Chess is supposed to be a game of the mind. It's a world where emotions don't reach, where only logic rules. However, someone forgot to mention this to The Queen's Gambit, Netflix's surprisingly emotional new miniseries starring Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon. Harmon, a child prodigy turned world-famous chess player, loves chess (and winning at chess) more than she does anything else in the world, and that passion carries the seven-episode series. That's why these The Queen's Gambit quotes are proof that a show about a table sport can be just as romantic as any love story.
The Queen's Gambit is based on the novel by Walter Tevis, the American novelist known for The Hustler, The Color of Money, and The Man Who Fell to Earth. Though The Queen's Gambit is one of his lesser-known novels, it has a cult following. Having his lines spoken by stars like Taylor-Joy, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, and Harry Melling brings them to life in a beautiful way.
The Queen's Gambit is more of a sports series than anything else, but sports films are known for their passion. These inspirational quotes are a reminder that even though they play on plastic boards with plastic pieces, everything about The Queen's Gambit is done on a grander scale.
1. Chess Can Be Beautiful
"Chess isn't always competitive. Chess can also be beautiful. It was the board I noticed first. It's an entire world of just 64 squares. I feel safe in it. I can control it. I can dominate it. And it's predictable, so if I get hurt, I only have myself to blame." - Beth Harmon
This statement from Beth to the reporter from Life Magazine sums up why she falls in love with the sport. It's the place she feels safest and in control of her life, the one place she cannot be hurt without it being her own fault.
2. Tranquility Now
"My tranquility needs to be refurbished." - Alma Wheatley
Beth's substance use disorder beings at an early age, when she is still at the orphanage. But her reliance on "green pills" is furthered after she is semi-adopted by Alma, a lonely woman who takes her in as a companion. In the series, the pills, called Xanzolam, are probably a stand-in for chlordiazepoxide, which were popular during this era as "mother's little helpers." Beth's relationship with these pills is almost her undoing.
3. Advice From Alice
"The strongest person is the person who isn't scared to be alone." - Alice Harmon
Beth doesn't have many memories of her biological mom, but it seems pretty clear Alice Harmon was deeply troubled. When she says this line to a very young Beth in a flashback scene, the quote is full of sadness. It seems Beth took this advice to heart, as she went about most of her life as a loner.
4. Charged Clocks
"Would you like to start my clock?" - D. L. Townes
Throughout the series, there are several variations on this quote, in which men either ask Beth to start their clock or offer to start hers. In this case, it's Beth who has the crush on Townes, and his offer flusters her a little. Who says chess can't be sexy?
"I don't know why my body is so intent on sabotaging my brain, when my brain is perfectly capable of sabotaging itself." - Alma Wheatley
Another quote from Alma, this one comes after her reliance on pills and alcohol suddenly makes her unable to keep reading. It can also be seen as Beth's problem later down the line, as her own experiences with substance use consume her life.
6. Creativity & Psychosis
"Creativity and psychosis often go hand in hand. Or, for that matter, genius and madness." - Jean Blake
This line is spoken by the Life Magazine reporter who interviews Beth early on. Beth bristles at its implications, which means she may recognize the potential truth behind the words.
7. Harry On Anger
"Anger is a potent spice. A pinch wakes you up; too much dulls your senses." - Harry Beltik
Beth's most significant problem early on is that she's not used to losing, so when someone crosses her on the board, she gets super mad. It closes her mind to all the different possibilities she could take to get out of it. When Harry takes over coaching, his first act is to break her of that habit.
TBH, I think we could all learn something from this quote, whether it's in chess or in life.
8. Beth & Benny
"Do you ever go over games in your head? When you're alone, I mean. Play all the way through them? - Beth Harmon
"Doesn't everybody?" - Benny Watts
The closest person to a soulmate Beth meets during the series, Benny, is just as obsessed with chess (and winning) as she is. Their relationship was always doomed to fail, since they are too similar that way. But when their love affair works, it borders on the stuff of legends.
9. Everybody Loves Jolene
"I'm not your Guardian Angel. I'm not here to save you. Hell, I can barely save me." - Jolene
Beth's best friend in the series is Jolene, a fellow orphan who takes a fancy to the young girl and helps her navigate the orphanage. When Beth hits rock bottom later on in the series, it's Jolene, who has become both an aspiring radical and the bougie mistress of a high-powered lawyer, who turns up to save the day. Though she's modest about the role she plays in Beth's life, Jolene's tough love is what Beth needs to pick herself back up.
10. Time To Play The Game
"Let's play." - Beth Harmon
The show's final quote comes after Beth has finally conquered her most prominent opponent, "The Russian," Vasily Borgov. But instead of flying back to the United States and doing the media rounds, she jumps out of her car and does what she wants most. She finds some Russian men playing chess in the park, who remind her of the old janitor who first taught her the game. They treat her like a massive celebrity in their midst as they invite her to have a seat. And then they play.
The Queen's Gambit is on Netflix now.