8 things to learn from Netflix The Queen’s Gambit
The Queen’s Gambit is about chess – the series is about Elizabeth ‘Beth’ Harmon from her days learning chess from a janitor in the basement of a Methuen Home orphanage through her meteoric rise to the top of the male-dominated chess scene of the 1960s- but it is not just about chess. The Queen’s Gambit depicts a young woman growing up, chasing down big dreams, and overcoming obstacles.
Here are a few important points you can learn from this series:
Do not write someone / something off too early
Her chess career seems stacked against her from the very beginning because of her gender.
The first time when she was watching chess- she has been told that girls do not play. Later she is adopted, her mother tries to convince her into dance class or a girl’s club instead of chess. When she got into the first chess tournament she was told there isn’t a section for women to play as a beginner. Beth has to prove herself again and again. Despite the show being based on a fictional book and set 60 years ago- similar scenes still play out on a very real scale all the time. It is easy to make judgements and stereotypes- what is hard is taking energy and time to challenge your own views and keep an open mind.
Don’t worry about fitting into a mould.
From her poker face to her brown shoes with brown laces. Beth’s character is not the typical female heroine. While her high school classmates are hiding between library shelves kissing boys, Beth is scouring the same shelves for chess books.
Despite many ways, she may be described orphan, prodigy, chess player, 60’s teen- Beth doesn’t fit in the image. The Queen’s Gambit tried cliches and gender stereotypes in favour of a complex and unconditional lead. By fighting the urge to fit into a certain label, you can give yourself the same chance.
Start before you are ready.
Beth is a real-life example of learning on the job, showing up to her first tournament before she knows how it is structured or how to use a chess clock. While research and preparation are important there is something to be said about the power of taking action even when you feel unprepared.
Next time if you want to do something you are not ready for- be like Beth and this might surprise you.
Have confidence in yourself – even when others don’t
Have you ever heard the phrase ‘’if your dreams don’t scare you they are not big enough?’’
Enter Beth telling the workers at her first tournament that she wants to play the best player there. But despite any ridicule, Beth let her game speak for itself. She was the representation of being so good it was impossible to ignore her. Her relentless quests for improvement is depicted in every episode. She visualizes matches while falling asleep at the orphanage, read chess books in her free time, and sets up a mini chessboard on an airplane table to practice on her way to a tournament. As her chess career progresses, Beth takes a Russian course to prepare herself for this tournament. She is intent on competing.
Her black friend Jolene grows up to be a paralegal, she remained undeterred in the pursuit of her goal to attend a law school and change the world.
Both Beth and Jolene show us how confidence in yourself and your abilities can take you. If you want to count yourself out early, stay your course, treat yourself with kindness and take the next step forward.
Prioritise your health
Throughout the story, Beth deals with addiction, first getting hooked on the tranquiliser pills given to her in the orphanage and then becoming dependent on alcohol and drugs to get into the right mentality to compete. Even with chess, the strength of Beth blurs the line between superiority and fascination, telling one reporter that “a whole world of only 64 squares” is chess. In it, I feel comfortable. I can manage it, I can overwhelm it. And they are predictable. Although having intent and passion brings so much joy to life, as a consequence, your physical and mental health does not suffer. To stop burnout, look after yourself, grant yourself grace, and know how to ask for support when you need it.
Be open to constructive criticism
Beth is open to input and coaching, from enabling herself to be tutored by her male colleagues to taking a call to discuss strategies after the adjournment of one of her career’s biggest matches. As a result, her game is improving.
Not taking suggestions personally can be very tough, but when someone you admire gives you ideas for change, be open to the advice and see if it might have a good effect on you.
When Jolene reunites with Beth, one of the most emotional scenes of the series comes in the final episode. Beth is in a lonely spot, using pills, drinking excessively, and neglecting chess practice with her normal vigilance. With Jolene reminding Beth it feels like she’s at the bottom of the pit she dug herself, the women share a heart-to-heart. “My advice? My advice? “Says Jolene, “Stop digging.”
We may truly be our own greatest enemies. When we question our own success, when we ignore our fitness and when we give up.
You don’t need to understand something to enjoy it.
It seems like it’s only right to end this piece by saying that The Queen’s Gambit opened my eyes to the fact that understanding something and appreciating it aren’t mutually exclusive. So even though I will probably never be able to set up a chessboard without Googling it, I truly enjoyed immersing myself in a new subject and adding a few new chess terms to my lexicon.