CategoriesRegency Chess Co. NewsThe Queens Gambit

New BBC series: Chess Masters, Has Chess Become Cool Again?

Has Chess Become Cool?

When a pop star includes passing references to chess in some of their songs, it’s not usually a big deal; after all, the game and its terminology have offered a rich vein of metaphors for songwriters to exploit over the years, making terms such as ‘checkmate’ or ‘pawn’ commonplace in the lyrics of modern music. If the pop star is the cultural phenomenon that is Taylor Swift, however, with a legion of fans avidly deciphering the precise meaning of each of her words, and she has also commissioned a giant chess board to form a centrepiece on the set of her record-breaking world tour, maybe it’s time to take notice. Chess is back in vogue and this time it’s cool.

The Quens Gambit effect

Image: CHARLIE GRAY/NETFLIX)

Of course, this is not altogether surprising. The 2020 Netflix miniseries, The Queen’s Gambit, which follows the exploits of fictional grandmaster, Beth Harmon, clocked up an enormous 64 million account viewers in its first month of airing, and, with its sumptuous mid-century aesthetic, made chess both sexy and popular. As any chess retailer will tell you, this led to dramatically increased sales, as demand multiplied by as much as a factor of ten in just a few weeks, following the release of the show.

BBC revamp old chess TV show

So, it is against a backdrop of greatly increased interest in the game that the BBC has announced the revival of its chess show – a programme that last aired on the channel in 1983 under the title, The Master Game, and which will now be known as Chess Masters. The new show will involve participants from a wide range of backgrounds and age groups competing in a series of rapid chess games, with the winner being crowned ‘Chess Master’.

The original series was known for its innovative (for the time) use of graphics and commentary, so it is expected that Chess Masters will build on this legacy to create an accessible and engaging format. Full details are currently scarce, but the show has the support of the English Chess Federation and its Director of International Chess and External Relations, Malcolm Pein, and will air in 2025.

Taylor Swift fans hanging onto every word she sings, even words she doesn’t…

Image: Billboard via Getty Images

Interestingly, Pein was the subject of a Twitter based wind-up initiated by chess streamer WCM Tallulah Roberts, who, in a tweet, jokingly appended some chess moves to the lyrics of a recent Taylor Swift song, together with the line, ‘omg I can’t believe these are real lyrics from the new Taylor Swift album’. Pein referenced this information in the press release for the show without realising the joke, leading to swathes of people trawling in vain through Tortured Poets Department lyrics (actual chess references are, in fact, present in previous Swift songs and in her current tour aesthetics, as mentioned above).

Commissioning editors in the television industry are keen to spot a trend, and rarely put their necks on the line creating a show without first having a firm grasp of potential audience numbers. Two metrics that will have caught their attention are the number of people viewing Twitch chess streams (an average of 16,000 viewers per day in 2021), and the number of downloads of chess apps, with the Chess.com app having been the most popular free game on the IOS app store in February 2023. Celebrity endorsements of chess in recent months from the likes of Lily Cole, Madonna and Anthony Joshua will have further elevated its profile within popular culture.

Chess back on our screens

It seems, then, that chess is heading towards a position within society that it last attained during the 1970s, when Bobby Fischer became embedded in the popular consciousness, thanks to his famous battle against Boris Spassky at the height of the Cold War.

It may be pertinent, at this point, to ask whether this is an unreservedly positive development for current players and fans of the game. Popularity is often lauded as a beneficial quality, but it is not without its downsides. In the six months immediately following the release of The Queen’s Gambit, for example, demand for chess sets, pieces and boards greatly outstripped supply, leaving many enthusiasts either struggling to locate the exact items they wished to purchase, or having to join long waiting lists.

Will this cause another surge in chess set sales?

It must be remembered, however, that the Queen’s Gambit demand-side spike was not wholly a consequence of the success of the show; increased disposable income that resulted from lockdown restrictions in 2020 was also a major factor. As such, the current upwards movement of interest in the game feels much more organic and manageable from a retailer’s perspective. It is unlikely that a repeat of 2020 is on the cards, even with celebrity endorsements of the game and chess-related TV shows being made.

