The new Netflix series that incorporates chess as a sport, art and science is named after the popular chess opening, “The Queen’s Gambit”. It is a fictional story about a coming of age girl, Beth Harmon, who wants to become the world’s greatest chess player and is based on the novel The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis and published in 1983.
World chess champion Magnus Carlsen gave the episodes aired five out of six stars and women’s grandmothers have spoken favorably about the series. Every now and then, chess gets a boost that brings excitement and people to the royal game. My hope is that streaming a Netflix series is one of those moments.
Sometime in the early 1990s, I secured the novel Searching for Bobby Fischer by Fred Waitzkin, whom I met at the World Trade Center (WTC) in 1995 when I was covering the world chess championship title match between Garry Kasparov and Viswanathan Anand for the Sunday. Stabroek.
Waitzkin wrote about his son Josh who also attended the WTC to observe the contest and had previously won the US Junior Chess Championship. The Search for Bobby Fischer novel was made into a successful film starring Joe Mantegna and Laurence Fishburne. It’s still one of my favorite chess movies.
However, and with all due respect to the much-loved Netflix series, nothing can compare to the 1972 Fischer vs Boris Spassky title game in terms of bringing people to the famous antique game. The world had never seen a board game just transcend to something so incredible. Fischer brought the fight to a fever pitch.
I can remember listening to reports of the famous fight on the news program “BBC Calling”. My grandfather and I didn’t know anything about chess, but we were still glued to the radio. It was human drama at its best. When Fischer started to win at the halfway mark, I heard my grandfather’s comment: “Like this Yankee boy morally!” A respected journalist said it was much more than a chess match between two players, “It became an international event, a struggle between two societies, a symbol of the East-West conflict.” Essentially, America faced Russia in the personalities of both players. The world was abuzz with chess.
The current Netflix series has seen a resurgence in the sale of chess sets and chess related reading material. Maybe Netflix can return us to the heights of the great cerebral indoor game.
As I write, Al-Jazeera broadcasts a story about a Filipino chess extravaganza.
White: Viktor Korchnoi
Black: Anatoly Karpov
Event: 1981 World Championship Game, Italy
The Queen’s Gambit declined
1. c4e6 2. Nc3d5 3. d4Be7 4. Nf3Nf6 5. Bg5h6 6. Bh4O-O 7. e3b6 8. Rc1Bb7 9. Be2Nbd7 10. cxd5exd5 11. O-Oc5 12. dxc5bxc5 13. Qc2Rc8 14. Rfd1Qb6 15. 16. Rc2Qe6 17. Bg3Nh5 18. Rcd2Nxg3 19. hxg3Nf6 20. Qc2g6 21. Qa4a6 22. Bd3Kg7 23. Bb1Qb6 24. a3d4 25. Ne2dxe3 26. fxe3c4 27. Ned4Qc7 28. Nh4Qe5 29. Kh1Kx83 31.0. . Qb4Be4 33. Bxe4Nxe4 34. Rd4Nf2 + 35. Kg1Nd3 36. Qb7Rb8 37. Qd7Bc7 38. Kh1Rxb2 39. Rxd3cxd3 40. Qxd3Qd6 41. Qe4Qd1 + 42. Ng1Qd6 43. Nhf3Rb5. 0-1.