and improves quickly, thanks to her spatial intelligence and abuse of mind-altering tranquilizers that allow her to focus and replay chess games in her head. Beth meets the local high school chess club teacher, Mr. Ganz, who invites her to play a simultaneous exhibition against his entire club. She beats all of them handily, later commenting to Mr. Shaibel on their poor chess skills and how invigorating it is to win. After the state passes a law outlawing the use of tranquilizers on children, Beth begins to suffer from withdrawal. She is caught stealing a jar of the medication, and passes out after overdosing from swallowing several mouthfuls of pills.
2"Exchanges"Scott FrankScott FrankOctober 23, 2020 (2020-10-23)
After her overdose, Beth is prohibited from playing chess. Time passes and Beth is adopted as a teenager by the Wheatleys. While running an errand for Mrs. Wheatley, Beth discovers her adoptive mother is taking the same tranquilizer pills that she was given at the orphanage and secretly steals some for herself, allowing her to play mental chess again. Beth then enters her first chess tournament with money borrowed from Mr. Shaibel. As she cruises through her matches, she develops a crush on one of her later opponents, an older boy named Townes. After the second day of the tournament, where Beth received her period for the first time, Beth comes home to find that Mr. Wheatley has left Mrs. Wheatley and Beth fears that she will be sent back to the orphanage, but Mrs. Wheatley tells her they will lie so she can stay. During her final match of the tournament against Harry Beltik, the highest-ranked player, Beth becomes flustered and runs to the restroom; where she takes a tranquilizer pill, then wins the match handily. Upon learning of the prize money to be won in other tournaments, Mrs. Wheatley hatches a plan for the two women to support themselves.
3"Doubled Pawns"Scott FrankScott FrankOctober 23, 2020 (2020-10-23)
Mrs. Wheatley and Beth check into their hotel room in Cincinnati. Beth wins the tournament. Her mother asks for 10% of the prize money as an agent commission, but Beth gives her 15%. Beth continues to miss school while traveling to tournaments, where she is quickly gaining national recognition for her achievements. Back at school, Beth is invited to her first social event with the Apple Pi club. She realizes she has nothing in common with typical teenage culture and becomes overwhelmed. She swipes a bottle of alcohol and escapes back home. In 1966, Beth heads to Las Vegas for the US Open where she is reunited with Townes, now a journalist who is covering the event. They return to his hotel room where Townes takes her picture; the two share an intimate moment before being interrupted by a man Townes is living with. After playing chess with Townes, Beth abruptly leaves before Townes can explain the situation. Beth runs into Benny Watts who points out a weakness in her game against Beltik. Beth is taken aback and suddenly loses confidence. She experiences her first loss against Watts the next day; they finish the tournament tied for first place.
4"Middle Game"Scott FrankScott FrankOctober 23, 2020 (2020-10-23)
Beth travels to Mexico City with Mrs. Wheatley, who while there spends most of her time with Manuel, a longtime pen pal. Beth competes against several international players, including a young boy from the Soviet Union named Georgi Girev in a match that spans two days. She also befriends Matt and Mike, twins who had served as registration officials at her first chess tournament. In an elevator, Beth uses her growing knowledge of Russian to eavesdrop on Soviet world champion Vasily Borgov and two associates. While they underestimate her, Borgov tells them she is an orphan, and a survivor like them. Manuel soon abandons Mrs. Wheatley just as Mr. Wheatley did. The following day, Beth plays Borgov, and after an intense game, loses to him. Back in the hotel room, Beth discovers her mother has died of hepatitis, likely worsened by her excess drinking.
5"Fork"Scott FrankScott FrankOctober 23, 2020 (2020-10-23)
Beth returns home to Kentucky and reconnects with Harry Beltik, the former state champion she beat five years prior. Beltik moves in to the Wheatleys' house to accompany the now lonely Beth, and the two spend time training and growing close until Beltik realizes Beth's obsession with chess will always supersede any relationship they may have. The two part ways, Beltik having taught Beth all he can, and time flashes forward to the 1967 US championship where Beth reunites with former child prodigy Benny Watts. The evening before the final round and rematch between the two, Benny challenges Beth to several rounds of speed chess in front of a large crowd of tournament attendees. He beats her in all of them, but does not realize that she has used the opportunity to learn his weaknesses. This motivates Beth to a quick victory over Benny the next day and the two discuss Beth's future in international competition. Benny invites Beth to train for the Paris Tournament with him in New York.
6"Adjournment"Scott FrankScott FrankOctober 23, 2020 (2020-10-23)
In New York, Benny has Beth sober up and enhance her chess skills with the help of a few friends from the chess scene. Beth bonds with Cleo, a model who was once infatuated with Benny and is present with the rest of the group, and soon begins having casual sex with Benny. Eventually, Beth travels to the tournament in Paris and works her way up to the final match with Borgov. Cleo reveals that she's also in Paris and invites Beth for drinks, making her relapse on her alcohol and pill addiction. Beth is woken up after sleeping with Cleo, leading into to the opening moment of the first episode. Hungover, she loses once more to Borgov. Devastated, Beth declines Benny's offer to continue staying with him in New York and instead goes back home to Kentucky, where she learns her adoptive father has returned home only to extort money from her by making her buy the house. Beth plunges into a days-long drug and alcohol binge, causing her to pass out in her living room. Despite Beltik offering support, she refuses just as Jolene shows up at her door.
7"End Game"Scott FrankScott FrankOctober 23, 2020 (2020-10-23)
Jolene arrives and informs Beth that Mr. Shaibel has died. They both attend the funeral, and Beth revisits the orphanage. She is moved to tears when she finds newspaper clippings on Mr. Shaibel's basement wall revealing that he had followed her career all along, as well as a photograph of the pair together during her time at the orphanage. The experience allows Beth to come to terms with her past. Beth gives up her funding from Christian Crusade after they request a public statement from her which she is unwilling to give. After getting a loan from Jolene, Beth goes to Moscow to play in the prestigious Moscow Invitational. The final game is with Borgov and Beth surprises him by playing the Queen's Gambit; the game is adjourned after 40 moves. That evening, Townes, who is covering the match, visits Beth in her hotel, where they reconcile their friendship. The next morning, Beth receives a phone call from Benny, who has assembled a team which includes Beltik and the twins, to help her analyze the adjourned position of her match with Borgov. Beth is grateful to receive the help from her friends and takes copious notes. When play resumes that evening, Beth beats Borgov in the adjourned game. On the way back to the airport, Beth gets out of the car and walks around the city. She finds a number of elderly townsfolk playing chess, who recognize her and invite her to play.



