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From a Pawn to a Queen

Posted 04/23/2021 by David Lopez-Vences

An intense chess match between Nicolas Chinea and David Lopez-Vences. photo courtesy of David Lopez-Vences

A new Netflix series all about chess reveals how amazing and interesting it can be.

Growing up, I always heard of chess but never got around to ever learning it. I was more of a checkers guy. The idea of each piece moving differently was intimidating. That takes a lot to calculate moving each piece and predicting your opponent’s moves at the same time. With the recent release of The Queen’s Gambit, a Netflix Original Series that follows the fictional character Elizabeth Harmon and her journey to becoming one of the greatest chess players, I have been able to motivate my stubborn self to finally pick up chess and realize how fun it can be. 

The Queen’s Gambit follows Elizabeth Harmon, also known as Beth, as she progresses through her own life and her chess life. Watching the show was pretty interesting and entertaining as it depicted chess as more than a board game. It made chess seem like an actual fight. With the dramatic camera angles and the intense music, I found myself wanting to be in the exact situation. The idea of trying to trick your opponent or even stopping your opponent’s attack just seemed awesome. As the show progressed and my knowledge of chess grew, I became invested in each move played. 

As Beth faced more challenging opponents, the intensity of each game grew. She was able to crush all of her opponents easily for most of her life. Winning tournaments helped pay for her and her adoptive mom’s needs. It was apparent that Beth put a lot of hard work toward her chess career, but she did use a little bit of a mysterious substance to help as well. Sadly, as she became more successful, she became more miserable as she believed she could only be amazing by using substances. This led to her having a really difficult time when she hit roadblocks in not being able to beat opponents. 

The show also helped my understanding of chess as a sport. Before I ever got into it, I never really considered chess to be all that exciting. I thought it was a game for old people who sit at the park, yet it is so much more than that. It takes a lot of effort and knowledge to really become a great player. As Beth became better and faced better opponents, losing was heart-wrenching to her and to watch. Losing in chess makes anyone feel not the smartest. When it is a game about deception and trickery, having an opponent outplay you is one of the worst feelings to sit with. The show does an amazing job depicting how hard advanced chess players are on themselves and how hard they work. 

The Queen’s Gambit did an amazing job at showing what chess is really about. It can be really fun and innocent, but the competitive side of it is purely remarkable. The amount of theory, practice, and execution that the best players put out deserves all the respect in the world. Grand Masters of the game, people considered the best of the best, make chess seem easy. They calculate hundreds of outcomes from one move and make sure they are always making the best move possible. In the show, games are dragged out for the dramatic effect, but in reality, these players make the best move in seconds. 

As of now, I have been learning chess bit by bit when I am in the mood, and it feels really good when you outplay someone. On the other hand, if you do not like losing I do not recommend it as it really hurts the soul getting checkmated. I definitely recommend watching The Queen’s Gambit if you ever want to learn more about chess or just watch an amazing story. Watching Beth’s progress in chess and her life is truly inspiring, as it helps connect the many struggles a person can go through in their lives.