Ever since Queen’s Gambit dropped on Netflix on 23rd October this year, the show became a phenomenon. It quickly climbed the streaming service’s charts and created quite a stir on social media. If you haven’t watched it or know what the fuss is about, the show is about chess. This seven-episode limited drama series is based on the 1983 novel of the same name by Walter Tevis, a chess player himself. The story follows the life of Beth Harmon and her journey from an orphanage to chess championships, all while battling alcohol and drug addiction in the 1950s and 1960s. The title of the series is a nod to a move Beth learns in her journey as a chess player.
The success of the show can be credited to its creators, Scott Frank and Allan Scott. Successful as it may be, the show took nearly 30 years in the making. Allan Scott won the adaptation rights for the novel back in 1992. Astonishing to think, even late actor Heath Ledger was involved in this project. Allan Scott planned to create a feature-length film on the book to be directed by Heath Ledger. According to him, the late actor was drawn by the story, as he himself was a person subjecting to substance abuse. Therefore, they were about to start filming in 2008 but halted due to the actor’s sad demise on 22nd January 2008. Later, Scott Frank revived the project and planned to make a mini-series on it.
What is the story about?
The story of Queen’s Gambit starts off with an 8-year-old orphaned Elizabeth Harmon. After her mother dies in a car crash, she is sent to an orphanage that uses tranquilizers to make the children compliant. One day, she finds the custodian, Mr. Shabiel studying chess on his own. After multiple requests, he starts teaching her, and she soon gets better than him. She becomes obsessed with the game and quickly improves due to the focus she gained from the tranquilizers. Later, when the state passed a law to ban tranquilizers, she started stealing them and got addicted. Later in her teens, she is adopted by Alma and Allston Wheatley. After Allston leaves, Alma takes care of Beth. As time passed, she won multiple tournaments, gained recognition, and also became more stylish as a woman.
The story portrays her life confronting her emotional dilemmas, battling substance abuse, and her passion for winning at chess, especially against one; Vasily Borgov.
The Success of Queen’s Gambit
Anya Taylor-Joy can be created for the show’s success as the young star enchanted the audience with her dazzling performance. Netflix has given out some statistics regarding the show, and they are astounding, to say the least. The show was streamed by 62 million households in 28 days of its premiere, making it the biggest scripted limited series to date. It was in the top 10 charts in 92 countries and held the number one position in 63 countries. The novel became a New York Times Bestseller, 37 years after it was published.
The show has caught the imagination of viewers worldwide. It has spurred a resurgence in public interest around the game, and Toymakers were not able to keep up with demand in chess sets. Consequently, The sales skyrocketed from a measly 30% to 1280%. And also, Google searches for chess hit a 9-year peak.
All of this clearly is an indication of the show’s phenomenal success. The only con to the show is that it cannot go longer. Based on a book, the show was a limited mini-series, and therefore any additions to it would make it stray away from the source material. But, we can say that Queen’s Gambit has opened up a path for more limited series. And only time will tell what else will come forth following this success story.