The Queen's Gambit traces the life of Beth Harmon, a chess prodigy raised in an orphanage. She's the kind of person who has trouble relating to humans until she meets them over chess — then, suddenly, she comes alive and easily beats world-class players like a duck taking to water. But even though Beth is uneasy around others, she's still a person with thoughts and feelings. When she meets someone who makes her heart flutter, like D. L. Townes, it's a whole new kind of game. So, who is Townes in The Queen's Gambit?
Warning: Spoilers for The Queen's Gambit follow. Beth first meets Townes at Henry Clay High School, but this is not a teen soap opera with looks exchanged over classroom studies. She's there to play in the Kentucky State Chess Championship, despite never playing in a tourney before and being unranked. Beth first beats Annette Packer, the only other girl in the tourney, who teaches her how to play by the clock. She's the first one done, finishing long before Townes' match ends. Of course, it's only a matter of time before they come up against each other.
Beth is easily better than Townes. It's a bittersweet scene, watching her beat him. She doesn't want to, but not because she thinks he won't like her for it. It's more like someone who doesn't want to refuse a puppy a treat. But even though Beth is attracted to him, there's something she loves far more than any man: winning. Before long, she's humiliated his rook and taken the game in front of a crowd.
Townes is only the first of many men Beth comes across, though her crush on him remains unfulfilled throughout the show. Her later love interests, Harry Beltik and Benny Watts, played by Harry Melling (Dudley in Harry Potter) and Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Jojen in Game of Thrones), are also played by better-known actors. But though the actor who plays Townes, Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, who starred in series like Netflix's Medici, may not be as well known, behind the scenes, he played chess better than any of Beth's other opponents.
In an interview with Uproxx, Melling and Brodie-Sangster both mentioned Fortune-Lloyd had done his homework, saying he could play the game better than either of them.
At one point, Melling asked Brodie-Sangster if he made the mistake of trying to play Jacob. "Because Jacob was good. Jacob was really good." Brodie-Sangster responded he had avoided doing so: "I didn't. He played properly."
Sadly, Fortune-Lloyd's character wasn't good enough to beat Beth. And despite her feelings for him, she quickly moved on. After all, for her, the game is everything.
The Queen's Gambit is on Netflix now.