epic chess miniseries for laymen and experts.
The virtues of this new Netflix miniseries, which, against all odds, has crept into the top of the most watched on the platform, are as evident as they are satisfactory in a landscape where so many series are produced and at such a speed that the formal elements. Among its most notable elements is, of course, the successful choice of Anya Taylor-Joy as the protagonist, a very young actress who since her astonishing discovery in ‘The Witch’ has not stopped chaining first-rate roles category, from ‘Thoroughbred’ to ‘Glass’, passing through the recent ‘The New Mutants’ or ‘Emma.’.
Then there is the extraordinary good taste of the story. Tell us the brilliant career of a girl, Beth Harmon, who learns to play chess in an orphanage with the janitor, and that soon goes to more and more important competitions. She will rub shoulders with increasingly tough players, invariably men, and will have problems with drug and alcohol addictions, which keep her focused and help her withstand the pressure.
The story, based on a 1983 novel by Walter Tevis (which Heath Ledger intended to adapt in what would have been his directorial debut), chooses the era very well: the world of professional chess in the fifties and sixties, when it passes from become from college entertainment to a reflection of political tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. And, in any case, an arid world for a woman like Harmon, immersed in a masculine environment where historically few women have stood out: the Polgár sisters (especially Judith, the most aggressive of them) or Jennifer Shahad (double United States champion). United) are some of his spiritual models.
This very special atmosphere is exquisitely reflected in the series, which not only accurately replicates not exclusively chess environments (from shopping centers where suburban housewives gather to means of transport and luxury hotels), but is also very faithful to the customs and chess modes of the time. From the classic notation of movements, replaced a few years ago, to the boards and tabs, replicas of those of the time (the series is a true paradise for the fetishists of checkered boards).
To all this is added that the world champion Garry Kasparov and fellow New York expert (advised the author of the original novel) Bruce Pandolfini They have watched over even the smallest detail: from the fact that the pieces and the boards are well placed (a more common mistake than usual in the cinema) to that the games are replicas of real confrontations. For example, the climactic and inevitable departure of the last episode is a replica of the one that faced Vassily Ivanchuk and Patrick Wolff in Biel in 1993.
And in general terms, although the series takes its liberties (if the professionals thought their movements for such a short time, the games would last a few minutes), it is clear that there are experts behind advising the narration. What it does not take away so that there is enough room for creativity. For example, real competitors often robotically evolve pieces on the board, but Anna Taylor-Joy developed for her Beth a gentler style of moving the pieces, based on her experience as a dancer.
In addition, and above all these details, which undoubtedly reveal the enormous pampering that has been put into the recreation of the time and the on-screen depiction of a sport often abused by clichés, ‘Lady’s Gambit’ is excellently narrated. Although the story gives rise to this, it does not resort to the typical already exhausted structures, of continuous flashbacks, and adopts more traditional and cinematographic narrative forms. It dodges plenty of clichés from child prodigies effectively and delivers fast-paced, fast-paced storytelling in seven chapters.
The mysteries of the queen
But in addition, there is an extra detail, testimony of how exquisitely thought this Netflix series is. Extraordinary states of mind have always been difficult to capture in images, to make them understandable to the public: from unusual intelligence to creative activities, through altered states of consciousness. ‘Gambit de dama’ has a bit of all of them, and even so, it succeeds when it comes to talking about them to the viewer. Scott Frank, co-creator of the series and director of all the episodes, knows what he is talking about: one of his first scripts was the wonderful tale of gifted child ‘Little Tate’.
From the great idea of the board on the ceiling that Beth imagines to memorize and plan games to the great and not topical musical montages. Passing, of course, for a very special balance between humanizing the players by turning them into eccentric gifted and making them exchange technical dialogues about games, where there is no fear that the profane spectator in chess will lose the thread of the annotations. Because really it is not necessary to understand them in detail to understand the intricate mental labyrinths in which the protagonists immerse themselves.
And thus, ‘Queen’s Gambit’ executes its most risky castling: transmits all the competitiveness and mental demands of high-level chess without losing our understanding of the basic conflicts which also puts on the table. That is, how a sport that encourages isolation and obsessive study makes Beth’s main rival to be herself. Without being discursive or paternalistic, ‘Gambito de dama’ paradoxically succeeds in making a series about the most cerebral sport in the world tell one of the most humane stories of the year.