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US Netflix's chess drama 'The Queen's Gambit' has a refreshingly hopeful endgame

03:55  24 october  2020
03:55  24 october  2020 Source:   nbcnews.com

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Everything I read about the making of The Queen ’ s Gambit , a new Netflix drama streaming from today about a female chess prodigy, raved about the accuracy of the chess scenes. Garry Kasparov was a consultant on the series. Bruce Pandolfini, celebrated chess coach, mapped out the moves.

Netflix's new chess champion mini-series “The Queen's Gambit” is a classic Cold War beat-the-Russians sports story. It follows the usual narrative, in which a precocious, mercurial U.S. individualist challenges the bureaucratic Soviet Union hive mind. But it also questions those tropes and American exceptionalism in general.

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Ultimately, it’s a story about learning from, rather than defeating, one another. The pieces on its board move toward a hopeful, collaborative endgame, which isn't quite convincing in our current moment but is welcome nonetheless.

Based on the 1983 novel by Walter Tevis, "Queen's Gambit" tells the story of Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), a young girl whose mother dies in a car crash when she is 8 years old. Placed in an orphanage, she discovers the janitor playing chess in the basement and under his reluctant — and later, astounded — tutelage, reveals herself to be a prodigy. She also, less happily, becomes addicted to the tranquilizers the home uses to keep the children docile.

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The chess world never saw her coming — but every move toward glory draws her closer to the edge. TV Programmes Based on Books,Social Issue TV Dramas , Drama Programmes,US TV Programmes.

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After she is adopted by Alma Wheatley (Marielle Heller), Beth begins to enter tournaments and becomes nationally and internationally famous for her intuitive play and blazing attacks. Her victories eventually gain her entry to competitions in Paris and Moscow, though alcoholism threatens to derail her career.

Taylor-Joy does a fine job of portraying Beth's shyness, insecurity and preternatural self-containment — she's awkward both because she's uncertain of herself and because she's almost impossibly sure of her passion and skill. Beth speaks like she plays chess: in sharp, incisive bursts designed to sweep her opponents from the board. She's a cold, isolated genius who does her best chess preparation alone in bed, imagining a chess board on the ceiling, moving the pieces with her mind through infinite combinations until she finds that path to victory.

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The chess world never saw her coming — but every move toward glory draws her closer to the edge. Netflix uses cookies for personalization, to customize its online advertisements, and Netflix supports the Digital Advertising Alliance principles. By interacting with this site, you agree to our use

The chess world never saw her coming — but every move toward glory draws her closer to the edge. The Queen ' s Gambit . TV Shows Based on Books.

The Soviets' national chess strategy is a stark contrast to Beth's individual interiority. The Russians work as a team, Beth learns. Teammates go over games together — with state support. National U.S. tournaments are held in drab college auditoriums, with little fanfare or interest. In Russia, Beth is told with some wonder, they pay people to pay chess.

It would be easy for the series to present Russia's collectivist approach as unfair or unsporting, in comparison with a purer American self-reliance. But "Queen's Gambit" is bracingly uninterested in boilerplate anti-Communism. The Christian orphanage, with its moralistic punishments and hypocritical drugs, is as blankly, institutionally oppressive as anything we see in Russia. In part because of her miserable experiences in the home, Beth refuses to denounce Marxist atheism at the behest of her charitable benefactors. By the same token, the show refuses to denounce the Soviets' collective tactics.

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  The Queen's Gambit creator on 'bringing sexy back to chess' and the series' long journey to TV 'The Queen's Gambit' writer-director Scott Frank talks about bringing the Netflix series to the screen after years of trying. “The very first script I ever wrote was [the 1991 film] Little Man Tate, and originally I wanted it to be about the cost of genius, and I didn't quite get there with it,” says Frank, who also penned such films as Out of Sight and Minority Report, and wrote and directed every episode of The Queen’s Gambit. “I was too young, and I didn't quite understand what I was writing about. And when I read [The Queen’s Gambit] I thought, ‘This is a much better way to tell that story.

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The chess world never saw her coming — but every move toward glory draws her closer to the edge. The Queen ' s Gambit . TV Dramas . In a 1950 s orphanage, a young girl reveals an astonishing talent for chess and begins an unlikely journey to stardom while grappling with addiction.

Instead, the series presents Beth's isolation as a weakness that she needs to overcome and Soviet bureaucratic book chess as a skill she needs to assimilate. Two of the American opponents she defeats offer to help train her. Though she's spiky and resentful at first, she ultimately gains a lot from those relationships, as she's forced to memorize endgame strategies and go over every game world champion Vasily Borgov (Marcin Dorocinski) has ever played. Nor is it just chess where friendship is valuable: When Beth falls into the bottle, she needs an old companion from the orphanage, Jolene (Moses Ingram), to help her crawl out.

Learning to compete with the Russians means learning to play like the Russians, which means learning to work together like the Russians. It makes sense, then, that Russia, for Beth, ends up not as a bleak antagonist, but as a home away from home, which embraces her and she embraces back. The relationship with one's opponent across the chessboard is rivalry, but it's also a kind of love.

Chess is a game you play to win, and Beth loves to win with a fierce passion superseded only by her hatred of losing. But chess is also an art, or a kind of music you make together. Viewed across the chessboard, Russia isn't an implacable rival, but a worthy opponent and a country where the game Beth loves is loved as it should be.

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Obviously the Soviet Union was a miserable place in many respects — when he travels in the U.S., Russian champion Borgov has to be accompanied by KGB men who are there in part to make sure he doesn't defect. "Queen's Gambit" isn't meant as a concrete game plan for fixing United States-Russia relations. But it does express a faith that competition can lead to learning and respect, rather than extermination.

Now that the Cold War is over and we're facing somewhat different problems, even the tentative superpower reconciliation presented in "Queen's Gambit" feels a little like a solution to someone else's chess problem — elegant, pleasing, but not precisely relevant. The endgame the narrative is trying to win never developed that way, and the current high-level gambits between the U.S. and Russia have not been universally successful. Still, the moves in "Queen's Gambit" are lovely in themselves, like a combination Beth played through on her ceiling with brilliance, skill and grace, but which never made it to the board.

From this age on people don't get any more intelligent - say researchers .
It would take a lot of time to look at all the chess games that an international research team has just evaluated for a new study. The scientists analyzed 24,000 professional games, consisting of around 1.6 million moves that chess professionals made between 1890 and 2014.

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This is interesting!