For many years a range of chess players, from amateurs to international grandmasters, have been decrying the lack of coverage of chess in the mainstream media; perhaps now is the moment when it can take centre stage.

CategoriesThe Queens Gambit

The Queens Gambit Season 2 – Why all the fake news?

As the owner of the UK’s largest online chess set retailer I am obviously hoping, wishing and wondering about The Queens Gambit season two being released. It’s hard to believe that it was over three years ago that the first series hit Netflix and created the storm that it did. Within weeks of it being released it had hit the number one spot and was being watched by millions of Netflix subscribers around the world.

Queens Gambit season two meme

For us as a retailer of fine chess sets  the Queens Gambit was without doubt the biggest event in our company history. In October 2020 when the series was just starting to become popular on Netflix we noticed a small uptick in sales. By the November demand just exploded and before we knew it we had a backlog of over a thousand orders for chess sets. The entire industry was rocked by this event in both good and bad ways.

Today things have settled right back down and like millions of people in the world we are wondering if there will ever be a series two of the Queens Gambit.

Continued fake news about the queens Gambit Season 2

Every few months I will receive a text from a friend that goes along the lines of ‘Hey, have you seen they’ve announced a second series of The Queens Gambit’. This is inevitably accompanied by a screen shot from twitter, Instagram or you tube with what appears to be an official Netflix post but is in fact a piece of clever fakery.

The infamous twitter hack

Queens gambit 2 twitter hack

Fans of the series jumped for joy when Anya Taylor Joys tweeted a seemingly subtle and cryptic message that implied the series was coming back. It didn’t take long for her to announce that she hadn’t tweeted it and her account had in fact been hacked. It’s astonishing that after hacking into the account of a now world famous actress the hacker uses the access to tweet about this! Maybe there are fans out there willing to go to any lengths to get a second series in production!

The Teaser Pro trailer on you tube

In 2022 the you tube account Teaser Pro released this extremely well edited trailer for season two of the Queens Gambit. It featured clips from the original and also clips from Pawn Sacrifice starring Tobey Maguire and mated them together brilliantly to create a hugely convincing trailer. At the time of writing the video has had nearly two million views.

The memes that fool us

Fake queens Gambit meme

This meme was sent to me by my friend Dan Evans, a very switched on cookie but he was caught off guard by the seemingly genuine looking Netflix branding and authentic look. There has been no end to these shared on social media over the last three years or so.

When will it be too late for a season two?

The Queens Gambit

It’s already been over three years and there will no doubt come a time when the window of opportunity has passed. While the series is still very much in peoples consciousness interest in it will soon begin to fade as it becomes just another part of the Netflix archive. In my opinion if a second season isn’t on the screen within the next two years then there will never be one.

Like many people I would love Netflix to do a season two, three and maybe four. The boost it gave the industry and chess in general was massive and during these darker economic days it would certainly bring a lot of cheer to many people. The original series was a superb piece of television that just had everything right. The casting, cinematography, props, research and story line were all at the top of their game. It was little wonder it was such a hit and little wonder so many people are desperate for Netflix to make the Queens Gambit Season 2.

CategoriesChess GamesThe Queens Gambit

Netflix to Release “Queen’s Gambit Game”

Unveiling the Unique Crossover of ‘Queen’s Gambit’ and Chess

The Queen’s Gambit, Credit: Netflix

Chess enthusiasts and fans of the critically acclaimed series “The Queen’s Gambit” are in for a treat. Netflix, in an innovative move, is set to launch a new mobile game that marries the drama and characters of the popular show with the strategic world of chess. The game, fittingly named ‘The Queen’s Gambit Chess,’ is slated for release on July 25th.

