End of ‘Queen’s Gambit’ – Explanation of a game of chess in a Russian park

The following contains spoilers for Netflix’s limited series ending, The Queen’s Gambit.


This Beth Harmon, the Bobby Fischer chess prodigy The Queen’s Gambit– finished the series in first place, beating Vasily Borgov in Russia at the Fischer v. Boris Spassky is not that surprising. The story of an American underdog taking on a Cold War superpower in international sport has only one end in this country, and that end is victory. But there was also a lot of subtlety behind the end of Queen’s Gambiat. Subtlety and also confusion.

Ultimately, it’s unclear what the final match meant for Beth’s place in chess. The Moscow tournament was not to decide the world chess champion; it was simply an invitation-only event. Since we don’t know Beth’s Elo ranking (the number used to rank chess players around the world), it’s unclear whether beating Borgov (the supposed world number 1) gave Beth the first. rank.

Beating Borgov, however, served a different purpose in the series. And the victory set up the last shot of the show, Beth in the park with the Moscow street players. Here’s what it all means.

Netflix

How did Beth beat Borgov?

Throughout the series, Beth (played wonderfully by Anya Taylor-Joy) repeatedly relies on her intuition while playing, and her most effective moves are noticed to be performed quickly. In other words, Beth isn’t so much planning her games piecemeal as she is reacting to her opponent. Against Borgov, she is forced to make her moves more deliberately after the game is adjourned, giving her time to prepare. With the help of former rivals who have become friends Benny Watts and Harry Beltik, she decides to memorize scenarios, thus playing all series for the first time. It’s a change that signals both Beth’s evolution as a player and her socialization as a character; she does not play alone, but with the help of close friends. (As Benny once said, American individualism has always hurt their chances against the Soviets.)

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How Beth actually beats Borgov has to do with a series of surprising moves, after her opening of Queen’s Gambit. (The YouTube channel The gadmator chess chain breaks down every move in the game here.)

It’s worth noting that the opening of the Queen’s Gambit – where White swaps their pawn to control the center of the chessboard – highlights many of the series’ themes. Ultimately, the bet is a sacrifice, a hedge. You have to give up something early to win. Characters like Harry, Jolene, and Ms. Harmon all sacrifice something for Beth, who in turn makes several sacrifices throughout the series. (In the final scene, Beth’s white jacket and hat form the shape of a pawn, the coin that is sacrificed.) The most important trade: her drug addiction.

the queen's bet

Netflix

Who was the old park chess player at the end?

Instead of ending with victory over Borgov, the series instead ends in a park in Moscow. Several features of this ending are important, including cinematography. The use of a hand-held camera – often used for Beth’s masters – appears in the final scene when Beth leaves the car and walks through a Moscow park, indicating that her love for chess may have supplanted her. addiction to pills; now she’s getting high, so to speak.

The park game is also the first time we’ve seen Beth play chess outside. Its first matches were in the basement of the orphanage, and many matches since then have been in equally drab settings. Beth’s literal ascent from the basement to nature could mean a release from addiction as well as a healthier relationship with play.

Ultimately, the end is about the fun; it is about chess as a game played in the world. It’s about curiosity and fun and the relationship between teachers and students, age and gender are irrelevant.

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