Netflix breaks audience records and high reviews from reviewers add to the viewers’ satisfaction. A seven-part series about a fictional talented chess player was seen by 62 million users of this streaming platform worldwide in the four weeks since its premiere.
Thus, the miniseries became one of the most significant aspects of television production this year, thanks to the fact that it managed to turn the game of chess into an exciting, dramatic and appealing adventure for the viewer, full of emotions and twists. Opposite this, we see the personal ups and downs of the charming chess player Beth Harmon, who has to deal with her demons on the way to the top.
Gary Kasparov oversaw the credibility of the submission
Her story is based on the 1983 book of the same name by the writer Walter Tevis. Thevis rose to fame as the author of science fiction novels and short stories, the title of “The Man Who Fallen to Earth” was made into a film starring David Bowie.
There are also well-known film adaptations of his novels from the billiards environment in which he worked, namely Gambler with Paul Manuman and The Color of Money, which he followed after twenty-five years and won an Oscar for Manuman. Tevis was also an avid chess player and dedicated his female gambit to chess grandmasters Bobby Fischer, Boris Spasky and Anatoly Karpov, whose chess games he was inspired to create in the novel.
Since its inception, Tevis has collaborated with Russian grandmaster Garry Kasparov and chess coach Bruce Pandolfini, who have become consultants and series, ensuring that individual games are based on real games and correspond to reality.
And so, although Beth Harmon’s character is fictional, she resembles not only her game, but also the personality traits of Bobby Fisher, her main Soviet rival, Borg, and Boris Spassky. And here are mentioned real chess players like Reshevski, Ajecin or Kapablanka as those from whom their successors learn.
The name of the master and the miniseries refers to one of the possible beginnings of chess, as well as the names of its individual episodes, which are named according to the stages of the chess game or tactics. In seven episodes, set in the 50s and 60s of the last century, we follow the story of the first girl and then a young woman, Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-oyoy), who at the age of nine after the tragic death of her mother , is housed in a Dickens Orphanage for Girls.
Here, thanks to the local building manager, Mr. Scheibel (Bill Camp), he discovers the game of chess and his unprecedented talent for it. For its development, it serves not only classes in the basement, but also sedatives served in the orphanage, the excessive consumption of which allows him to play or visualize in the head individual moves, which are shown as CCI figures projected on the ceiling .
Later, as a teenager, she was adopted by the Whitley couple, attends high school in Lexington, Kentucky, and has no previous chess experience, winning a chess tournament to win. And gradually another, when her adoptive mother Alma (Mariela Heller), who has since left her husband, learned that tournaments could feed them. She becomes her agent, accompanying her on trips in which Beth first becomes a national champion and then moves to an international position.
Overcoming your own demons
The story is largely predictable, with some of the characters schematically portraying themselves as a black friend from an orphanage who lends a helping hand to Beth in the final episode, or an unfortunate drug and alcohol-dependent adoptive parent who exchanges her musical talent for her life. suburban mistubovnica.
The narrative has a linear character, with occasional retrospectives of the heroine’s childhood that illuminate, after which she inherited mathematical talent and a penchant for using medicine. It is introduced with a prologue from a chess tournament in Paris, which indicates not only who will be his main rival in chess, but also that Beth will be mainly himself in his personal life.
And the whole story is that while her moves on the chessboard are strategic and careful, her actions in practical life are often impulsive and even self-destructive, which is then reflected in the way she plays. Her inner mood and level of self-discipline are reflected in whether she is able to overcome her demons and thus win.
It is her emotional intelligence and uncontrollable inner ego that often irritate her legs in a duel with a mathematical mind capable of combinatorial forward movement. The story of her growth is not so much emancipatory as it is political. Although Beth enters the male world of chess, he is not hostile to her. At first she may be contemptuous, but as she gradually gains respect for her talent, her male colleagues show her professional respect. This is confirmed by the very conclusion, when her former male rivals, some of whom became her coaches and lovers, collectively advised her from a distance how to succeed in the fight with Borgov (Marcin Doroczynski).
The seventh episode in Moscow differs from that collective character of the previous six, in which we followed the individual journey of the heroine to the top, so typical of the fulfillment of the American dream. Chess is presented here as a collective sport, practiced on the streets of Moscow at chess tables and on a professional basis in tactical thinking teams. At the same time, chess is becoming a means of overcoming barriers in the Cold War era on a human level, while remaining ideological and political.
The heroine’s journey into adolescence, fraught with problems with the use of pills and alcohol, is also a journey of gaining self-confidence and self-confidence in what he wants to pursue professionally. This gradually gained confidence is reflected not only in the management of chess games, the relationship with men, but also in the way of dressing.
The design of the period is tight, whether it is elegant costumes that reflect her transformation into a woman, aware of her rewards, pastel colors on the walls of the walls of the homes or stylish hotel equipment, where she spends time studying the moves of tournaments. In the same way, the music, whether instrumental, related to the emotions of the main heroine, or a song with the hits of that time, completes the very successful retro stylization of this miniseries.
Its creators, screenwriter and director Scott Frank, along with co-writer Alan Scott, took care to make the narrative, which is tempting to repeat certain situations and motifs, stylistically special. Work with a scale in the color of the picture, reflecting the transition between individual environments, the props for the period and how the game of chess is occupied and in which spaces it is placed.
The change in the status of the main character can be expressed on her way from the basement of the orphanage to the World Champion in Moscow, which created a dignified condition for this competition in terms of its location, which indicates the status of chess culture in Russia.
When you watch the game, the camera uses visas, quick shots, collages, gaps and although there are several chess games in seven episodes, each one looks unique and there is no sense of monotony when watching them. Once we watch the whole game, another time it is enough to describe it to someone or get a picture of its course from the faces and facial expressions of their protagonists.
Anya Taylor oyoj magnetizes the eyes
The non-verbal communication of the players becomes a clear guide on how the game works and what the result will be. Anya Taylor oy oy’s big eyes are also very useful in this regard. The unexplored twenty-four-year-old actress in the series literally magnetizes the audience with her face and eyes and allows them to adapt and participate in what her character is going through.
Beth, whose life revolves only around chess because she feels safer in their world than in the real world around her, must learn to find a balance between the two worlds so that her ingenious gaming talent does not become a curse in her personal life.
Similarly, the creators of this mini-series move between two worlds of challenging and complicated chess games and its performances that viewers can digest, giving us the feeling that we have a chance to understand it. They work with a predictable pattern of storytelling on the path to maturity, go hand in hand with the professional, on whom we have to deal with the traumas and demons that weigh on us and prevent us from flying. However, a certain scheme is not harmful here, because it works emotionally, as well as this “game of kings” approached to a wide audience from a female perspective.
- Reanr: drama
- Original name: The Gambit of the Queen
- USA, 2020
- Scenario: Scott Frank, Alan Scott (led by Walter Tevis)
- Directed by: Scott Frank
- Starring: Anya Taylor-oyoy, Harry Melling, Moses Ingram, Bill Camp, Thomas Brody-Sangster, Chloe Peary, Mariel Heller, Inanina Elkin, Obeycob Fortun-Lloyd, Marcin Dorochinski
- Distribution: Netflix
- Distribution premiere in the Czech Republic: 23. 10. 2020