Is Queen’s Gambit Worth the Hype?

By Kameron Toliver

“The Queen’s Gambit”  is worth the hype. I am usually skeptical on chess movies, but this one is so much more than chess. The movie tackles many touchy aspects of life that are relatable in these times such as:

Addiction
Loneliness
Teamwork
Friendships
Being an introvert
Dealing with death
Revisiting your past
Losing your parents or loved ones
Choosing your own path
Finding your passion

And much more.

As far as the chess goes this is without a doubt the best chess atmosphere in any mainstream chess media. I enjoyed all the small details like all the players bringing different boards, different “sections” at the tournament like open and beginner, and the fluent use of descriptive notation. All the sounds are spot on. I appreciated the audio and visual silence during the actual chess games. Cinematic action and fancy camera cuts with music really don’t fit here. The playing scenes are made perfectly, even down to the player telling a spectator to shhhh! I really miss live chess and this movie makes me even more excited to get back on the road and play. Most of the games are real games with some modification with input from real life world champion talent. For all the chess fans the chess banter is spot on. Chess players know how it is to talk all the chess lingo, slang and verbiage to each other and have non chess players be as confused as ever. Non chess players be like: What is a Najdorf? Isn’t Sicily some place in Italy? What type of dog is Caro Kann? However, the way the movie sets it up is approachable and it does not feel forced or overbearing for non players. This movie has the right amount of chess or anyone.

One thing that bothered me the first 3 episodes was her ability to not lose any games. Any chess player knows how much it sucks to lose and that losing is a huge part of the growing process. Many times i lost a tournament and had to drive home only hearing the sound of the windshield wipers… its part of the game. Personally, (and i know they have to follow a book) I would have had Beth lose the state championship one time, then come back and win after working hard. Everything felt too easy. I was happy when she got beat by Benny because that is what happens in chess, you lose. Chess is not easy even with immense talent.

On a personal note I did shed a tear when Beth found out that the person who taught her chess had passed away, and had been saving her news paper clippings and magazine articles. It shows how much of a positive impact being a mentor, teacher, coach can be towards kids (and grown ups!). Always appreciate that coach or teacher from the past because they are always rooting for you to succeed if you know it or not.

My favorite part is the ending. The scene where all her friends come back together to help her during an adjournment is a magical moment. You don’t have to go at it alone in life…nothing wrong with getting help even in your biggest individual moments.

Overall the show is a must watch for chess player and non chess players. The show is very fast paced after the middle of the first episode and is easily digestible in one sitting.

Read Premier Chess CEO National Master Evan Rabin’s review of Queen’s Gambit here.  Kameron Toliver is a member of the Detroit Chess Killers; check out our podcast episode with Dee Wildman, the founder of the team.