A chess series worth watching.

Image © Copyright Netflix. Utilized under fair usage copyright laws.


Add my name to the growing list of patzers recommending Netflix's recent limited series, The Queen's Gambit.

The Netflix series is based on the novel of the same name by Walter Tevis published in 1983. It is a powerful story told in only 243 pages and is available in both printed and audiobook format.

(Quick note for fellow audiobook lovers: If you purchase the audiobook online, be careful; there at least 5 other audiobooks of the same title by other authors so be sure you get Tevis' book!)

Chess productions are commonly criticized, perhaps rightfully so, for rehashing a familiar plot over and over: a misfit kid has a talent for chess and the game changes his life.

Okay, I admit... we have that plot again. But isn't that the common plot for most movies? Misfit kid learns to play baseball... misfit kid finds a magic ring from Mordor... misfit kid finds a lightsaber and... I digress.

I'm fine with authors using familiar plot devices, as long as they add enough originality to the work and interesting characters to make their story unique. Thankfully this Netflix series accomplishes just that.

The story takes place during the time of the Cold War, around the time that Bobby Fischer would have been competing. One could argue that the story is a "what if" story; as in, what if Bobby Fischer had been female (Bobbie Fischer?).

Image © Copyright Netflix. Utilized under fair usage copyright laws.

I personally dig period pieces, and Netflix nailed the 50s and 60s here. The scenery is spectacular and some of the cinematography is astounding; with my personal favorite being when she is imagining the chessboard in her head.

(Note: As a patzer, when I try to imagine a chessboard in my head, it is usually missing a few squares and some of the pieces are actually from Monopoly... I know some of you feel my pain.)

I think perhaps the best description of the series comes from the New York Times journalist Alexis Soloski who described this show as "the thinking woman's Rocky." This is a spot-on analogy.

Are chess enthusiasts going to enjoy it? Absolutely. Both Garry Kasparov and Bruce Pandolfini were advisers on the production. They taught the actors how to move the pieces and how to hit their clocks appropriately. They even made sure that all the games they are playing are real games; unlike some movies that use footage out-of-sequence so the board looks completely different when the camera angle changes.

In sum, I was hooked on this series. It is definitely worth a binge-watch.

It is only seven episodes, so this is all where are going to get. Supposedly.

The show's creator, Scott Frank, has confirmed there will be no second season. But there are plenty of other limited series releases that were based on novels that ultimately succumbed to the demand to produce additional works beyond the original work.

So time will tell... but I'm not holding my breath.

If you have had a chance to watch it, please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Here's the trailer: