The Queen’s Gambit Challenges Idea That Chess Is A ‘Man’s Game’
Thanks to the acclaimed success of Netflix's new limited episodic series, The Queen's Gambit, the game of chess has been receiving a resurgence in popularity. Game companies have been reporting shocking sales increases for chess sets since the show's release.
When's the last time you played a game of chess?
I recall playing last in 2012 while staying at a bed & breakfast outside of Seattle, Washington. Something about the cloudy skies and the beautiful room in which I found myself made for a lovely setting to give it a go. Plus, the chess set itself was so exquisitely beautiful, I would've felt compelled to play, even if I didn't know how.
Thankfully, I received some basic understanding of the game in third grade, where I'd managed to be put into an honors math class. How, I'm sure I don't know--but there I was. After tests or quizzes, the first ones finished were allowed to head to the back of the room to play board games. Although there were many from which to choose, chess was always the most popular.
Most of the time, it was the "smart boys" in the class who excitedly got there first. I rarely was one of the first ones finished with my work. A few times, though, I was. One of the "smart boys," Austin, was a friend of mine and would happily boot a regular opponent so I could join in.
Thanks to him, I received training in the basics of chess, and although I was never a 'Beth Harmon,' the main character in The Queen's Gambit, I managed to learn a few strategies from Austin. (At least enough to make me an interesting-ish opponent.) I enjoyed it, but I've never felt particularly passionate about it.
Plus, like many girls my age at that time, chess was seen a game for the "smart boys" who turned into "smart men." At least in my mind, that was the way it was. Which may be the same reason I didn't feel I belonged in that honors math class. (But that's another story. :))
Do I see chess as a man's game? Sure, I do. But it's a woman's game, too.
This show does challenge the notion that chess is primarily a man's game, but I don't find it necessarily polarizing. This is story about a woman's life journey. A woman who happens to be particularly gifted. It shows her struggles to learn and improve and battle her own demons along the way. (By the way, the set, the clothes, the characters, and the story are magnificent.)
My friend Sonia described it as a "love story in so many ways." Though, perhaps outside of the traditional romantic narrative. It's a love story between her and her mother. It tells the story of how she made family out of friends. And yes, how despite the preconceived notions, especially then, that chess was primarily a man's game--which she proves to be untrue.
The main character Beth Harmon, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, definitely delves head-first into the hard work of learning all of the rules, approaches, strategies she get her eyes on. I would suggest, though, that one of the reasons she was so successful is because she tapped into an inner "knowing" and trusted her own intuition at times.
Chess has been called the game of kings. And henceforth, it may be called the game of queens, too. Watch it--it's extraordinary. Whether you're a woman, or a man. ;)
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