Chess is one of the oldest games out there and it is said that there have been over 500 different patterns and types of chess pieces recorded over the time and through the slow evolution of the game. It was a game that was played back in the day, and the fact that it continues today, says a lot about the game and the reasoning behind each move made by players. When it comes to chess, every move is carefully thought-through, has a purpose and an apparent outcome in the game. One of the most beautiful things about the game of chess is that the path that plays out is one that is very similar to our own personal lives and society’s delineations. In other words, the basis and the principles we follow out in life are the very same principles that play out when someone’s competing in a game of chess.
There are both good and bad patterns to observe in a game of chess which makes one question the laws and hierarchies on which we base our very own existence in the world. One’s behavior is a huge giveaway, and oftentimes the lessons we learn in life play out through the game, giving the opponent a glimpse into our thought-process. In simple words, a game of chess can teach us a lot about ourselves, about others as well as the society we live in as we navigate the board by making use of different chess pieces.
The Queen’s Gambit -
When The Queen’s Gambit had premiered on Netflix in October 2020, none of us were prepared for what it would bring us as we binged on episodes one after the other. As per Netflix’s statistics of the show, the Queen’s Gambit is said to have garnered over 62 million viewers and was placed among the top 10 Netflix shows in over 90 countries, and ranked number 1 in 63 countries, including India. The show was a huge hit for the streaming giant Netflix and set a never-seen-before record for the most viewers ever for a limited-run series.
But, what’s all the fuss over Queen’s Gambit about?
The show revolves around a coming-of-age drama series that is set in the early 1950s. Originally based on a novel released in 1983 by author Walter Tevis, the series was adapted into a Netflix original, and was re-written as a screenplay and directed by Scott Frank who was accompanied by Allan Scott, the man who owns the rights to the book today.
The premise of the series revolves around Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), a prodigy at chess, who is on her way to the top of the ladder of the chess world while grappling with a budding dependency on alcohol and drugs. She goes through a lot of struggle, trials and tribulations that are lived through us as we watch the series unfold. There are multiple take-aways from the show and a lot of lessons to be learned if one has a keen eye for it. The show is very carefully and deliberately scripted with its delicate twists and turns.
The series received world-renown acclaim and won several awards owing to the talented cast of the movie, especially the remarkable performance of actress Anya Taylor-Joy. The movie was so well scripted that avid chess players and world-renown chess enthusiasts gave a positive response with several people who didn’t know the game going so far as to learn the logic behind the game.
Awards won -
The Queen’s Gambit won eleven Primetime Emmy Awards, as well as an award for the most Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series, making it the first ever show on Netflix to have won that award. Not just these, the show also won two Golden Globe Awards for the Best Limited Series or Television Film and Anya Taylor-Joy won the Best Actress - Miniseries or Television Film. Anya Taylor-Joy’s performance was so splendid that she went on to win the Screen Actors Guild Awards for the most Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie.
Spoiler Alert: The plot
The story unravels through the life of an orphaned girl called Elizabeth Harmon who hones her sharp skills with chess and is on the way to becoming a chess prodigy and the best chess player in the world. It shows the twists and turns her life takes as she gets sucked into the world of chess while her life simultaneously spirals out of control with drug and alcohol addictions. The story slowly unravels her mental state of mind and shows the struggles of life in the shoes of an orphan as well as reveals the true nature of the grass that seems greener on the other side.
The story begins in the middle of the 1950s in Lexington, Kentucky, and goes on till the 60s. Young Beth who is 8 years old has just lost her mother to a fatal car crash and finds her life shaken upside down when she’s suddenly taken to an orphanage. In the orphanage, her custodian and caretaker, a Mr. Shaibel finds talent in her and introduces her to her first ever game of chess. Around the same time, while her skill with the game was being honed, it was customary to give young girls tranquilizer pills, also called the green pill, to keep them in control by sedating them. Soon enough, the green pill turns to an addiction for young Beth, who is by now acing her skills with visualization - a must-have skill to be a good chess player.
Shortly after that, a few years down the lane, Beth is adopted by a couple in a suburban town, who aren’t able to have children of their own. Alma Wheatley and Allston Wheatley become her adoptive parents and Beth slowly starts to ease into her new life in her new family. Soon enough, Beth aces her first ever competitive chess tournament and though they were initially hesitant to encourage her chess playing skills, her parents soon become her strong supporters and even start to travel with her to various tournaments.
Beth is doing really well and is on her way to becoming the world’s best chess player. However, on the darker side, Beth is unable to rid herself off her addictions and thus begins a downward spiral. While her struggles on one end are on the rise, her passion for chess and her desire to win the biggest chess challenge in the world also increases and she takes help from one of her best friends Jolene to ace the challenge.
Lessons we learned from The Queen’s Gambit -
There are a lot of lessons to learn from the story of Beth, not just her natural affinity and talent for the game, but what it takes to be a world class player while touching upon the darkest waters of her personal life.
If you haven’t watched the show yet, we implore you to watch it as it is hands-down one of the best shows to have aired on Netflix in recent times. For those who aren’t yet convinced, we go a step further to explore six key life lessons that the show taught us and we all would, as humans, relate.
#1 - Family isn’t necessarily what you’re born into, it’s what you make
Many of the characters, especially Beth’s friends, come from orphaned backgrounds where their families either abandoned them or couldn’t survive due to other causes. Even though the girls are from an orphanage with caretakers, and even though Beth is adopted by parents, each character depicts a sense of brokenness when it comes to family. However, what Beth shows is that family is what you make. Like the bond she shares with Jolene and many of the other girls, other characters too find their family in each other.
#2 - Pedestals can be demeaning
Beth is very focussed and serious about her game. When she plays, there isn’t a moment where she forgets to be present in the game, and she is aware of that trait in herself. On the path to success, it’s easy to put people on a pedestal and strive toward perfection, however, to carve out one’s own path is a bold and rebellious thing to do. Beth puts her friend on a pedestal and goes so far as to call her a “guardian angel” but a beautiful conversation ensues which reminds us all that everyone is flawed and it isn’t worth the disappointment of putting people on a pedestal.
#3 - Watch out for patterns
Just as it is with a game of chess, life is a game of patterns that are constantly repeating in different sequences. Knowing and watching out for patterns helps us take advantage of the moment and puts ourselves back at the driver’s seat of our own life. There are many clear cut ways for success that have worked for years, so spot those patterns and ride on them. Similarly, there are clear cut patterns that point toward failure, so spot those patterns and work your way around them.
#4 - Silence is the best comeback
One of Beth’s strongest suits is her ability to stay silent in a game even when her competition taunts her. She remains focused and it is through her silence that the opponents feel intimidated and swerve for a fraction of a second, lending Beth the game. Every time we feel like we’re losing something, it’s our urge to come back with a retort or an answer rather than work in silence and let our silence speak.
#5 - Improv is key: It’s okay to deviate from plans
Everyone enters a game of chess with a vague plan in mind. However, it is imperative to know that things don’t always go according to plan, even in chess. At such times, it’s okay to let go of your plans and improvise in the moment and allow your creativity to shine forth. Following the books blindly can come at a cost. It is very important to use your own thinking and the mental skills you have already been endowed with rather than to go by the books where it becomes a case of the blind leading the blind. It’s okay to question and it’s okay to change your plan in between.
The key when it comes to our own lives as well as a game of chess is to stay focussed even when the roads and winds may change their course. It is important that we remember that our lives are in our hands, and every move we make has its own set of consequences. Spending time with our problems and having patience with ourselves and the larger scheme of things goes a long way in checkmating your opponent.
Stay Dressed For Chess!
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