The True Story of The Queen’s Gambit, One of the Best TV Shows of 2020
The Queen’s Gambit, broadcast on Netflix, is shown as one of the best series of the year. So what is the real story of the show, what real chess player was the character Beth Harmon actually?
The Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit tells the story of Beth Harmon, who was abandoned by her father and left alone after her mother’s suicide, learning chess at an early age and her unstoppable success. Set during the Cold War, the series also tells about drug addiction and obsession.
The Queen’s Gambit, the production starring Anya Taylor-Joy, entered the “Top 10” list in 92 countries in a short time and ranked first in 63 countries. Also thanks to the series “How to play chess?” searches reached the peak of the last 9 years.
How real was the story told in The Queen’s Gambit?
The story of The Queen’s Gambit, which has attracted great attention since its release on Netflix, is unfortunately not true, it is a work in which only real chess players are represented by different names. The successful series was adapted from a book of the same name written by Walter Tevis, whose 3 books were previously adapted to the cinema.
In an interview with the New York Times in 1983, Tevis explained that Beth Harmon was inspired by the competitive world of chess while creating the character of Beth Harmon, which is fed by both intelligence and addiction at the same time.
Inspired by the great masters’ Bobby Fischer, Boris Spassky, and Anatoly Karpov who were active in the chess scene in the 60s, Tevis wrote The Queen’s Gambit novel and the character Beth Harmon. However, these masters do not appear in the book or series, because they are included in the book and the series as fictional characters rather than being included in the story with their own names.
Beth’s similarities with chess legend Bobby Fischer:
Bobby Fischer is the person who most resembles Beth’s life and career out of the 3 great masters. Growing up without a father, Fischer climbed the success ladder one by one in chess, which he learned at the age of 6, just like Beth, without any education. Besides, as Beth progressed rapidly at a young age, Fischer became the youngest champion in the United States at the age of 14 and the youngest grandmaster in chess history at the age of 15.
Beth and Fischer have other similarities as well as being young talents. Both learned Russian to play in major tournaments held in Russia. Apart from that, both won the US championship title in 1967. Both suffered from a variety of issues: Fischer was not a mental health substitute, while Beth suffered from substance abuse.
The author of the book, Walter Tevis, described his fight against addiction in The Queen’s Gambit:
Beth, who is still a little girl, is shown to be addicted to a fictional drug with green capsules called xanzolam, which is given every day at the orphanage. Tevis drew on his own experiences with drugs in writing this aspect of his character.
“When I was young, I was diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease and given heavy doses of medications in the hospital. This is where Beth’s drug addiction stems from,” Tevis said in an interview with the New York Times in 1983. He added that while writing this part of the story, he had a lot of dreams and difficulties.