The Queen’s Gambit, which brilliantly captures the chess prodigy Beth Harmon’s ascent in the chess world of Cold War America, has received global recognition and a stunning 11 Primetime Emmy Awards. The series’ widespread success has helped elevate the star of the series, Anya Taylor-Joy, to new heights in Hollywood.

Immersive Gameplay: Merging ‘Queen’s Gambit’ Storyline with Chess Puzzles

The Queen’s Gambit Chess Game, Credit: Netflix

This summer, Netflix is launching a series of games, with 22 planned releases. ‘The Queen’s Gambit Chess’ stands out as it merges a traditional chess set’s beauty and intellectual appeal with the captivating storyline of the award-winning drama. Developed by Ripstone Games, renowned creators of Chess Ultra, the game aims to cater to every type of fan.

As players open this new chess set on their mobile screens, they will be transported into Beth Harmon’s world. They can learn chess strategies, solve intriguing puzzles, participate in matches, and compete against friends. This is not merely about moving pieces on a chess board; it’s a deeply immersive experience that invites players to step into the shoes of their favourite characters.

How Does the Game Seamlessly Blend the ‘Queen’s Gambit’ Narrative with Chess Strategies?

The Queen’s Gambit, Credit: Netflix

The game offers an array of iconic locations as settings, including Beth’s house and the Mariposa Hotel, a notable setting from the series. Players can also expect to interact with familiar faces from the show like Mr. Shaibel and Vasily Borgov.

It’s exciting to see how ‘The Queen’s Gambit Chess’ takes the chess board beyond the confines of eight squares. It successfully interweaves the game’s cerebral nature with the emotional narrative of the series. Whether you’re a novice who’s just learnt to move the pawns or a seasoned player who can deliver a checkmate in four moves, this game promises to offer something for everyone.

Will there be a Second Series of ‘The Queen’s Gambit’?

Although Netflix hasn’t officially confirmed a second season of the series, we have heard rumors of a spin-off on the horizon. This could be just speculation, so sadly, fans will have to bide their time to find out more. But this game, promising to bring the enchantment of ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ alive through chess, provides fans with a delightful consolation. The game will be available for both iOS and Android users.

The integration of the timeless game of chess with today’s technology, as seen in ‘The Queen’s Gambit Chess,’ is a testament to the enduring appeal of the game. As we await the game’s release, we can’t help but be intrigued about how this blend of traditional chess and dramatic narrative will further stimulate interest in the game of kings.

Queens Gambit Related Products

CategoriesThe Queens Gambit

Queen’s Gambit Chess Sets: Meet The Spanish Family Behind The Boards

The Queen’s Gambit sent the world into a chess frenzy as the world’s love for the ancient game was reignited thanks to Beth Harmon and her narcotics-fueled rise to chess greatness. This came as a shock for chess retailers (we can attest!) as we saw an unprecedented boom in demand for chess pieces and boards. Many fans of the show are keen to know about the actual chess sets used in The Queen’s Gambit. That’s why we’re going to shine the spotlight on some of the chessboards used in the mini-series and their makers – a small family business from Catalonia.

Image courtesy of Netflix.

It was a typical autumn day in La Garriga, Spain (about a 40-minute drive from Barcelona) when David Ferrer, the boss of the renowned chessboard maker Rechapados Ferrer, found out about an interesting cameo in a certain Netflix mini-series. “One day I came into work and a colleague told me that Netflix had released a new series ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ and some Rechapados Ferrer boards appeared in the trailer,” said David, whose grandfather started the company in the 1950s. It wasn’t only the trailer in which the boards from Barcelona featured, they turned up in several scenes of the critically acclaimed series including its glorious climax. In perhaps the show’s most iconic scene, a distinctive Rachapados Ferrer chess board takes centre stage in Beth Harmon’s final battle with Vasily Borgov in the 1968 Moscow Invitational Chess Tournament.

Image courtesy of Netflix.

