If you’d have told me a month ago I’d be spending my lockdown staying up late every night with my boyfriend playing computerised chess, I’d have laughed in your face. But then Netflix’s latest drama, The Queen’s Gambit came onto the scene and threw my lockdown off course.
And it seems I’m not the only one who’s been thrusted into a chess frenzy. News broke yesterday that The Queen’s Gambit is Netflix’s biggest scripted limited series ever. Like ever ever. In its first 28 days of release, the show starring Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon has been projected onto 62million households TV screens. And this also means that chess sales have gone through the roof, quite literally.
US games store, Goliath Games, has seen sales increase by more than 1,000 percent, which just seems astounding and online stores here in the UK have also seen a huge surge in popularity since Netflix’s hot show came onto the scene.
If you’re yet to embark on your checkerboard adventure, The Queen’s Gambit is based on the American novel by Walter Tevis, and follows a young girl, Beth Harmon, who is sent to an orphanage following the death of her mother. It’s here she embarks on her chess journey, when she starts playing chess with the custodian (essentially the orphanage’s caretaker or keeper) in the basement. It quickly becomes clear that her talent for chess is near impossible to falter.
A few years pass and she is adopted by a married couple, and it’s here she begins joining chess tournaments and gaining recognition for her talent. With her adoptive mother, played by Marielle Heller (Director of The Diary of a Teenager – great film if you haven’t seen it), in tow, Beth begins travelling around the country, staying at fancy hotels and dining luxuriously, for tournaments in the hope of one day becoming a Chess Master aka the highest ranking player you can be in the world of chess.
The beautifully filmed, directed and portrayed show is breathtaking, and although equally as bingable as Netflix’s usual troped shows, it’s got an extra oomph that raises it above the rest. Maybe it’s Anya Taylor-Joy’s intoxicating performance, or the fact she proceeds to break down the male-dominated barriers within the chess community, either way I’m one of the 62million households who became gripped with every move. Silently cheering her on from the sidelines, well sofa.
If, like me, you’ve spent the days concluding playing games online or dusting off that old chessboard in the back of your cupboard to battle it out with your household, you might want to switch it up and explore the chess realm in the real world. Well, real online world, at least until lockdown restrictions loosen.
For those wanting to take their newfound obsession up a notch should definitely check out Casual Chess, the free online platform for women, taught by women.
The platform originally started out as a Central London cafe run by female chess players, who gather for weekly sessions. A place where everyone can feel comfortable, perfect their skills and rival their way to the top spot. But right now thanks to COVID-19, they’ve switched up to online lesions and social chess for women. The weekly lessons are kept simple, empowering and welcome newcomers to the competitive game.
Casual Chess is perfect for those wanting a space to excel in a commonly male dominated arena. Beth would definitely approve.
For those wanting to up the ante even more, they organise paid structured, six-week courses for women who already know how to play, but want to improve. Their next session starts on Monday, 30th November so book your spot pronto. You can join the online platform’s Facebook group, here too. Perfect for those wanting a space to excel in a commonly male dominated arena. Beth would definitely approve.
A mention of Battersea’s Chess Club had to be included. Mainly down to the fact it’s London’s oldest running chess super-club, dating back to 1855, but also because their games are perfect for those highly competitive individuals out there. Meet Up’s array of chess clubs and tournaments is also really handy for those looking for places to start out.
If you’re like me and you’re just starting out, here are a few chess boards perfect for amateurs. A mix of high end and more affordable numbers, perfect for those who want to dip their toes into the trend but aren’t so sure the craze is going to stick around past the New Year.