The Queen's Gambit

The Queen's Gambit

Book - 2020
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Eight year-old orphan Beth Harmon is quiet, sullen, and by all appearances unremarkable. That is, until she plays her first game of chess. Her senses grow sharper, her thinking clearer, and for the first time in her life she feels herself fully in control. By the age of sixteen, she's competing for the U.S. Open championship. But as Beth hones her skills on the professional circuit, the stakes get higher, her isolation grows more frightening, and the thought of escape becomes all the more tempting.
Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, 2020.
Copyright Date: ©1983.
ISBN: 9780593314654
Characteristics: 243 pages ; 21 cm

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j
jimg2000
Jan 26, 2021

Beth learned of her mother’s death from a woman with a clipboard. The next day her picture appeared in the Herald-Leader. The photograph, taken on the porch of the gray house on Maplewood Drive, showed Beth in a simple cotton frock. Even then, she was clearly plain. A legend under the picture read: “Orphaned by yesterday’s pile-up on New Circle Road, Elizabeth Harmon surveys a troubled future. Elizabeth, eight, was left without family by the crash, which killed two and injured others. At home alone at the time, Elizabeth learned of the accident shortly before the photo was taken. She will be well looked after, authorities say.”
===
He would stare at the pieces for minutes at a time, motionless, looking at them as though he hated them, and then reach out over his belly, pick one up by its top with his fingertips, hold it for a moment as though holding a dead mouse by the tail and set it on another square. He did not look up at Beth.

j
jimg2000
Jan 26, 2021

“Eight years old.” He leaned forward — as far as his huge paunch would permit. ”To tell you the truth of it, child, you are astounding.” She did not understand what he was saying.
===
She anticipated every feint, every threat that he knew how to make. There was no way he could confuse her with his knights, or keep a piece posted on a dangerous square, or embarrass her by pinning an important piece. She could see it coming and could prevent it while continuing to set up for attack.
===
Abruptly she saw herself as a small unimportant person — a plain, brown-haired orphan girl in dull institutional clothes. She was half the size of these easy, insolent students with their loud voices and bright sweaters. She felt powerless and silly. But then she looked at the boards again, with the pieces set in the familiar pattern, and the unpleasant feelings lessened. She might be out of place in this public high school, but she was not out of place with those twelve chessboards.

j
jimg2000
Jan 26, 2021

… the homely girl from the orphanage at the edge of town who moved from player to player with the determined energy of a Caesar in the field, a Pavlova under the lights.
===
“I can’t sleep without the pills,“ Beth said. There was a startled silence. No one had expected her to speak. Then Mrs. Deardorff said, “All the more reason why you should not have them.”
===
Sicilian in Modem Chess Openings, with a hundred and seventy different lines stemming from P — QB4. She would memorize and play through them all in her mind at night. When that was done and she knew all the variations, she could go on to the Pirć and the Nimzovitch and the Ruy Lopez.
===
”I thought that book was only for grandmasters” Beth hesitated. ”What’s a grandmaster?” “A genius player,“ the man said.
===
Beth had learned not to believe in God during her time in Methuen’s chapel, and she never prayed. But now she said, under her breath, Please God let me play Beltik and checkmate him.

j
jimg2000
Jan 26, 2021

He surprised her by bringing his queen out. It was a bold move, and she studied it for a while and saw that there wasn’t any weakness to it. She brought out her own queen. He moved a knight to the fifth rank, and Beth moved a knight to the fifth rank. He checked with a bishop, and she defended with a pawn. He retreated the bishop. She was feeling light now, and her fingers with the pieces were nimble. Both players began moving fast but easily. She gave a non-threatening check to his king, and he pulled away delicately and began advancing pawns. She stopped that handily with a pin and then feinted on the queenside with a rook. He was undeceived by the feint and, smiling, removed her pin, and on his next move continued the pawn advances. She retreated, hiding her king in a queenside castle. She felt somehow spacious and amused, yet her face remained serious. They continued their dance.

j
jimg2000
Jan 26, 2021

Beth found a pale-gray sweater on sale for twenty-four dollars, and it fit her perfectly. Looking in the tall mirror, she tried to imagine herself as a member of the Apple Pi Club, like Margaret; but the face was still Beth’s face, round and freckled, with straight brown hair. She shrugged and bought the sweater with a traveler’s check. They had passed an elegant little shoe store with saddle oxfords in the window on the way to Shillito’s and she took Mrs. Wheatley there and bought herself a pair. Then she bought argyle socks to go with them. The tag said: “100 % wool. Made in England.” Going back to the hotel through a wind that whipped tiny snowflakes against her, Beth kept looking down at her new shoes and high plaid socks. She liked the way her feet felt, liked the tightness of the warm socks against her calves, and liked the way they looked — bright expensive socks above bright brown-and-white shoes. She kept looking down.

