The Queen’s Gambit: A Real-Life Chess Champion on Netflix’s Addictive Hit
BY JULIE MILLER
I learned the moves when I was maybe six, and I started getting more serious about it in third or fourth grade. I dropped out for a little while, which happens to a lot of girls in junior high school. I got back into it in high school because I’m from a chess family—my father is a [FIDE] master and my brother is an international master. A lot of girls love it when they’re little kids—eight or nine is our peak age for girls at the U.S. Chess Federation. Anywhere from six to 10, that’s where we really have a high number of the girls. And then around age 12 or 13, you see a massive drop-off.
Why is that?
I think that the parents of the successful chess players are usually incredibly supportive and usually sacrifice a lot to allow their kids to fulfill their dream. It requires a lot of work from the parent. If the parents aren’t super supportive, a lot of times the school could take over that role. To do it all on your own is hard. There are some people who do it, like Beth. That’s not unheard of because there are a lot of resources online and once you reach a certain level, you might impress somebody and be able to get free coaching or subsidized support. But by far the more common scenario is that the family or the school structure is incredibly supportive.
The series starts in the ’60s. How has chess popularity changed since then?
I’m definitely getting a lot of requests for information. People are just super stoked about it. Because most over-the-board tournaments are on a pause [because of coronavirus-related restrictions], I actually think that the true magic will be when we can play live over the chess boards again. The series really shows the beauty of playing with those gorgeous pieces and connecting with somebody over that chess board and that conversation. Online chess is amazing, and that’s what we’re all doing right now. But we might actually see the true effects of this boom whenever we can congregate in large groups again.VANITY FEAR