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The Queen's Gambit is a critically acclaimed Netflix miniseries that took the world by storm upon its release in 2020. Based on the 1983 novel by Walter Tevis, the show follows the extraordinary journey of a young orphan named Beth Harmon, played by Anya Taylor-Joy. Set in the 1950s and 1960s, The Queen's Gambit explores the world of competitive chess and delves into Beth's complex personal and professional life.
Anya Taylor-Joy delivers a captivating performance as Beth Harmon, a prodigious chess prodigy with a troubled past. Beth is portrayed as an intelligent and fiercely determined young woman who battles personal demons while striving for greatness in the male-dominated world of chess. Taylor-Joy expertly captures the nuances of Beth's character, depicting her vulnerabilities, genius intellect, and the struggles she faces as she climbs the ranks in the chess world.
Our The Queen’s Gambit Facts include why the show was predominantly shot in Berlin, how close the series is to the original Walter Tevis novel and why the production was sued by one famous female chess player.
1. A Queen’s Gambit Is An Opening Move
The title of the series is derived from the "Queen's Gambit," which refers to a chess opening.
According to The Chess Website, the Queen's Gambit is renowned for its attacking prowess, making it one of the most popular openings in chess. Players who favour constant pressure on their opponents often employ this strategy.
2. It Is The Most Watched Scripted Miniseries On Netflix
Netflix released The Queen's Gambit on October 23, 2020. Within just four weeks, it became Netflix's most-watched scripted miniseries, dominating the streaming platform's viewership in 63 countries. The series received widespread acclaim from critics, particularly praising Anya Taylor-Joy's performance, the cinematography, and the production values. It also had positive feedback from the chess community for its accurate portrayal of high-level chess matches.
3. The Queen’s Gambit Won 11 Primetime Emmy Awards
The Queen's Gambit achieved significant recognition, winning a total of eleven Primetime Emmy Awards. Notably, it received the prestigious award for Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series, making it the first streaming service show to win in this category.
The series also secured two Golden Globe Awards, winning Best Limited Series or Television Film, as well as Best Actress - Miniseries or Television Film for Anya Taylor-Joy's exceptional performance. Taylor-Joy's portrayal also earned her the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie. The accolades bestowed upon The Queen's Gambit highlight its exceptional quality and the outstanding contributions of the cast and crew.
4. Allan Scott Had The Screenplay Rights Since 1992
Netflix greenlit the production of the series on March 19, 2019, commissioning a total of six episodes for its first season. Scott Frank, the series' writer and director, collaborated with Allan Scott in creating the show, and both of them also served as executive producers. William Horberg joined them as an executive producer as well. Allan Scott's involvement in bringing the book to the screen dates back to 1992 when he acquired the screenplay rights from Walter Tevis's widow.
5. The Queen’s Gambit Originally Meant To Have 6 Episodes
The series made its debut on 23rd October 2020, with an unexpected twist. It premiered with a total of seven episodes, exceeding the original order of six episodes.
6. Highly Regarded Chess Players Consulted With The Production
Renowned former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov and esteemed chess coach Bruce Pandolfini played pivotal roles as consultants during the production of the series.
Pandolfini's involvement dates back to 38 years prior to the publication of the novel, where he provided consultation to author Tevis and even contributed to the creation of the title "The Queen's Gambit."
Working alongside consultants John Paul Atkinson and Iepe Rubingh, Pandolfini devised a comprehensive collection of chess positions that would be integrated into various situations within the script.
Kasparov, on the other hand, played a key role in shaping crucial moments in the storyline. For instance, he enhanced a real-life 1998 game between grandmasters Arshak Petrosian and Vladimir Akopian to showcase Beth's extraordinary skill.
A 1993 game between Vasyl Ivanchuk and Patrick Wolff served as the foundation for the decisive game featured in the series' final episode. With the expertise of Kasparov, Pandolfini, Atkinson, and Rubingh, the series achieved an authentic and captivating portrayal of the chess world.
7. Most Supporting Actors Were British Due To Shooting In Berlin
In conjunction with the announcement of the series order, it was revealed that Anya Taylor-Joy had been selected to portray the lead character. As production progressed, additional casting news emerged, including the inclusion of Moses Ingram, who joined the cast in January 2020. The anticipation surrounding the miniseries grew as the premiere date approached, and it was announced that Bill Camp, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Harry Melling, and Marielle Heller had secured prominent roles within the series. Due to the primary filming location being Berlin, the supporting roles were primarily filled by British and German actors, contributing to the diverse ensemble.
8. Berlin Was Chosen Due To Look 1950s & 1960s
The series' production designer, Uli Hanisch, skillfully crafted sets that captured the essence of the 1950s and 1960s. To achieve this, a significant portion of the filming took place in Berlin, as the city provided versatile interiors that could convincingly portray various locations featured in the show, such as Las Vegas, Cincinnati, Mexico City, Moscow, and Paris. Locations within and near Berlin were carefully selected to bring these settings to life.