j
jimg2000
Jan 26, 2021

With some people chess is a pastime, with others it is a compulsion, even an addiction. And every now and then a person comes along for whom it is a birthright. Now and then a small boy appears and dazzles us with his precocity at what may be the world’s most difficult game. But what if that boy were a girl — a young, unsmiling girl with brown eyes, brown hair and a dark-blue dress ?
===
“But, Beth,“ Mrs. Wheatley said, “it makes you a celebrity!” Beth looked at her thoughtfully, “For being a girl, mostly,“ she said.
===
She spent over an hour that afternoon trying on dresses at Purcell’s before picking a navy-blue with a simple white collar
===
“Russia’s murder,“ he said finally. ”They eat Americans for breakfast over there.” “Now, really …” Mrs. Wheatley said. ”They really do,“ Nobile said. ”I don’t think there’s been an American with a prayer against the Russians for twenty years. It’s like ballet. They pay people to play chess.”

j
jimg2000
Jan 26, 2021

At sixteen she had grown taller and better-looking, had learned to have her hair cut in a way that showed her eyes to some advantage, but she still looked like a schoolgirl.
===
“My experience has taught me that what you know isn’t always important.” “What is important?” “Living and growing, “Mrs. Wheatley said with finality. ” Living your life.”
===
The chandelier overhead was too bright. And now she began to feel dismay, as though the rest of the game were inevitable — as though she were locked into some choreography of feints and counterthreats in which it was a fixed necessity that she lose, like a game from one of the books where you knew the outcome and played it only to see how it happened.

j
jimg2000
Jan 26, 2021

You are in control, p1 of 2:

I’m playing chess. She looked at him again. His eyes were studying the board now. He can’t move until I do. He can only move one piece at a time. She looked back to the board and began to consider the effects of trading, to picture where the pawns would be if the pieces that clogged the center were exchanged. If she took his king knight with her bishop and he retook with the queen pawn … No good. She could advance the knight and force a trade. That was better. She blinked and began to relax, forming and reforming the relationships of pawns in her mind, searching for a way of forcing an advantage.

j
jimg2000
Jan 26, 2021

You are in control, p2 of 2:

There was nothing in front of her now but the sixty-four squares and the shifting architecture of pawns — a jagged skyline of imaginary pawns, black and white, that flowed and shifted as she tried variation after variation, branch after branch of the game tree that grew from each set of moves. One branch began to look better than the others. She followed it for several half-moves to the possibilities that grew from it, holding in her mind the whole set of imaginary positions until she found one that had what she wanted to find.

j
jimg2000
Jan 26, 2021

Someone had said that when computers really learned to play chess and played against one another, White would always win because of the first move. Like tick-tack-toe. But it hadn’t come to that. She was not playing a perfect machine.
===
“Can you give me a prescription for Librium?” The doctor stared at her for a moment and shrugged.” You don’t need a prescription to buy Librium in Mexico. I suggest meprobamate. There’s a farmacia in the hotel.”
===
She had heard of the genetic code that could shape an eye or hand from passing proteins. Deoxyribonucleic acid. It contained the entire set of instructions for constructing a respiratory system and a digestive one, as well as the grip of an infant’s hand. Chess was like that. The geometry of a position could be read and reread and not exhausted of possibility. You saw deeply into this layer of it, but there was another layer beyond that, and another.

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TEENREVIEWBOARD
Apr 14, 2021

I have not read a book by Walter Tevis, but I thought I should give it a shot. The title really caught my eye because it sounds as if there are lots of twists throughout the novel which is not wrong. This book has plenty of twists throughout it. The character development is amazing, it felt very surprising to see how much the characters change because at the beginning I did not like the way they acted but by the middle the characters had really stepped up their game. I am now a Walter Tevis fan just from reading this book. I also recommend this book to those who like suspense and plot twists. This book is amongst my favorites because I like suspenseful novels. I give this 5/5 stars.
@JJ_03_ of the Hamilton Public Library's Teen Review Board

s
StarGladiator
Apr 11, 2021

This is THE CHESS NOVEL. Enjoyed this book many years ago and glad to see others like it as well!
Any chess or go/baduk player should enjoy this one. Similar to what the Korean movie, the Divine Move or Misaeng, is to baduk (go).