Rechapados Ferrer was already enjoying a jump in demand thanks to Spain’s stringent lockdown policies in the Spring and Summer of 2020 – but, the Covid lockdowns impact on the chess industry was nothing compared to the effect of Beth Harmon fever.  Prior to 2020, Rechapados Ferrer would typically produce around 20,000 boards. This leapt to 22,000 in 2020 as folks were stuck indoors and seeking distraction during the start of the pandemic. 

In 2021, once The Queen’s Gambit had got a firm hold on the chess world, the Catalonian chess board makers DOUBLED their annual orders from 22,000 to 45,000.

Although this trend rippled through the entire chess industry (eBay famously attributed a 215% rise in sales of chess sets and accessories to the show’s success), the accolade of having your actual products featured in the show meant that Rechapados Ferrer has benefited more than its competitors. “When the Netflix series came out, it all just went crazy and drove sales of chessboards through the roof,” David continues, “We’d just finished supplying our orders for the Christmas season when one of our most important clients came back to us and asked for another order of the same size. We thought, ‘Wow! That’s odd’.” Although David doesn’t fancy himself as a grandmaster (busman’s holiday and all that), he admits that the series has reignited his love for the game.  “My chess is at a very basic level; nothing approaching professional,” he confesses. “But, to be honest, I’ve got back into chess and have been playing a bit more because of the series.” He’s certainly not the only one. The Queen’s Gambit is solely to blame for turning a dusty old game into a trendy, and dare we say it, sexy, one.

Where can I buy the chess boards seen in The Queen’s Gambit?

The actual chess set used in the film features a dark wooden chess board with a decorative border and Russian style chessmen. We have The Queens Gambit Chess Set available that features the exact board used as the prop and pieces that are very similar to the pieces used during filiming.

 

If you want to see more of Rechapados Ferrer’s chess boards – stars of The Queen’s Gambit – then feel free to explore our comprehensive collection today.

Adéu!

The Regency Chess Team.

CategoriesThe Queens Gambit

Is The Queen’s Gambit a True Story? The ‘Real’ Beth Harmon Revealed

Is The Queen’s Gambit a true story? It might be nearly two years since we fell in love with the story of Beth Harmon and her rise to chess greatness, but it has us thinking… was the whole thing made up? Or is there some truth to the compelling tale?

Is The Queens Gambit a True Story?Image from imdb.com.

The Queen’s Gambit was a surprise smash for Netflix when it debuted on the platform in October 2020. In just four weeks, it became Netflix’s most-watched scripted miniseries ever and won itself a treasure trove of awards including 11 Primetime Emmys and 2 Golden Globes – one being Best Actress In a Miniseries or Television Film for the show’s main star Anya Taylor-Joy. The show’s success sent shockwaves throughout the chess community. Inspired by Beth’s story, people all over the globe discovered or rediscovered their love for one of the world’s oldest games. Demand for chess sets hit an all-time high (and came rather unexpected for the team here at Regency Chess!) According to US figures, in the three weeks following the show’s debut, unit sales of chess sets jumped 87% and chess book sales rose a whopping 603%. But is the Queen’s Gambit a true story?

Is The Queen’s Gambit Based On a True Story?

No… but kind of. The character of Beth Harmon and her story is fictional. It came from the mind of writer Walter Tevis (1928 – 1984) way back in 1983 when the novel ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ was first published. At the time of release, there was fervent speculation on the inspiration for Beth Harmon. In a New York Times interview, Tevis denied that Beth was based on anyone in the chess community and considered ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ to be his ‘tribute to brainy women. That’s not to say the show isn’t infused with real-life elements. Chess experts have praised the quality of the playing and have noted that many of Beth’s moves have even been modelled off of famous contests.

But what about Beth herself?

Beth & Bobby

Tevis was a keen chess player himself. In the acknowledgements of The Queen’s Gambit, the author mentions how he was inspired by the chess greats of the time, notably the Grandmasters Bobby Fischer, Boris Spassky, and Anatoly Karpov. Tevis writes: 

“The superb chess of Grandmasters Robert Fischer, Boris Spassky and Anatoly Karpov has been a source of delight to players like myself for years. Since The Queen’s Gambit is a work of fiction, however, it seemed prudent to omit them from the cast of characters, if only to prevent contradiction of the record.”

