The Queen’s Gambit

'The Queen's Gambit' Trailer: Anya Taylor-Joy's Netflix ...

The Queen’s Gambit (2020) is a period drama miniseries about a female chess prodigy. Set in the 1960s, it follows Beth Harmon from her beginnings as a penniless orphan to international grandmaster. The Queen’s Gambit is based on Walter Tevis’s 1983 book by the same name. It released on Netflix in November 2020. Anna Taylor-Joy (The Witch) stars, Scott Frank (Logan, Godless) and Allan Scott (Castaway) write and direct.

The Queen’s Gambit is a chess opening where white sacrifices their queen’s pawn to gain control of the centre. Beth employs both the gambit and the ‘Sicilian Defense’ throughout the series.

When her mother dies, eight-year-old Beth Harmon of Lexington, Kentucky transfers to the Methuen Home for Christian Girls. There she picks up a habit for tranquillisers and learns to play chess under the rough but loveable janitor Mr Schaibel. As a teenager Beth plays in local tournaments and rapidly rises through the ranks, becoming state champion by the second episode. Despite her success, loneliness and substance abuse beset her. 

Beth is a fictional character. There has never been a female world champion and, to this day, 99 of the world’s top 100 players are male. The Queen’s Gambit presents a heroine who challenges the norm and excels in a male-dominated field. 

Her career resembles Bobby Fischer, an American child prodigy who unseated the Russian world champion Lassky in 1973, 18th-century master Charles Morphy and modern female champion Judit Polgar.

You don’t need to be a chess fan to enjoy this show. Its strength lies in its ability to build emotional suspense through games on a board and balance triumph with despair. Without seeing every move, we can tell the way a game’s course through body language. Chess theory is still a common topic, however, and will delight anyone with even the slightest interest in the game. In the US, chessboard sales went up 87% and books about chess 603%. Chess.com saw 2.5 million registrations the week after Queen’s Gambit’s release. I was one of them.

 The chess community praised the show’s portrayal of the game. Former world champion Gary Kasparov was a consultant.

The Queen’s Gambit makes chess sexy. Beth Harmon is alluring and sympathetic and her fashion-sense enticing Locations like Las Vegas, Mexico City, Paris and Moscow are gorgeously portrayed. Though Beth is central, a supporting cast of characters includes her orphan friend Jolene, and dorky yet good-hearted Harry Beltik and the cocky Benny Watts. Queen’s Gambit popularity spread rapidly through word of mouth; by December, it was Netflix’s most popular show. The New Yorker called it ‘the most satisfying show on television.’ It will likely scoop Emmys in February.

Sources: Bangkok Post, CNN

Game of Thrones’s Legacy      

'Game of Thrones' Recap: The Very Dramatic Season Finale ...Last Monday, television juggernaut ‘Game of Thrones’ concluded its nine year run with its eighth and final season.  Since 2011, Game of Thrones has proven a worldwide cultural phenomenon –  it is the most watched, (and pirated) television show of all time.

Game of Thrones has won the most Primetime Emmy Awards of any television drama:

  • Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Peter Dinklage) – Season 1, 2011
  • Outstanding Drama Series – Season 5, 2015
  • Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series (Peter Dinklage) – Season 5, 2015
  • Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (David Benioff and DB Weiss for ‘Mother’s Mercy) – Season 5, 2015
  • Outstanding Drama Series – Season 6, 2016
  • Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series (Miguel Sapochnik for ‘Battle of the Bastards’) – Season 6, 2016
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor In a Drama Series (Peter Dinklage ) – Season 7, 2018
  • Outstanding Drama Series – Season 7, 2018

It was nominated for a further 28.  Gauged by Emmy wins, Season 5, followed by 3,6 and 7.

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IMDB, however, tells a different story. Here I calculated season ratings out of ten by determining the average score of each season’s episodes.

  • Season 1 (2011) – 9.1
  • Season 2 (2012) – 9.0
  • Season 3 (2013) – 9.1
  • Season 4 (2014) – 9.3
  • Season 5 (2015) – 8.9
  • Season 6 (2016) – 9.1
  • Season 7 (2017) – 9.2
  • Season 8 (2019) – 6.6

Season Four, by the way, was the one with the Purple Wedding, Oberyn Martell and the battle on the Wall.

Best Episodes

  • The Rains of Castamere (Season 3) – 9.9
  • Hardhome (Season 5) – 9.9
  • Battle of the Bastards (Season 6) – 9.9
  • The Winds of Winter (Season 6) – 9.9

Game of Thrones’s writing was stronger in the early seasons when it followed its source material. A higher budget and more-advanced CGI picked up some slack in Seasons 6-8, but the final season, which had six episodes instead of the usual seven, left viewers wanting. Too many plot threads were left hanging or deemed irrelevant. Toward the end Game of Thrones’s sprawling cast and labyrinthine plot, long its boon, became a hindrance as its writers struggled to tie loose ends with tact. An estimated 50% of fans were disappointed with the show’s ending.

George R. R. Martin on His Relationship with Game of ...

Game of Thrones is based off American author George R.R Martin’s epic fantasy series, ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ (1996 -). David Benioff (who wrote the 2002 blockbuster ‘Troy’) and D.B Weiss met with Martin in 2006, and won the book’s rights after a five hour meeting where they accurately identified Jon Snow’s mother. They successfully pitched the show to HBO in 2007 with Martin as executive producer.

The original pilot was a failure however and after being granted a second chance, Benioff and Weiss recast and reshot 90% of the episode.  The first season aired in 2011, the same year George R.R Martin published ‘A Dance with Dragons’, the latest in A Song of Ice and Fire. Eight years, and the whole television series later, book fans still await the next installment.

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Martin wrote four episodes of Game of Thrones, one for each of the first four seasons.

  1. ‘The Pointy End’
  2. ‘Blackwater’
  3. ‘The Bear and the Maiden Fair’
  4. ‘The Lion and the Rose’

Game of Thrones launched careers. Unknowns before it aired, Kit Harrington, Emilia Clark, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Richard Madden and Rory McCann have since become household names. More than anything, Game Thrones has proven that in our era, television has surpassed film.  Quality acting, costumes, set design and dialogue with battle scenes and special effects worthy of Hollywood, a good series can do it all, only with a far greater cast and much more time.

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