Beth Harmon, the chess prodigy played by Anya Taylor-Joy in Netflix’s breakout hit “The Queen’s Gambit,” knows how to properly execute a perfect Fork Maneuver and beat any unsuspecting newcomer with a Scholar’s Mate. But before Taylor-Joy could feel comfortable doing either of those things, she had to take a crash course in all things chess from the hypercompetitive players around which the series is centered.
“I had never played chess before,” she said. “I knew that the chess community was a very passionate one, and I applaud that. It was really important to me that I understood the theory of chess really well.”
Taylor-Joy’s Harmon is a Cold War-era orphan who, after getting addicted to tranquilizer pills at a way-too-young age, takes up the game under the tutelage of Mr. Shaibel (Bill Camp), a janitor at the orphanage. After realizing she has an innate talent for the game (a talent at least partially due to her hallucinating chess boards on the ceiling thanks to those pills, which she uses to “practice” while she is in bed), Beth begins her quest to become the top-ranked chess player in the world, while battling drug and alcohol addiction.