Of all the chess legends who inspire Beth’s character and career, it’s Fischer who had the most obvious influence. Both had a difficult start in life and would become self-sufficient teens. Although Fischer didn’t grow up in an orphanage, he and his sister were raised by their single mother – who was homeless at the time of Bobby’s birth – and was shuttled to different schools as his mother sought ways to support her young family. Career-wise, there are also notable similarities. Both Fischer and Beth won the U.S. Championship whilst still in their teens (in the same year, 1967, no less.) Beth would have been 18 while Fischer became the youngest ever U.S. Champion at 14 years and 10 months. The last match we see Beth play is against the USSR’s Borgov in Moscow. The contest closely imitates Fischer’s 1972 ‘Match of the Century’ against Boris Spassky, also from the USSR. What’s more, both Fischer and Beth took time to learn Russian to prepare for their quest for chess greatness. That’s where the similarities end. Although Bobby Fischer had his demons (that would be a whole other article!) the reclusive Grandmaster isn’t known to have struggled with drugs or alcohol addiction. 

Who influenced Beth’s addiction struggles?

Beth’s addiction to the fictional drug xanzolam, after being introduced to it as a child in an orphanage, is an important theme throughout the novel and series – and rather than a chess great, her issues with narcotics were inspired by non-other than her creator himself. In the 1983 New York Times article, Tevis admits to mixing a certain part of his background to form the Beth character. He says:

”When I was young, I was diagnosed as having a rheumatic heart and given heavy drug doses in a hospital. That’s where Beth’s drug dependency comes from in the novel.” 

Tevis goes on to explain how cathartic it was to express this difficult experience through Beth:

“Writing about her was purgative. There was some pain – I did a lot of dreaming while writing that part of the story. But artistically, I didn’t allow myself to be self-indulgent.”

The endgame

Although a work of fiction, The Queen’s Gambit is littered with real-life elements and inspiration from the greats of chess. This ‘true feel’ has no doubt helped the show and its stars enjoy the enormous success it has achieved.  While we wait (and hope!) for season two, we have time to reflect on Beth’s journey and improve our own chess game!

CategoriesThe Queens Gambit

The Queen’s Gambit Season 2: What to Expect

When The Queen’s Gambit hit Netflix in the Autumn of 2020, it took just four weeks for it to become the platform’s most-watched scripted miniseries ever.
Nearly two years and a treasure trove of accolades later, drama fans and chess enthusiasts all over the world have just one question…
“When will we see Beth Harmon again?”

 

To say that The Queen’s Gambit was a successful show is a massive understatement. But here we go…11 Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series (the first show on a streaming service to win the category nonetheless); two Golden Globe Awards, for Best Limited Series or Television Film and Best Actress In a Miniseries or Television Film for Anya Taylor-Joy; a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie (Taylor-Joy again); a Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media: and many, many more.

Usually, a show centred around a sport or pastime will attract fierce criticism from its enjoyers. Not this one. The Queen’s Gambit not only enthralled non-players but also received a positive response from the ardent chess community for its accurate depiction of high-level chess. But aside from the mountain of accolades, viewer figures, and critical response, it’s the show’s impact on the chess world that has perhaps been the most impressive of all. The Queen’s Gambit made one of the oldest games thrilling and, dare we say it, sexy. The unexpected success of the show caught many retailers off guard. In an industry that traditionally enjoys steady demand, chess stores worldwide were swamped and left with back-orders galore. According to US figures, in the three weeks following the show’s debut, unit sales of chess sets jumped 87% and chess book sales rose 603%.

Will there be The Queen’s Gambit Season 2?

