EmbrACE Magazine

The Queen’s Gambit – An inspiring story of an independent woman in the 50s 

07/12/2020

About the Author

Tabea Marie Nordhausen is a second-year IBCoM student. In her free time, Tabea likes to write, listen to music, and painting. This is her second year of participating in the Embrace committee as a writer, but this year she is also the Chairman of the committee.

The Queen’s Gambit – An inspiring story of an independent woman in the 50s 

When I initially started The Queen’s Gambit, I did not expect to like it or even continue watching it until the end. I just finished another series and was eager to start another one, but I could not find anything that would interest me. Therefore, I just clicked on the first thing Netflix offered me: The Queen’s Gambit. 

The Queen’s Gambit is a new Netflix series telling the story of a young woman in the 50s that is insanely good at Chess, although the world of Chess is still dominated by men. The series is based on the same called book by Walter Tevis from 1983 and it is not a real story. Although most of the show revolves around the main character, Elisabeth Harmon, struggling with her addiction to pills and alcohol next to participating in chess tournaments, the character has an admirable mindset that is determined to achieve her goals. 

Elisabeth ends up as an orphan after her mother tries to kill them both in a car accident. However, only her mother dies, leaving Elisabeth alone and having her move into an orphanage where she learns to play and love Chess through Mr. Shaibel, the janitor. Several years pass and Elisabeth gets adopted at fifteen. Once she moves into her new house and gains access to chess tournaments, the series starts hitting off and the viewer’s attention is captured. 

I must say that the series is quite intense, portraying several cases of addiction, but I have to add that it is one of the best series I have ever seen. The main character is not the most likable, but somehow you still end up rooting for her. She is super independent, maybe a bit too much, and does not need anyone else besides herself in her life. Elisabeth is probably the ideal woman of today, except for her enormous drug use. But why?

Firstly, she does what she wants. Although the kids at her school do not seem interested in getting to know her and make fun of her daily, Elisabeth does not care much and focuses on getting what she wants instead: play Chess. Moreover, she does not allow anyone to push her into traditional roles for women. When her adoptive mother suggests for her to join a social club, because that is what girls do at her age, she refuses and instead expresses her interest in joining chess tournaments. 

Secondly, Elisabeth does not depend on a lover. Over the years, a lot of men fall for her, but she never ends up falling for them and only takes what she wants from them, which might be in fact a bit negative as well. But for the time the series is set in, Elisabeth proves true self-will and the ability to be independent. 

Lastly, Elisabeth does not seem to let anyone get in her way of playing Chess. Although her drug use is not a good example, Elisabeth does what she needs to do to get pills. She practices playing Chess in her head during the time she does not have a board to practice with and even learns to speak Russian later on, as she realizes the importance of it for her future Chess career.

Surprisingly, Elisabeth makes a lot of friends on her journey of playing Chess tournaments, who sometimes care a bit more about her than she does about them. But who could be mad at her? A mother that repeatedly told her about the importance of independence because she will be all alone one day, becoming an orphan and drug abuse from a young age. These three things shape the way Elisabeth sees herself and others, making it easier to understand why she might come off as selfish to viewers. 

One of my favorite aspects of the series is the change of Elisabeth from a selfish, addicted orphan to a wonderful woman showing that people can change. Throughout the whole series, she shows respect for her adoptive mother, paying for their living costs all by herself through her prize money from the tournaments. Even if she is selfish in other aspects, she highlights the need for a mother and love in that way. 

I personally finished the series within two days, because I felt a sort of inspiration and amazement for Elisabeth’s story. A woman in the 50s that is independent to that level is a really nice change for a series. Especially a female lead in a series that is so catchy made me feel excited and connected to the story. Even though Elisabeth’s drive to play Chess only intensifies with the drugs, I did enjoy seeing her passion for Chess. I never thought of Chess as something that could be enjoyable to watch or that could be thrilling, but the series proved to me otherwise. 

My favorite scene is probably the last one because it summarizes all the growth Elisabeth went through in her journey of growing up and playing Chess. Since I do not want to spoil the ending for anyone, I will refrain from mentioning what happens, but it is definitely worth watching.

The Queen’s Gambit is already the most successful mini-series on Netflix, so give it a try and let yourself enter the world of Chess and Elisabeth Harmon. This genuinely unique character, an independent woman breaking the male-dominated world of Chess, has amazed me more than I could express.            

 

Photos: Courtesy of Netflix

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