On March 19, 2019, Netflix gave the production a series order consisting of six episodes. The series was written and directed by Scott Frank, who also created the series with Allan Scott. The two also served as executive producers alongside William Horberg.[1] The series was released on October 23, 2020 with seven episodes instead of the original six-episode order.[2] Carlos Rafael Rivera composed the series score.[9] Former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov and chess coach Bruce Pandolfini acted as consultants.[10][11]


Alongside the series order announcement, it was announced that Anya Taylor-Joy was set to star as the lead.[12] In January 2020, it was reported Moses Ingram had joined the cast of the series.[13] Upon the miniseries premiere date announcement, it was announced that Bill Camp, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Harry Melling and Marielle Heller were cast in starring roles.[14][15]


Principal photography began in August 2019 in Cambridge, Ontario.[16] Filming also took place in Berlin,[17] including the Kino International, the Berlin Zoo, Humana and the Friedrichstadt-Palast.[18]

Production design

The high-budget sets were designed by Uli Hanisch (Babylon Berlin) to recreate the era of the late 1950s and 1960s.[19]


Audience viewership

On October 28, 2020, the series became the most watched series of the day on Netflix.[20][21] On November 23, 2020, it was announced that the series had been watched by 62 million households since its release (according to the way Netflix itself reports viewership),[22] becoming "Netflix's biggest scripted limited series to date."[3] which Sky News referred to it as an "unlikely TV success story of 2020".[23] Of this, Scott Frank stated "I am both delighted and dazed by the response".[24]

Critical response

Anya Taylor-Joy's performance garnered widespread critical acclaim.

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, The Queen's Gambit received an approval rating of 100% based on 70 reviews, with an average rating of 8.01/10. The website's critics 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."[25] Metacritic gave the series a weighted average score of 79 out of 100 based on 28 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[26]

Darren Franich of Entertainment Weekly gave the series a B and described the lead actress, "Taylor-Joy excels in the quiet moments, her eyelids narrowing as she decimates an opponent, her whole body physicalizing angry desperation when the game turns against her."[27] Reviewing the miniseries for Rolling Stone, Alan Sepinwall gave it 3 out of 5 stars and said, "An aesthetically beautiful project with several superb performances, all in service to a story that starts to feel padded long before the end comes."[28] Variety's Caroline Framke wrote "The Queen's Gambit manages to personalize the game and its players thanks to clever storytelling and, in Anya Taylor-Joy, a lead actor so magnetic that when she stares down the camera lens, her flinty glare threatens to cut right through it."[29]

Many aspects of the series production values have been praised and discussed, from its fashion and locations, to its wallpapers and interior design.[30][24][31][32]