Some locations used across Berlin in the Queen’s Gambit include: The Kino International, The Berlin Zoo, a vintage clothing store Humana, Schloss Schulzendorf, the Rathaus Spandau, the Meistersaal in Kreuzberg and The Protestant University of Applied Sciences.
9. Minimal Scenes Were Filmed In Canada
Some scenes were filmed in Canada, with principal photography commencing in August 2019 in Cambridge, Ontario.Including the Harmon family home was a house located on Brant Road in Cambridge. St. Andrew's College in Aurora, Ontario, provided the exterior for the Ohio Championship facility.
10. The Queen’s Gambit Was Originally Meant To Have A Piano Based Score
The musical score of the series was masterfully composed by Carlos Rafael Rivera. Initially, Scott Frank had envisioned a piano-based score, but after collaborating with Rivera, they decided to embrace a full orchestral arrangement to enhance the instrumental depth and colour of the music.
11. Flutes Were Used For A Specific Reason In The Score
Rivera also took into account executive producer William Horberg's fondness for the flute, incorporating prominent flute sections into the orchestral pieces.
Scoring for the chess scenes posed a unique challenge for Rivera, as he was aware that the music would play a significant role in setting the tone. To reflect Beth's personal and chess-related growth, Rivera gradually introduced additional instrumentation over time, symbolising her evolution as both a person and a skilled chess player.
12. In The First Month, 62 Million Households Watched The Queen’s Gambit
Upon its release in October 2020, The Queen's Gambit quickly gained immense popularity and became the most-watched show on Netflix in the United States. On November 23, 2020, Netflix announced that the series had been viewed by an astonishing 62 million households since its debut, making it the largest scripted limited series on the platform to date.
The Queen's Gambit dominated Nielsen's U.S. streaming rankings for three consecutive weeks, from October 26 to November 15, 2020, becoming the first series to achieve this feat.
13. The Queen’s Gambit Has An Approval Rating Of 96%
According to Rotten Tomatoes, The Queen's Gambit has a remarkable approval rating of 96% based on 105 reviews, with an average rating of 7.9/10. The critics' consensus on the website describes the series as “a compelling triumph”.
14. Big Names In The Chess Community Have Praised The Show’s Accuracy
Grandmaster Jennifer Shahade, in an interview with Vanity Fair, lauded the series for its accurate depiction of the game, stating that it "completely nailed the chess accuracy."
British chess champion David Howell, in an article for The Times, commended the well-choreographed and realistic chess scenes.
While British Women's chess champion Jovanka Houska described the TV series as fantastic, effectively conveying the emotional aspects of chess.
15. Some Chess Stars Believed The Show Made The Men Too Nice
Judit Polgár, the first woman to play for a world championship title, felt that the male players in the series were depicted as "too nice," and chess streamer Andrea Botez believed that the show "toned down" the sexism prevalent in the chess world.
16. A World Champion Chess Player Sued The Queen’s Gambit
In the final episode of the miniseries, a mention is made that the women's world champion Nona Gaprindashvili had "never faced men," which contradicts the reality as Gaprindashvili had indeed played against male opponents, including top-level grandmasters. Gaprindashvili expressed her disappointment with the misinformation being spread about her achievements, considering it to be dishonouring.
Gaprindashvili filed a defamation lawsuit against Netflix in September 2021, seeking $5 million in damages. She also demanded the removal of the line that falsely claimed she had never competed against male players. The lawsuit concluded in September 2022 with a settlement reached between Gaprindashvili and Netflix, the terms of which were not disclosed.
17. The Queen’s Gambit Boosted Interest In Chess Internationally
In November 2020, The Washington Post highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic had already sparked an increase in the public's interest in chess, but The Queen's Gambit took it to a whole new level. The New York Times drew parallels between the surge of interest in chess and the "chess mania" that followed Bobby Fischer's victory over Boris Spassky in 1972, noting a similar phenomenon occurring again.
The release of the series had a significant impact on the sales of chess sets, with U.S. company Goliath Games reporting a surge of over a thousand percent in their chess set sales.
18. There Could Be A Stage Musical Version Of The Queen’s Gambit
In early 2021, inspired by the overwhelming success of the series, the theatrical rights to Walter Tevis' novel were acquired with the aim of bringing The Queen's Gambit to the stage as a musical.
19. The Queen’s Gambit And The Crown Were Showcased In A Exhibition
In a unique collaboration, costumes from both The Queen's Gambit and another acclaimed Netflix production, The Crown, were showcased in a virtual exhibition called "The Queen and the Crown" at the Brooklyn Museum. This exhibition allowed audiences to immerse themselves in the rich world of these captivating shows and appreciate the artistry behind their remarkable costumes.
20. This Is Not The First Time Tevis’ Novel Was Adapted For The Screen
Prior to the release of the highly successful 2020 Netflix miniseries, several attempts had been made to adapt Walter Tevis's book, but unfortunately, they were unsuccessful. In 1983, Jesse Kornbluth, a journalist from The New York Times, obtained the screenplay rights. However, the project came to a halt when Tevis passed away in 1984.
