The Queen’s Gambit is a 2020 American coming-of-age period drama streaming television miniseries based on the 1983 novel of the same name by Walter Tevis. The title refers to the “Queen’s Gambit”, a chess opening. The series was written and directed by Scott Frank, who created it with Allan Scott, who owns the rights to the book. Beginning in the mid-1950s and proceeding into the 1960s, the story follows the life of Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), a fictional American chess prodigy on her rise to the top of the chess world while struggling with drug and alcohol dependency.
Netflix released The Queen’s Gambit on October 23, 2020. After four weeks it had become Netflix’s most-watched scripted miniseries, making it Netflix’s top program in 63 countries. The series received critical acclaim, with particular praise for Taylor-Joy’s performance, the cinematography, and production values. It also received a positive response from the chess community for its accurate depictions of high-level chess, and data suggests that it increased public interest in the game.
The Queen’s Gambit won eleven Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series, becoming the first show on a streaming service to win the category. The series also won two Golden Globe Awards: Best Limited Series or Television Film and Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film for Taylor-Joy. She also won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie.
- Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon, an orphan who matures into a competitive young adult fueled by a desire to become the greatest chess player in the world while masking a growing addiction to the drugs and alcohol that allow her to function.
- Isla Johnston as nine-year-old Beth
- Annabeth Kelly as five-year-old Beth
- Bill Camp as Mr. William Shaibel, the custodian at the Methuen Home for Girls and an experienced chess player who teaches Beth how to play the game.
- Moses Ingram as Jolene, a rebellious teenager at the Methuen Home who becomes Beth’s closest childhood friend.
- Christiane Seidel as Helen Deardorff, director of Methuen Home for Girls.
- Rebecca Root as Miss Lonsdale, the chaplain and choir director at Methuen.
- Chloe Pirrie as Alice Harmon, Beth’s deceased mother (seen only in flashbacks) who earned a Ph.D. in mathematics at Cornell University before experiencing a downward spiral in her mental health.
- Akemnji Ndifornyen as Mr. Fergusson, the orderly at Methuen, who among other roles administers state-mandated pills to the girls.
- Marielle Heller as Alma Wheatley, who with her husband Allston adopts Beth as a young teenager and later acts as a manager for Beth’s chess career. Alma’s biological child died sometime before Beth’s adoption, and she develops a worsening alcoholism that begins to influence Beth.
- Harry Melling as Harry Beltik, Kentucky State Champion, whom Beth defeats in her first tournament and later befriends.
- Patrick Kennedy as Allston Wheatley, Alma’s husband and Beth’s estranged adoptive father.
- Jacob Fortune-Lloyd as D.L. Townes, a chess player and journalist who befriends Beth and with whom she is infatuated.
- Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Benny Watts, a brash young New Yorker who is the reigning United States Chess Champion, later Beth’s mentor, lover and friend.
- Marcin Dorociński as Vasily Borgov, Soviet World Champion and Beth’s biggest challenge.
On March 19, 2019, Netflix gave the production a series order consisting of six episodes. The series was written and directed by Scott Frank, who also created the series with Allan Scott. The two also served as executive producers alongside William Horberg. Allan Scott had been involved in attempts to get the book on screen since 1992, when he purchased the screenplay rights from Walter Tevis’s widow.
The series was released on October 23, 2020, with seven episodes instead of the original six-episode order.
October 23, 2020
- E01 – “Openings”
- E02 – “Exchanges”
- E03 – “Doubled Pawns”
- E04 – “Middle Game”
- E05 – “Fork”
- E06 – “Adjournment”
- E07 – “End Game”
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