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Why Netflix’s ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ Is Reigniting Our Interest In Chess

Here at The Regency Chess Company, we couldn’t help but notice a surge in demand for chess sets since the mini-series ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ debuted on Netflix.

As big fans of the series, we thought we’d investigate just what it is about the show that’s inspiring the world to learn the game – or dust off an old set.

It blasts away chess stereotypes

From the outside looking in, chess can seem rather stuffy. Enthusiastic players have had to live with the stereotypes of being nerdy and over-intellectual for decades – probably longer!

The Queen’s Gambit has shown the world what we’ve known all of our lives –  that chess can be enthralling.

For a start, the lead character, Beth, is not the type of person that comes to mind when you think, ‘competitive chess player’. She’s an orphan who battles personal demons and addiction to chase her dream of becoming the greatest player in the male-dominated world of chess.

The story might be fictional but the chess matches are real and captivating. Viewers get reeled in by the psychology of the game – the strategy and the thought processes that go into every move – proving that this ancient game can be fresh, fascinating, and dare we say it, sexy.

It accurately portrays chess mastery

If you’ve ever watched a sci-fi movie in the company of an engineer or scientist, then you’ll know how their criticism can destroy your perception of the film – “That would never happen in real life!” or, “That’s not how you do it” etc.

Fortunately, the writers of The Queen’s Gambit have worked extremely hard to include a high level of accuracy that would keep even the most hardened chess pro happily entertained.

And this didn’t happen by chance. Bruce Pandolfini, a revered chess coach and advisor on the 1993 chess classic Searching for Bobby Fischer, was brought in alongside the Russian grandmaster, Garry Kasparov, to ensure the chess scenes were 100% accurate.

Every chess move shown on screen was orchestrated by Pandolfini and Kasparov, before being committed to memory by the actors.

By Vlopresto – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44808714

“We had to create the chess positions first, and we started with a base of about 100. I think it mushroomed to close to 500 different chess positions by the end. That’s more than any other project that’s dealt with chess before.”

Bruce Pandolfini (pictured)


It’s doing wonders for women’s chess

If you asked a casual player to name a chess personality, they’d likely reel off the usual, Garry Kasparov, Bobby Fischer et al. but might be hard pushed to name a female player.

Chess has always been a male-dominated world – especially in the 1960s when the show is set – in fact, women weren’t even allowed to compete in the World Chess Championship until the 1980s.

By Stefan64 – Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4493949

Since the show aired, interest in female chess players, like Hungarian grandmaster Judit Polgár and her sister Susan Polgár, has skyrocketed as the game sheds it’s stuffy, male-orientated reputation. 

The female chess world is hoping the show will inspire a new generation of women to take up the game.


It’s come at a perfect time

Okay, maybe a pandemic is never a perfect time, but what better way to spend the extra time at home than by learning, or mastering, the legendary game of chess?

Yes, The Queen’s Gambit has sparked an interest in those who may have been otherwise entertained if circumstances were different. According to eBay UK, the retail store saw an astounding 273% boost in sales of chess sets in the first 10 days of the show’s release. 

We’re happy that people are finding solace and a worthwhile diversion in chess during these uncertain times.


It shows you that anyone can learn the game

Chess is one of the most accessible games on the planet – all you need are 32 chess pieces, a 64-square board, and a curious mind. Of course, to be a grandmaster, you’d have to dedicate every day to mastering the game – and throw in a little genius too.

But what the show effectively portrays is that at the heart of chess, is a simple-to-learn game that transcends age, gender, language, and even the threat of world war, to bring people and nations together for a game or two.


Are you ready to play now?

If you’ve been inspired by Netflix’s wonderful series, feel free to browse our collection of European-made chess sets. Whether you’re a beginner or an avid player, we have a set to suit every budget and taste – delivered to your door in 2-3 days.

The Regency Chess Company.
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