62 million users watched ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ in the first 28 days after its premiere
It’s been something akin to revolutionary. The Netflix miniseries ‘The Queen’s Gambit’has entered the homes of millions of people around the world and even chess boards are selling like hot cakes, like never before. Chess, a world dominated by men, has broken the mold also attracting women in their droves, not used to dealing with knights and kings. The queen of chess, as she is already known, actress Anya Taylor–Joy, has turned chess into a social phenomenon. You just have to look at the figures: the sale of boards has multiplied by ten since the series was released. Some companies have even run out of stock for Christmas, as is the case of a Catalan company, from La Garriga, which has manufactured most of the boards that appear in production. Not only that. Since its premiere, the number of enrolled in chess schools has risen.
So, what’s all the fuss about? To begin with because it’s not just a chess series. The game is the excuse, but the plot goes much further. It all starts with a traffic accident. The protagonist loses her mother and is taken to an orphanage, where she discovers two worlds: chess and drugs. She is not a conventional girl. The classes bore her and she’s extremely curious to learn strategy in the basement, alongside the school janitor played by Bill Camp. And there the magic begins. Beth Harmon develops an amazing skill with the board, which takes her to the most prestigious international competitions in the world. Not without first taking a one-way ride on the roller coaster of addictions; among which is alcohol. What starts out with taking a few tranquilizers at school ends up creating an addiction hard to let go of. The perfect cocktail of alcohol with the pills become her principal source of inspiration.
If there’s one element above all that catches your eye in ‘The Queen’s Gambit’, it is the setting: the costumes, the locations … Each shot is a photograph to be framed. The series is set in the United States of the 50’s and 60’s. A society that is so far removed from our modern-day world, in terms of the style of dress as well as home deco… not to mention the thinking of the time. Women have to be correct, modest and polite, stay on the script, obey and be good housewives. The trailer already reveals that: “Men are going to come long and want to teach you things. Doesn’t make them any smarter. You just let them blow by, and you go on ahead and do just what the hell you feel like.” Well, that’s what Harmon does. She does what the hell she likes, studies like her life depended on it, drinks like a fish, and regularly meets up with these “so-called” men, as she primers herself to become the world’s best chess player. And in a man’s game, no one takes her seriously. A woman playing chess? For the love of God. At least, that’s the reaction until she starts knocking them out. One by one. And earns their respect.
‘The Queen’s Gambit’ – created by Scott Frank and Allan Scott – skips the chess fans, they’ve already been won over, and go straight for the general public. For example, the games featured in the series, as well as the movement of the pieces, were closely monitored by former world chess champion Garri Kasparov. Coach Bruce Pandolfini also provided consultancy on the show. Some even consider the protagonist the female version of Bobby Fisher. There are no technicalities, but the tension of a game is transferred to our sofas in our homes. Connoisseurs will pay greater attention to the opening and the position of the pieces on the board, in the conversations that the characters have to make the opponent fall, but this is not the essence of the story. That is why it is intended for everyone: because knowing that the queen’s gambit is a chess opening is not essential -for the general public- to understand and enjoy the story.
Based on the 1983 novel of the same name by Walter Tevis, if ‘The Queen’s Gambit‘ has reached an audience other than chess fans, it’s because it shows us the life of someone who pursues self-improvement, who challenges herself. She is passionate about what she does and works to be the best. This, together with the visual work, plot and magnetism of Anya Taylor Joy blend beautifully to make this one of the series of the year. It premiered on October 23 and, a month later, ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ became the most popular Netflix miniseries to date. 62 million users watched the production in the first 28 days after its premiere. In addition, it was positioned in the top 10 in 92 countries and was number 1 in 63. Even writer Stephen King was ahead of the posse in lauding its success: “This is the best series I’ve seen in 2020,” he acknowledged when he saw it. With the countdown for the end of the year already running, there’s a good chance that we end up proving him right.