Yet, that very stability and unconditional love was hindering Beth’s overall character development, which was the driving force of the queen’s gambit. In short, the plot demanded that the stability of that relationship be broken in order for the story to move forward. Beth needed to experience the tragedy of real loss — not just loosing a match of chess — to force her suppressed feelings of personal trauma to rise to the surface. Beth could’t progress as a person util she dealt with her personal demons. Beth feared that she was doomed to “go crazy” like her mother did, and she acted as though her addictions — which Alma also struggled with — were an inevitable byproduct of her genius. As long as Alma was alive, there was no character motivation for Beth to overcome her substance abuse issues, especially because Alma was, unwillingly, enabling the behavior.
The Queen’s Gambit ends with Beth overcoming her issues, which is illustrated through her learning to visualize chess pieces without the assistance of tranquilizers. It’s a triumphant moment, made only the more resonant by how far Beth had fallen. After Alma dies, Beth trully hits rock bottom, propelled into self-destructive and indulgent behavior as a way to ignore her grief. Without Alma, Beth feels she has no one to rely on but herself, and this forces her to confront the fact that she doesn’t like herself very much. It is only by confronting her issues head on — with the assistance of childhood friend Jolene — that Beth learns to accept herself and quiet the voices of self-doubt. As Beth overcomes her inner saboteur on The Queen’s Gambit, she also masters the game of chess, finally fulfilling her ambition of becoming the world’s greatest.