Every Chess aficionado’s dream: something like the Queen’s Gambit, limited series on OTG platform. Glued to it literally. Almost believed its a true story but did wonder why I could not place Elizabeth Harmon anywhere from my memory like the way I could Bobby Fischer. Or for that matter the Polkar sisters. Fischer was living memory, that much I can vouch for. Not that I am a player with strategy, more of a rookie who has now digressed to clumsy lows, out of practice. My online rating has dipped to dismal stat, not to speak of! Chess, at least the speed chess that we play in the 10 minute format online, banks on reflex. If you don’t have the lightening reflex, you may not make it. That way the timed format in Chess to me appears like any other game where the player’s reflex must be sharp. Even if Queen’s gambit is based on a novel by one Walter Tevis, from way back in 1983, it made for a super series that kept me on my toes. Not that I could follow each and every move, Most the games are pictured dramatic but one or two moves here and there were graspable. I guess most of us open with the queen’s gambit as I have seen the description every time I make it. How a chess player winds her way up the ladder to top slot is amazing. The gender equation is also nicely fitted in. As we know India produces her share of women grandmasters in Chess. The interest is even more spiked after we hosted the Chess Olympiad very recently in my hometown Chennai, a rare honour. My city has also produced three times world champion in Chess, V Anand who beat Garry Kasparov. But the way chess is followed like a religion in Russia is flabbergasting. Chess originated in India and was the game of the royals (Hindu kings) (at least they were good at vanquishing the enemy kings in checkered board!). The character who played Beth Harmon is Anna Joy. She has done a marvelous job keeping her poise and holding her head high. She looks intelligent enough and doesn’t look a bimbo! The male chess players remarkably seem to lack the masculine build we credit with athletic sport players. What is the point they are making here? Kudos to the director who made Beth win the one against the Russian GM without having to pop up the pills. Beth comes across as quite a character. She is mentally strong, living on her own, is independent and is shyly fun loving keeping with her personality. I got emotional watching the final she played with Borgov when the former US champions she bet to reach the spot where she was, gang up on phone to give her last minute tips. That overseas call was a good directorial touch and so was the closing scene when Beth walks in the streets of Moscow to play with the sidewalk retired chess players who give her a standing ovation. That mother Alma’s character! Alma adopts Beth and showers unconditional love on her which goes a long way in establishing Beth’s career as a professional chess player. For a chess player, Beth dresses up class keeping with contemporary times. Those upturned blonde curls remind one of Marlyn Munro. Trend of the 60s? One more character worth mentioning: Shaibel who initiates Beth into the world of chess. Its a well made series, slick and period.
Incidentally the first woman chess grandmaster from India goes by the name S. Vijayalakshmi! (She is not listed. Must be international master). The second is Koneru Hampi who is still playing (listed as first woman grandmaster from India).. India has so far produced 81 grandmasters at world level and comes after Russia and the US. The lion’s share of maximum no. of ranked chess players comes from my home state Tamil Nadu! Proud of the feat! In total 124 international masters from India with some 42 woman international masters. The picture made me google for the India story! The world no.1 Magnus Carlsen was in Chennai in connection with the world chess championships that we recently hosted. The event drew crowds and was spectacular.