The Queen’s Gambit: This ending has been explained and all of...

Anya Taylor-Joy in the Queen’s move.


If you’re still buzzing after Beth Harmon’s triumph in The Queen’s Gambit, let’s delve even further into the excellent Netflix miniseries. From asking if it’s a true story of a chess miracle to what a Queen’s Gambit is, hopefully we’ll answer all of your questions.

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Warning: spoilers ahead


Young Beth learns chess from Mr. Shaibel, the caretaker of her orphanage.


Is it based on a true story?

While The Queen’s Gambit acts as an inspiring sports story, it is an adaptation of a fictional coming-of-age novel of the same name from 1983 written by the American writer Walter Tevis. Tevis was a chess player himself and consulted real chess masters to make sure he was accurately describing the intricacies and rules of professional chess. So no, Elizabeth Harmon is not based on a true orphaned chess wonder from the 50s and 60s. However, if you are looking for a female chess player to read up on, Judit Polgar from Hungary is generally considered to be the strongest female chess player of all time.

What is the Queen’s Gambit?

The Queen’s Gambit is a three-game chess opening. It’s the move Beth used in her last win against Vasily Borgov, the Russian world champion. Beth starts out as a white woman and plays queen four to her pawns. Borgov plays queen four to his pawns and Beth plays queen bishop four her pawns. This is the queen’s gambit.

How does Beth’s real mother die?

When Beth was 9 years old, her real mother Alice committed suicide by driving into an oncoming vehicle. She first drives to Beth’s father’s house, where his new wife answers with her young son. Alice asks Paul for help looking after Beth, but Paul desperately throws her away from his new family. He says she can come back and they’ll talk another time, but it’s been five years since they last saw each other and he’s clearly moved on. Alice tries to kill Beth in the crash. Beth miraculously survives, but suffers from emotional problems all her life.



Beth and Benny Watts.


Which pill does Beth take?

At Beth’s orphanage, the Methuen Home for Girls, the children are given sedatives to make them compliant. If a law forbidding this is passed and Beth’s pills are taken away, she will go into withdrawal and continue to struggle with her drug addiction.

How does Mrs. Wheatley die?

After her whirlwind romance with pen pal Manuel ends, Mrs. Wheatley no longer shows up for Beth’s match with Borgov in Mexico City. Beth returns to her hotel room and discovers Mrs. Wheatley dead. The coroner expects hepatitis, an inflammatory disease of the liver. Mrs. Wheatley was an alcoholic and had a huge bill of margaritas at the hotel.

How does Beth beat Benny Watts?

The first time that reigning US champion Beth Benny Watts plays at the US Open in Las Vegas, he beats her. Later, with the help of ex-Kentucky State Champion Harry Beltik, Beth learns to study her opponents and the games in her career rather than just improvising in the moment. She buys an issue of Chess Review with a feature on Watts and asks him personally questions about himself, such as why he carries a knife around (he says it is protection from “whatever”). In the final game of the US Championship in Ohio, Beth quickly defeated him in 30 moves. She allows him to play the same move he made to defeat them the first time – trading queens – but this time she is prepared.



Beth und Borgov.


How does the adjournment work?

When Beth played her last game against Borgov in Russia, he asked her to adjourn until the next day. That means he has to write his next move on a piece of paper and seal it in an envelope. The director then begins the next session with the prepared move. This ensures that neither player knows what the board will look like the next time it is their turn.

Why does Borgov want to adjourn?

While Beth seems tired after several long games in a row, it is Borgov who asks to end the first session of her last game of the Moscow Invitational by the next day. This could point to Borgov’s interview in a tape that Beth sees during training with Harry, where Borgov talks about competing against people his half age like Beth and doesn’t know how much longer he can win. “I can fight anyone but time.” It is possible that he too is tired and realizes Beth’s tiredness and that it is fair to call the adjournment. He could also feel threatened that he is going to lose, so he is pulling out to consult the other Russian players – Beth stumbled upon Borgov, who helped former world champions Luchenko postpone their game a day or two earlier.

Who is Iepe Rubingh?

The Queen’s Gambit is dedicated to Iepe Rubingh, the inventor of chess boxing, who died in May of this year at the age of 45 for reasons unknown. Chess boxing is a hybrid sport in which competitors take turns playing chess and boxing.

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