In the finale, we left Beth Harmon, dressed like the white queen herself, in a Russian park playing chess with the locals having just achieved her life goal of becoming a Grandmaster. The show ends on a note of narrative perfection, satisfying the fanbase it held in its grip for 7 enthralling episodes. That’s not to say there isn’t demand for a second season. Far from it. The show’s millions of fans are eager to learn what’s next for Beth Harmon, but at the time of writing, a second season seems unlikely. For one, The Queen’s Gambit was always billed as a Limited Series. It was adapted from a 1983 book of the same name by American novelist Walter Tevis – who wrote three other books that were adapted into major films; The Hustler, The Color of Money and The Man Who Fell to Earth. Sadly, Tevis died a year after The Queen’s Gambit was released. The death of the original writer might seem like more than a minor inconvenience… but still, there’s hope. Robert Ludlum died after writing 3 books in the Jason Bourne series which was to be continued for another 11 books by another writer, Eric Van Lustbader. As for the whole ‘limited series’ thing, HBO’s Big Little Lies was another novel adaption, also billed as a miniseries, that got a surprise second season.

Could The Queen’s Gambit Season 2 save Netflix?

The tightening of budgets post-COVID lockdowns and the cost of living crisis has been blamed for the cancellation of 1.5 million memberships to Netflix, Disney+ and other streaming services in the UK in the first quarter of 2022. Many of us can no longer afford to subscribe to numerous streaming services and so are forced to limit ourselves to one. And let’s face it, we don’t subscribe to Netflix, Amazon Prime et al. through blind loyalty. We choose the shows and movies they offer. So, what better way to win back some of those errant subscribers than with a second season of one of its best-loved miniseries?

So you’re telling me there’s a chance…

The cast and powers that be behind The Queen’s Gambit have been badgered about a second season as soon as the show wrapped up – with mixed responses. In an interview with Town & Country, Taylor-Joy addressed questions about The Queen’s Gambit Part 2. “If I’ve learned anything from being in this industry, it’s never say never. I adore the character, and I would certainly come back if I was asked to, but I do think we leave Beth in a good place. I think the rest of her life will surely be an adventure as well, but in the quest that she goes on in this to find some form of peace, just some form of being able to be happy with who she is. I think it ends in a nice place.” Harry Melling, who played Harry Beltik in the series, showed even more enthusiasm when asked about the as-yet-unplanned second season, “It’d be good, right, a Queen’s Gambit part two? The place we end in the limited series is the place we end in the book. I don’t know if there can be another one, but stranger things have happened.”

When asked about a second season by Deadline Hollywood, the show’s executive producer, William Horberg seemed less hopeful. “It’s wonderful to know that people loved the show where they want to spend more time with these characters; we never envisioned it that way. We felt that the series had a satisfying endpoint and we’d allow the audience to fill in the space as to what happens next for Beth Harmon.”

What might happen in The Queen’s Gambit Season Two?

Although a second season might feel like a distant dream, there’s nothing to stop us from speculating on what lies next for our favourite Grandmaster.The series might’ve ended with Beth defeating the world’s greatest chess player, but no one stays at the top forever. Younger, hungrier players will keep her on her toes and could even topple her from her throne – something hinted at in the first series when she narrowly defeats the 13-year-old prodigy Georgi Girev. We might continue Beth’s fight with addiction. Her dependence on drugs and alcohol played an enormous role in the series and her use of tranquillizers even aided her success. For anyone struggling with substance abuse, maintaining sobriety is an everyday struggle and a relapse might be just around the corner. USA’s tense relationship with Russia could be explored further – maybe with hints of defection or an international romance causing rifts between Beth and the US Government. Taylor-Joy herself has been vocal about wanting to explore another potential phase in Beth’s life, motherhood. The actress told Deadline, “It would be very interesting to see how Beth would be as a mother, now that she’s sober and more cognizant of the demons that pull her down.

The endgame

A second season would be warmly received by fans and the chess community alike and there are a plethora of potential plot lines to explore. But alas, we have no evidence that Queen’s Gambit Part 2 will ever happen. But in the words of its star Anya Taylor-Joy, “Never say never…