b
black_cat_2217
Apr 08, 2021

Finally, a book that's worth 5 stars! The creator oversaw to capture my engagement within the character, in her mental ability, and her captivation by chess at the beginning of the book; I wasn't fatigued or disturbed by the huge sum of script devoted to the plays she studied and the play-by-play portrayal of her competition recreations (Astonishing to me as one who discovered chess as well complicated to learn) It was great to witness her character creation and the conclusion was fundamentally fulfilling. Naturally, her character nevertheless had more developing to do within the social, self-image field, but perhaps the creator will elegance us with a sequel.

b
baldand
Apr 03, 2021

Spoilers ahead! I had never heard of the novel until I watched the Netflix miniseries. The miniseries was great but the novel is a masterpiece. Written in 1983, before glasnost, when Andropov was the Soviet leader, it avoids the negative stereotyping of Russian people. Beth Harmon becomes a heroine to so many Russians following her progress at the Moscow Invitational, who are delighted to see a young American woman excel at a game most of the world associates with male Russian players. Viktor Bogrov, the Russian champion Beth thought was so cold and forbidding, warmly embraces her when she defeats him in the final.
Beth plays chess with an old Russian in Sokolniki Park, a lovely green and wooded park in the northern part of Moscow, twice the size of the more famous Gorky Park. In the miniseries, the public chess tables are on an urban boulevard not far from the Kremlin. In the miniseries, Beth supposedly misses her plane and the chance to meet with the President of the United States just so she could stay behind and play chess with this old Russian man. Of course, nothing like this would happen in real life, nor does it happen in the novel. Beth merely leaves a celebration party with a lot of US diplomatic staff early in the evening and has her taxi stop at Sokolniki Park. She would be coming back to the US later. In the novel, a meeting with the US president or with Soviet dissidents is never mentioned by her State Department minder, who speaks fluent Russian and is much more helpful to Beth than the younger, pricklier diplomat she deals with in the miniseries. It is a pity that the miniseries, after holding up so well through seven episodes, disappoints at the end, but the novel never lets the reader down.

w
wmtlady
Mar 25, 2021

Finally, a book worth STARS! The author managed to capture my interest in the character, in HER mental dexterity and her captivation by chess at the start of the book ; so much so that I wasn't bored or bothered by the large amount of script devoted to the plays she learned and the play-by-play description of her tournament games (Amazing to me as one who found chess too complicated to learn)
It was good to see her character develop, and the ending was basically satisfying. Yes, her character still had more growing to do in the social, self-image arena, but maybe the author will grace us with a sequel.

m
mammothhawk229e
Mar 09, 2021

I'm torn. The book as sublime. However, there will be no sequel because the author died not long after book was originally published.

m
MiRiAm12345
Mar 07, 2021

Which came first the book or the Netflix series? The series was so much better! The plot line and relationships were so much more satisfying in the series. Moreover, as a non chess player reading the endless details of the chess games in the book was tedious- and eventually resulting in a lot of skipping. Watching the moves played out with the drama and the lead actress' wonderful expresssions was enjoyable even without understanding the game.

s
Samuel999
Feb 23, 2021

BEST CHESS BOOK EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

JCLCharlesH Feb 22, 2021

This cerebral 1983 chess drama is now the basis of a mini-series on Netflix. Focused on Beth Harmon, a child prodigy at the game, this novel grapples with questions of childhood achievements, unfulfilled goals, addiction, and depression. As well written as the book was, I found myself most drawn to the descriptions of the games, and in awe of the intellect described in the story.

j
jimg2000
Jan 26, 2021

Assuming that the novel's descriptions of those chess game high lights are indeed real moves, and the young prodigy has the ability to play through forty or more moves entirely in her head, all Greek to novice player like me. However, love this inspirational drama on the protagonist's (and her BGF) rise from an underdog to reign in a man's game. The climatic final pages got me guessing and worrying until the phone rang, page 236. So, it qualifies as a thriller and a good read.

Why Kentucky? Per wiki: Author Walter Tevis was born in San Francisco, moved to Kentucky at age 11 and entered the University of Kentucky, where he received B.A. (1949) and M.A. (1954) degrees in English literature etc.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Tevis

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Samuel999
Feb 23, 2021

Samuel999 thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 10 and 30

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