Netflix’s chess miniseries, The Queen’s Gambit, is a hit with viewers. Anchored by Anya Taylor-Joy’s strong performance, here are its best moments.
One of the most talked-about shows recently has been The Queen’s Gambit. The Netflix limited series followed an orphan girl named Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) who becomes one of the most talented chess players in the world while also battling her own demons.
While chess is not usually a topic of mainstream interest, the series has captured the attention of audiences everywhere. It is a gripping character study of a tortured genius as well as a thrilling depiction of the game of chess. Though only seven episodes in total, The Queen’s Gambit delivered many unforgettable scenes.
10 Beth Beats Mr. Shaibel
Beth’s introduction to chess comes quite out of nowhere. While at the all-girls orphanage, Beth escapes her loneliness by sneaking down to the basement to play chess with the janitor, Mr. Shaibel.
Mr. Shaibel is a reserved man who is not overly friendly, but he agrees to teach Beth the game. Before long, Beth beats her teacher and he tells her that not only is she better at it than he is, but she is quite extraordinary. It is this simple compliment that pushes Beth forward into her true calling.
9 School Tournament
Mr. Shaibel recognizes how amazing a talent like Beth is, especially at such a young age, so he does what he can to help encourage those skills. He contacts a man with a local chess association who invites Beth to participate in a game at the local school.
In reality, Beth is being invited to play against the entire school chess team simultaneously. The all-boys team is not too impressed when a girl shows up to compete with them, but Beth doesn’t sweat at all as she effortless defeats each and every one of them.
8 Beth And Mrs. Wheatley Form A Bond
After years of growing up in the orphanage, Beth is finally adopted by a middle-aged couple, the Wheatleys. Though Mr. Wheatley is a stern man who seems totally indifferent to his new daughter, Mrs. Wheatley is happy to have Beth for company.
Eventually, Mr. Wheatley leaves them both. Instead of surrendering to depression at abandonment, the two women form a closer bond and become determined to move forward together. It’s the beginning of a truly touching relationship.
7 Mrs. Wheatley’s Death
Though her parenting styles are a bit unorthodox, Mrs. Wheatley proves to be a caring maternal figure whom Beth eventually comes to regard as her mother. Mrs. Wheatley also encourages Beth’s chess playing as she becomes more renowned.
Win or lose, Mrs. Wheatley is always there to comfort Beth after a match. Following her first defeat to Russian champ Borgov, Beth comes back to the hotel room to find Mrs. Wheatley dead and herself alone once again.
6 Beth Confronts Mr. Wheatley
One of the compelling things about Beth Harmon as a character is that no matter how much heartbreak and tragedy she suffers, she always keeps her head up high and stands up for herself. Following the death of Mrs. Wheatley, Mr. Wheatley comes back to claim the house.
Beth treats this man who was meant to be her father like the child that he is. She calmly and confidently shows him to be a pathetic and cowardly man whom she tosses aside without a second thought.
5 Beth Gets Back At Benny
One of the most important relationships Beth forms in her career is with Benny Watts, a young American player who is already established on the scene. During one of their first tournaments together, Benny challenges Beth to a game of speed chess for five dollars a game. He wins again and again.
Of course, Beth is not one to let embarrassment like that go unanswered. Years later, Beth is visiting Benny in New York. To prove she is now better than he is, she challenges him to a speed chess rematch while simultaneously playing two other boys. She wins all her money back and then some.
4 Beth’s Downward Spiral
The thrill of seeing Beth triumph in the world of chess is balanced with the dread of seeing her sink deeper into an addiction to pills and alcohol. She eventually closes herself off from everyone around her and falls into a devastating downward spiral.
It is a tough sequence to watch as it seems like Beth is throwing her life away. But Taylor-Joy’s performance and Scott Frank’s direction make sit such a brilliant montage of destruction, especially with the final flashback of Beth’s real mother saying, “That’s my girl.”
3 Mr. Shaibel’s Pride
Beth is pulled out of her spiral when she is visited by Jolene, her friend from the orphanage. Jolene brings word that Mr. Shaibel passed away and the two return to their former home to attend his funeral.
In a beautiful moment, Beth goes into the basement where she used to play chess with Mr. Shaibel. There she finds a collection of newspaper and magazine clippings all following Beth’s success throughout the years, showing Mr. Shaibel’s pride in his student’s success.
2 Beth Gets A Call
One of the biggest things weighing Beth down is the feeling that she is not wanted. As such, she pushed away many good people in her life over the fear of being abandoned. However, in her most important moment, they prove that they never went anywhere.
When in Russia to face Borgov for the world championship, Beth reunites with her old friend Townes. The morning of the match, Townes hands her the phone as all of her chess friends are on the other end giving her encouragement before the big match.
1 Beth Beats Borgov
In her previous matches against Borgov, Beth felt inadequate. She left defeated and humiliated. But in their final showdown in Borgov’s own country, something changed in Beth and how the world perceived her.
Borgov was nervous about playing her, the other champions revered her, and she was the true threat in this tournament. She enters the final game with a clear mind and, as she does when she is under the influence, she sees the game and its possibilities playing out on the ceiling. As everyone looks up to see what she is looking at, it becomes clear no one sees the game the way she does. With that, her victory is assured.
NEXT: The Queen’s Gambit: 10 Best Quotes
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