We knew The Chess Player from Zweig and The Luzhin Defense by Nabokov. But today The lady’s game (The Queen’s Gambit), a miniseries in seven episodes has turned into a real masterstroke and audience for Netflix, which airs since October 23. The scenario, perfectly realistic – Garry Kasparov played chess consultants -, which follows the unique fate of an American chess champion during the Cold War, visibly fascinates both laymen and fans of the king of games.
Adapted from the novel The Queen’s Gambit, – the gambit (sacrifice) of the lady in literal translation -, by Walter Tevis, published in 1983, this series in seven episodes set in the years 1950-1960 tells the meteoric rise of a gifted orphan of Kentucky in the grip of addictions, Beth Harmon, in an almost exclusively male universe.
Impressive performance by the main performer Anya Taylor-Joy, neat sets, duels around the chessboard more captivating than a boxing match: the work of Scott Franck (Godless, Logan) and Allan Scott, put online almost on the sly on Netflix at the end of October, is greeted on all sides, word of mouth having propelled it to the top of the most viewed series on the platform.
Among chess lovers, conquered, it is the excitement. This is evidenced by the flowering of articles and videos devoted to the series by specialized publications or the almost unanimous comments of players on social networks.
The character of Beth Harmon inspired by Bobby Fischer
«It’s the best thing I’ve seen in chess», Declared the Frenchman and international grandmaster (title rewarding a high level player) Anthony Wirig, during an online conference organized around the series by the site Learn chess in 24 hours.
«It moved a lot of people to see the atmosphere so well broadcast, this carnal link that we have with the game», Explains Pierre Petitcunot, co-founder of the site.
Same story with the president of the French Chess Federation (FFE), Bachar Kouatly. He greets “a great series close to reality“, Which is based on a”very dense literature“And”real parts», Taken from real competitions.
It is because the series, very documented, benefited from the expertise of the legendary Garry Kasparov, the former Russian world champion officiating as a consultant with the American coach Bruce Pandolfini.
The character of Beth Harmon is partly inspired by Bobby Fischer, American prodigy who became world champion in 1972 at the end of the “match of the centuryAgainst the Soviet Boris Spassky, in the middle of the cold war.
Some errors remain during the editing, as Anthony Wirig noticed, citing in particular a game played in an airplane. The French title of the series, The lady’s game, also ticks. The “Queen’s gambit“, The English title, designates an opening to chess which translates into French as”gambit dame»(And not Queen’s game).
And the actors do not have “elegance of touch“Real players in”trips“, Believes Bachar Kouatly. It prevents, “it’s filmed in a sublime way», He insists.
An increase in chess sales
«Many will certainly start chess thanks to this series“, Anticipates Bachar Kouatly. In fact, the site “Learn chess in 24 hours“Has seen its number of visitors multiplied by 10, from 600 to 6,000 per day, since the broadcast of the series, notes Pierre Petitcunot.
And according to the British daily The Independent, searches for chess games rose 273% on the auction site Ebay, within ten days of the series’ arrival on Netflix.
What to swell the ranks of the players? In France, women represent only 22% of the workforce in this discipline, which is often criticized for its sexism. An aspect too watered down according to some in the series. In an interview with New York Times, Hungarian champion Judit Polgar, who bowed out in 2014, believes that Beth Harmon’s opponents are “too nice to her”, In view of the derogatory comments she has often received, some even refusing to shake her hand.
«The situation has changed a bit», Estimates Jocelyne Wolfangel, director of women within the FFE, which organizes, in parallel with mixed competitions, tournaments reserved for women to enhance their performance and attract more. But “I have heard many times young boys say: ‘you lost against a girl, shame’, she laments. “The more women there are, the more they will have a real place», She concludes, finally, with a glimmer of optimism.
The Lady’s Game (The Queen’s Gambit ) by Scott Frank and Allan Scott, with Anya Taylor-Joy