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The Queen’s Gambit: A series of Chess, Trauma, and Sportsmanship

Times have changed when it comes to women and sports. We have women in every sport, crushing the dominating and demeaning stereotypes that discouraged them from involving themselves in any rough activity. Instead idolised them as the weaker sex, solely known for their poise and beauty.

We owe this transition to the 1960s when girls/women were finally much more involved in sports and were encouraged to play at the high school and college levels. Albeit the encouragement was misguiding as it aimed to ensure women maintained their 'feminine figures,' it was still a start that paved a historic route, giving women the platform to take sports to new achievements.

The Queen's Gambit, starring protagonist Anya-Taylor John (Beth Harmon), showcases the start of people's liberal mindset in the '60s. Bringing together the challenges of her traumatic childhood and her gifted skills in the male-dominated sport of chess, the mini-series illuminates and breaks the norm that women are more than just empty beings designed to meet every generalised expectation.

Based on the 1983 novel by Walter Tevis, the story takes us through the competitive life of a young orphan- Beth Harmon- who masterfully challenges her opponents as a woman in a 'beautiful' game of chess as she navigates through the stigma, isolation, addiction and of course the sexism.

Keeping aside the beauty, wardrobe, and the overall framework of the series, which perfectly depicts the 60's style, the show throws light on the importance of sportsmanship. Knowing when to accept defeat, her willingness to learn from mistakes, and her diligent attitude towards her goals make this show stand out.

We see a good balance between her years growing up and her chess improvement until she reaches the height of success. The dynamic with her adopted mother is one of the extremely crucial elements. The tension between her competitors and her relation with 'friends' gives out flair and continuity.

Eventually, the show's realistic aspect is effectively brought out when her fame stains her childhood passion for the brain-riddling game due to her addiction for luxury garments and tranquilizers (Xanzolam). With every defeat since her pinnacle, the mental snuggles are reflected through her clothing, makeup, and extravagant purchases. This could be a way to reinvent herself and live the carefree life she observed and ignored during high school days.

Towards the end of the crushing downfall, there's a moment of realisation that makes Beth re-think where her ambitions lie. She realises the promises made and the commitment to her beloved sport, revealing her first victory against her own traumatic battles and highlighting her sportsmanship qualities. What makes the show wholesome is the acceptance of defeat by her competitors as well- they take the loss with dignity and relief and share the victory with pride.

While the show does bring out a tinge of glamour through seductive expressions and striking postures (her iconic bow-shaped pout paired the interlinked fingers and confident gaze), it redirects the viewer's attention to sportsmanship but this time connects the importance of teamwork- and not just concerning the sport but in her battles against the traumatic psychological trajectory and addiction.

The Queens Gambit is a metaphor that beautifully encapsulates the struggles of Beth Harmon's life as she skillfully crafts her way through the chessboard, through the narrow-minded attitude of the stubborn men, and through her own traumatic battle.

The show takes viewers through a turn of events that leave you with intense emotions; it suffices to say the show is definitely a must watch that will have you hooked until the very end.

Review by Michelle Almeida

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