By Movie Walla | CULTURE |
Loved this miniseries. Fast moving. Loved the ending. They managed to get it just right, unlike shallow endings of some series. Not in The Queen’s Gambit, now playing on Netflix.
It’s a thrilling story based on a fictional character adapted from a 1983 novel of the same title. Beth Harmon finds herself at an orphanage after a nasty car accident which kills her mother.
The Christian orphanage, as expected, demanded discipline and obedience from Beth and the other girls. They routinely feed them the green pill – tranquillisers supposedly to keep even their disposition. The orphanage stopped the pill when it was eventually banned by the state. By then, the child prodigy Beth was already hooked on them. Her addcition to the pills and alcohol come into play later as she chases her dream of being a chess grandmaster.
Chess came by chance to the prodigious introvert in the series set in US in the 1960s. She picked up the game from the janitor. While her house mates studied in class or sang in the chapel, she would sneak out for a game of chess. At night, with a little bit of help from the green pill, she can move chess pieces on the ceiling.
As years pass by, she gets her opportunity to step into the real world. Beth grows up into a confident young lady. She steps into a largely men’s world of chess, taking them on with confidence. While at high school, her classmates were busy chasing after boys, Beth thrashed them at chess.
Do you exchange ‘rooks’ with the boys you meet, asks one of the popular girls. They are obviously not talking the queens and pawns, or even the rook. But Beth was unfazed, her mind squarely on chess. Flinging with boys was not her thing. Well, not yet.
Soon, she starts making news, winning one chess competition after another. But the child stardom came with a price.
For those us not acquainted with the intricacies of chess, I have borrowed this next paragraph from a recent article.
The Queen’s Gambit is a chess opening that involves three plays. It’s the move Beth uses in her final match against Russian world champion Vasily Borgov. 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.
Come to think of it, any big names in chess from the lands of the Panjab? I made a quick check and found the name of Mir Sultan Khan, a Punjabi-speaking chess player who had defeated top international players of his time to be among the world’s top 10.
The Tribune article, which appeared today, captures his story. It goes:
More than nine decades back, a man from Mitha Tiwana village of Punjab (now in Pakistan) travelled to England by sea. Two days upon his arrival, he beat the reigning world champion Jose Capablanca in a simultaneous chess exhibition match.
That win was no fluke as Capablanca was playing against 40 players, known as a simultaneous chess match. This man was Sultan Khan, who had only recently learnt the international format of chess after his first appearance in the Indian national championship.
Khan stayed in London for about four years. He beat the world champion again in a one-to-one match and won the British Chess Championship thrice. He also beat Czech Grandmaster Solomom Flohr and had a draw with Grandmaster Alekhine.
Despite beating the English, Sultan Khan passed into obscurity with neither the Indian nor the Pakistan government remembering his feat. FIDE, the world chess governing body, also did not commemorate his mastery. He died of tuberculosis in 1966 in his village, with not even an obituary for him in mainstream media.
Back to The Queen’s Gambit. Though fictional, it is captivating to watch a prodigy with superhuman abilities. And even if you’re not an avid chess player, the miniseries is a joy to watch.
Movie Walla’s Rating: Watch if you can spare the time.