Chess community response

The series received praise from the chess community for its portrayal of the game and players.[33] In an interview with Vanity Fair, Woman Grandmaster Jennifer Shahade said that the series "completely nailed the chess accuracy".[34] In an article about the miniseries in The Times, British chess champion David Howell felt that the chess scenes were "well choreographed and realistic", while British Women's chess champion Jovanka Houska said, "I think it's a fantastic TV series ... [i]t conveys the emotion of chess really well."[35] Reigning chess world champion Magnus Carlsen gave it 5 out of 6 stars.[36]

Several female chess players, including Houska, British Ladies Chess Champion Sarah Longson, and Swedish Grandmaster Pia Cramling have suggested the show's legacy might well be a surge in interest from young female players.[37][38]

Interest in the game

Sales of chess sets are reportedly up several hundred percent, to over a thousand percent, because of the series.[39] The gaming site reports several million new users since the release of the series.[40]


Together with The Crown, costumes from The Queen's Gambit were put on display by the Brooklyn Museum as part of its virtual exhibition "The Queen and the Crown".[41][42]

See also


  1. ^ a b Petski, Denise (March 19, 2019). "Netflix Orders 'The Queen's Gambit' Limited Series From Scott Frank; Anya Taylor-Joy To Star". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on March 30, 2019. Retrieved July 20, 2019.
  2. ^ a b McHenry, Jackson (August 27, 2020). "The Queen's Gambit Trailer: Anya Taylor-Joy Dives Into Chess, Drugs, and More Chess". Vulture. Archived from the original on October 6, 2020. Retrieved August 27, 2020.
  3. ^ a b White, Peter (November 23, 2020). "'The Queen's Gambit' Becomes Netflix's Biggest Scripted Limited Series With 62M Checking Chess Drama". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on November 23, 2020. Retrieved November 23, 2020.
  4. ^ Rosen, Christopher (November 23, 2020). "The Queen's Gambit Has Everyone Buying Chess Boards". Vanity Fair. Retrieved November 23, 2020.
  5. ^ Allebest, Erik (November 22, 2020). "Incredible Second Wave of Interest in Chess". Retrieved November 24, 2020.
  6. ^ "NETFLIX ORDERS LIMITED SERIES THE QUEEN'S GAMBIT FROM SCOTT FRANK" (Press release). Netflix Media Center. March 19, 2019. Archived from the original on July 21, 2019. Retrieved July 20, 2019.
  7. ^ Spencer, Samuel (October 26, 2020). "'The Queen's Gambit' Explained: What Are The Green Pills?". Newsweek. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  8. ^ Root, Rebecca [@rebeccaroot1969] (December 20, 2019). "A Netflix series next year called The Queen's Gambit xx" (Tweet). Archived from the original on December 21, 2019. Retrieved October 22, 2020 – via Twitter.
  9. ^ "Carlos Rafael Rivera Scoring Netflix's 'The Queen's Gambit'". FilmMusicReporter. August 27, 2020. Archived from the original on October 18, 2020. Retrieved September 1, 2020.
  10. ^ Berman, Judy (October 20, 2020). "Netflix's Marvelous The Queen's Gambit Is the Kind of Prestige Drama TV Doesn't Make Anymore". Time. Archived from the original on October 27, 2020. Retrieved October 27, 2020.
  11. ^ Hartmann, John (October 23, 2020). "The Queen's Gambit - Out Today On Netflix!". Chess Life. Archived from the original on October 30, 2020. Retrieved October 30, 2020.
  12. ^ Thorne, Will (March 19, 2019). "Anya Taylor-Joy to Star in 'The Queen's Gambit' Limited Series at Netflix". Variety. Archived from the original on May 2, 2019. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  13. ^ Sneider, Jeff (January 15, 2020). "Newcomer Moses Ingram Joins Denzel Washington in Joel Coen's 'Macbeth'". Collider. Archived from the original on June 10, 2020. Retrieved June 11, 2020.
  14. ^ Roots, Kimberly (August 27, 2020). "Game of Thrones, Peaky Blinders Stars Play a Risky Game in Netflix Chess Drama The Queen's Gambit — Watch". TVLine. Archived from the original on August 27, 2020. Retrieved August 27, 2020.
  15. ^ Nolfi, Joey (August 27, 2020). "Anya Taylor-Joy puts the patriarchy in check in The Queen's Gambit teaser". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on August 27, 2020. Retrieved August 27, 2020.
  16. ^ "'The Queen's Gambit' filming in Cambridge for 2 days". Cambridge Times. August 22, 2019. Archived from the original on November 28, 2019. Retrieved November 28, 2019.
  17. ^ Cooper, Leonie (February 20, 2020). "'The Witch' star Anya Taylor-Joy: "People always want to put you in a box"". NME. Archived from the original on May 12, 2020. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  18. ^ Wintermayr, Arabella (October 23, 2020). "„Das Damengambit": Zug um Zug in den Netflix-Olymp". Musikexpress (in German). Retrieved October 28, 2020.
