We’re completely obsessed with Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit right now. And who can blame us? From the top tier acting and stellar cast to the exquisite 1960s set design, the series has it all. But one thing we’ve all been left wondering; is The Queen’s Gambit based on a true story?
There isn’t one particularly straightforward answer to this (which is always the response everyone is hoping for…). The series is based on the novel The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis (The Man Who Fell to Earth), and while the short answer is that the book isn’t based on a true story, many of the characters in it are thought to be inspired by real life people and events.
Tevis’ own experiences as a ‘class c’ chess player inspired much of the novel, and the character of Beth Harmon (Taylor-Joy) although also fictional was inspired by Tevis’ daughter and aunt (who gifted him his first chess set).
In an interview with The New York Times Tevis spoke about the motivations behind the novel, saying it was a “tribute to brainy women.”
“I consider The Queen’s Gambit a tribute to brainy women. I like Beth for her bravery and intelligence. In the past, many women have had to hide their brains, but not today.”
In the same interview with NYT Tevis spoke about drawing on his own experience both as a chess player and in life to write the novel.
“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. 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 Queen’s Gambit is out on Netflix now.