Another attempt was made in 1992 when Scottish screenwriter Allan Scott acquired the rights from Tevis's widow. He crafted a script for an art house film, with directors Michael Apted and Bernardo Bertolucci showing interest at different stages. Unfortunately, the project faced financial challenges and couldn't move forward.
21. The Queen’s Gambit Nearly Starred Heath Ledger And Elliot Page
In 2007, Scott collaborated with Heath Ledger, who had plans to make his directorial debut with the story, and envisioned actor Elliot Page as the star. However, Ledger's tragic death in January 2008 halted the project. Despite these setbacks, Scott went on to co-create and co-executive produce the 2020 Netflix series.
22. There Are A Few Differences Between The Novel And The Series
In the novel, the circumstances surrounding Beth's mother's death are different. Beth is at home when her mother dies in a pile-up and is informed by an anonymous woman with a clipboard. There is no suggestion of suicide, and little background information is provided about her parents. Her father passed away a year earlier, and her memories of him are scarce, implying that he may have been an alcoholic.
However, in the series, Beth's mother is portrayed as a brilliant but troubled mathematician and appears frequently in flashbacks. Additionally, her estranged father is still alive, adding a new dynamic to the story.
23. The Mini Series Omitted A Sexual Assault
The series omits Jolene's sexual assault of Beth at the orphanage, a significant event in the novel.
24. Cleo Is Not Present In The Novel Version
Cleo, a character not present in the novel, plays a significant role in the series. She leads Beth on a drunken escapade during a major tournament, which becomes an important plot point.
In the novel, an attractive young woman named Jenny Baynes briefly visits Beth at Benny's apartment along with chess players Levertov and Wexler but does not have a further impact on the plot.
25. Anya Taylor Joy Filmed Some Of The Speed Chess Scenes In One Take
Anya Taylor-Joy showcased her chess skills by performing the speed chess games in a single take, although some moves had to be repeated for additional coverage.
26. The Novel Re-entered The New York Time Best Sellers
Thanks to the success of the show, "The Queen's Gambit" novel re-entered The New York Times bestseller list 37 years after its original release.
27. Anya Taylor-Joy Collaborated On The Costume Design
Anya Taylor-Joy, collaborated closely with costume designer Gabriele Binder to develop Beth's distinctive style. Approximately 80% of Beth's period costumes were custom-made, with significant input from Anya. Their collaboration was so successful that Anya was allowed to keep Beth's wardrobe, although the clothes are temporarily displayed in a museum in Brooklyn due to the show's popularity.
28. There Is A Reason There Is Not Explicit Nudity In The Queen’s Gambit
When questioned about the absence of explicit nudity in the sex scenes, Anya Taylor-Joy explained, "With Beth, it's not that [explicit nudity] would detract from the story, it just wouldn't add anything. You're on this journey with her, and the journey is with her mind. There's not anything physical about it, apart from the abuse that she subjects her body to through substances."
29. Google Searches For Chess Have Increased Due To The Show
The show's success had a significant impact on Google search queries, with searches for chess doubling and "how to play chess" reaching a nine-year peak.
30. The Ceiling Chess Scenes Were Based On Real Games
The captivating scenes of Beth's imaginary moving chess pieces on her bedroom ceiling were brought to life by VFX supervisor John Mangia and VFX producer Arissa Blasingame, despite their limited knowledge of chess prior to joining the production.
Mangia and Blasingame contributed over 700 shots for the series, including a virtual representation of a 1960s Las Vegas building. LIDAR scanning technology was utilised for the ceiling sequences to ensure accurate 3D measurements of the rooms and environments. Each mental move depicted by Beth was based on actual chess moves.
31. Anya Taylor-Joy Credits Harry Potter For Her Career
Anya Taylor-Joy revealed that "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" (2002) was the first film she watched in a cinema after moving to England. Despite not yet speaking English at the time, the experience was transformative. During the Basilisk scenes, her mother shielded her eyes with her hand. However, Anya managed to peek through her mother's fingers, and this glimpse ignited her love for cinema. It is worth noting that Harry Melling, who played Harry Beltik in "The Queen's Gambit," portrayed Dudley Dursley in the same film.
32. Beth Harmon Is Younger In The Novel
The series portrays Beth Harmon as winning her first tournament at the age of fifteen, but in Walter Tevis' original novel, she was a child prodigy and triumphed in the Kentucky State Chess Championship at the tender age of twelve.
33. Chloe Pirrie And Anya Taylor-Joy Have Worked Together Before
Chloe Pirrie, who portrays Alice Harmon (Beth's mother) in the series, previously played Anya Taylor-Joy's older sister in the film adaptation of "Emma" (2020).
34. The Robe Is The Film Playing In Episode One
In the closing moments of the first episode, the movie shown in class is "The Robe" from 1953.
35. This Isn’t Scott Frank’s Only Netflix Series
Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Matthew Dennis Lewis, Russell Dennis Lewis, and Christiane Seidel all had roles in another Netflix limited series called "Godless" (2017), which was also written and directed by Scott Frank.
Thanks for reading "35 The Queen's Gambit Facts Every Beth Harmon Fan Needs To Know" on January Media.