  19. ^ Stewart, Sara (November 15, 2020). "Opinion: 'The Queen's Gambit' is the perfect escapist entertainment for the present moment". CNN. Retrieved November 15, 2020.
  20. ^ Watercutter, Angela (October 28, 2020). "Why The Queen's Gambit Is the No. 1 Netflix Show Right Now". Wired. Archived from the original on October 28, 2020. Retrieved October 30, 2020.
  21. ^ Lawler, Kelly (October 28, 2020). "'The Queen's Gambit': This Netflix miniseries about chess is one of the best shows of 2020". USA Today. Archived from the original on October 28, 2020. Retrieved October 30, 2020.
  22. ^ Spangler, Todd (November 23, 2020). "'The Queen's Gambit' Scores as Netflix Most-Watched Scripted Limited Series to Date". Variety. Retrieved November 25, 2020. The way Netflix reports viewing is based on the number of viewers who have watched at least two minutes of a piece of content, which is very different from how the TV industry measures audience
  23. ^ Peplow, Gemma (November 25, 2020). "The Queen's Gambit: Why is everyone suddenly talking about chess?". Sky News. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  24. ^ a b Ellison, Jo (November 25, 2020). "How 'The Queen's Gambit' made all the right moves". Financial Times. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  25. ^ "The Queen's Gambit: Miniseries (2020)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 23, 2020.
  26. ^ "The Queen's Gambit: Season 1". Metacritic. Retrieved November 2, 2020.
  27. ^ Franich, Darren (October 21, 2020). "The Queen's Gambit plays familiar moves with style and star power: Review". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on October 23, 2020. Retrieved October 23, 2020.
  28. ^ Sepinwall, Alan (October 20, 2020). "'The Queen's Gambit': A Female Bobby Fischer Keeps Her Challengers in Check". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on October 20, 2020. Retrieved October 20, 2020.
  29. ^ Framke, Caroline (October 21, 2020). "'The Queen's Gambit,' Starring a Magnetic Anya Taylor-Joy, Is a Shrewd Study of Genius: TV Review". Variety. Archived from the original on October 22, 2020. Retrieved October 23, 2020.
  30. ^ Horton, Adrian (November 26, 2020). "How The Queen's Gambit became Netflix's unlikeliest hit of the year". The Guardian. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  31. ^ Wallace, Rachel (November 24, 2020). "Why Is Everyone So Obsessed With The Queen's Gambit?". Architectural Digest. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  32. ^ Ilchi, Layla (November 5, 2020). "A Breakdown of the Costumes in Netflix's 'The Queen's Gambit'". Women's Wear Daily. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  33. ^ McClain, Dylan Loeb (November 3, 2020). "I'm a Chess Expert. Here's What 'The Queen's Gambit' Gets Right". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on November 5, 2020. Retrieved November 5, 2020.
  34. ^ Miller, Julie (November 5, 2020). "The Queen's Gambit: A Real-Life Chess Champion on Netflix's Addictive Hit". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on November 6, 2020. Retrieved November 6, 2020.
  35. ^ Maxwell, Dominic (November 12, 2020). "How true is The Queen's Gambit? What we've learnt about chess". The Times. London. ISSN 0140-0460. Archived from the original on November 13, 2020. Retrieved November 14, 2020.
  36. ^ Svensen, Tarjei (November 21, 2020). "Magnus Carlsen on The Queen's Gambit: 'I would say it's a 5/6'". Chess24. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  37. ^ Davies, Caroline (November 13, 2020). "Igniting girls' interest in chess may be great legacy of The Queen's Gambit". The Guardian. Archived from the original on November 15, 2020. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  38. ^ "Schackinflueraren: "Det har blivit en revolution"" [The Chess Influencer: "It has become a revolution"]. SVT Nyheter (in Swedish). November 17, 2020. Archived from the original on November 18, 2020. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
  39. ^ Ulaby, Neda (November 20, 2020). "Can't Find A Chess Set? You Can Thank 'The Queen's Gambit' For That". NPR. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  40. ^ "Queen's Gambit accepted: Hit show sparks chess frenzy". Bangkok Post. November 26, 2020. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  41. ^ Soriano, Jianne (November 4, 2020). "Costumes From Netflix's "The Queen's Gambit" And "The Crown" Featured At The Brooklyn Museum". Tatler Hong Kong. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  42. ^ "The Queen and The Crown: A Virtual Exhibition of Costumes from "The Queen's Gambit" and "The Crown"". Brooklyn Museum. Retrieved November 26, 2020.

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