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John Henderson
By John Henderson

The Queen’s Gambit has proved to be nothing but pure online gold for Netflix since its release late last November, and the success of the streaming behemoth’s most-watched miniseries to-date also saw it striking a rich vein at Sunday’s annual 78th Golden Globe Awards. Nominated in two categories, it won both, scooping the top prize for best miniseries or television film, plus netting star Anya Taylor-Joy her first Golden Globe for best actress.

TQG won the overall prize in the category Best Television Limited Series, Anthology Series, or Motion Picture Made for Television, ahead of Normal People, Small Axe, The Undoing, and Unorthodox. And for her standout portrayal of Beth Harmon, the troubled Kentucky orphan and chess genius, Taylor-Joy won Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series, Anthology Series, or a Motion Picture Made for Television – and doing so ahead of established big star favourites Cate Blanchett (Mrs. America) and Nicole Kidman (The Undoing), plus Daisy Edgar-Jones (Normal People) and Shira Haas (Unorthodox).

Talking online to journalists afterwards, ‘golden girl’ Taylor-Joy couldn’t contain her delight at her and the series’ success: ‘My god Scott [Frank, the Director], I love you for letting me be part of this journey. Thank you for trusting me with Beth. It’s wonderful that everyone’s seen the show, but I would do this project again and again and again. I learned so much, I’m so grateful and thank you to the audiences that watched it and supported it and the characters. It meant the world, so thank you so much.’

Sadly there was no category at the Golden Globes for best chess consultants to a series or film, because if there had been, then unquestionably former world champion Garry Kasparov and legendary chess coach Bruce Pandolfini would also have been picking up awards – they were the two who made all the chess scenes so realistic and so captivating.

There was some 300+ real game moments seen in the series, and for chess fans, half the fun watching all seven episodes was trying to spot famous games from the annals. Another wonderful touch was Kasparov’s insight into taking some of those real games, finding missed opportunities, and turning them into ‘Beth brilliancies’. One such came in the final episode, “End Game”, as Beth gets to play in the biggest tournament of her life, and in Moscow, the biggest chess metropolis of them all!

In an early round meeting with the eccentric-looking ex-world champion Dimitri Luchenko (Marcus Loges), Beth gets to learn the hard lesson that Soviets work together as a team during adjournments – but fear not, because our heroine has Kasparov in her corner with an unlikely missed-win scenario from Arshak Petrosian and Vladimir Akopian, Yerevan 1988!

Photo: The moment Anya Taylor-Joy realised she had won the Golden Globe for her portrayal of Beth Harmon | 2021 Golden Globes/NBC

 

Dimitri Luchenko – Beth Harmon
Moscow International, 1969
King’s Indian Defence, Fianchetto variation
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.g3 0-0 5.Bg2 d6 6.Nc3 Nbd7 7.0-0 e5 8.h3 c6 9.e4 exd4 10.Nxd4 Re8 It’s a common KID Fianchetto – Black looks to target e4 and make use of his active pieces to offset his big d6-pawn weakness. 11.Be3 Nc5 12.Qc2 Qe7 13.Rfe1 Bd7 14.Nb3 Nxb3 15.axb3 c5 16.Qd2 Bc6 17.Rad1 Red8 I can’t quite fathom the rationale for this move, as the obvious KID move would have been 17…Rad8 – perhaps in the real game, Akopian feared something with a potential rook trade on the e-file? If so, it’s far too deep for me to worry over. 18.Bg5 Rd7 19.b4 cxb4 20.Nd5 Bxd5 21.exd5 Qf8 22.Qxb4 b6 23.h4 h6 24.Bf4 Nh5 25.Bh3 Rdd8 26.Bc1 Be5 27.Kg2?! Far too timid – White has the initiative with a the bishop-pair and the big space advantage, and has to seize the moment by striking quickly. And the most obvious try to force a win was 27.f4! Bg7 28.g4 Nf6 29.g5 hxg5 30.hxg5 Nd7 31.f5! and Black is in trouble with the kingside being ripped open. 27…Re8 28.Bd7 Re7 29.Bc6 Rc8 30.Qd2 Kh7 31.Qd3 Rcc7 32.b3 f5! Black has weathered the storm and now has a promising counterattack with …f4 on the horizon. 33.Re2 f4 34.g4 f3+ 35.Qxf3 Rf7 36.Qd3 Nf4+ 37.Bxf4 Rxf4 38.f3 This is where reality makes way for pure fantasy, as the Petrosian-Akopian game continued with 38…Rcf7 39.Rf1 Rxg4+ 40.fxg4 Rxf1 41.h5 Kh8 42.Ra2 Qf4 43.Qxf1 Qh2+ 44.Kf3 Qxa2 45.Qd3 gxh5 46.gxh5 Qh2 and the game fizzling out to a draw with a perpetual check. 38…h5! However, chess consultant Garry Kasparov saw just a little deeper for the series, with his improvement of Beth’s dramatic ‘sealed move’ missed by the Soviets. 39.gxh5 Kh8!! It’s not so obvious, but there’s a very stunning defensive rook resource/sacrifice looming large. 40.hxg6 Rxh4 41.Rh1 Looking to trade rooks and simplify. 41…Rch7!! [see diagram] Regardless of this being a ‘fictional’ conclusion to a game for a fictional series or not, this stunning rook sacrifice would have come like a bolt from the blue. 42.Rg1 The rook can’t be taken because of 42.gxh7 Qg7+ 43.Kf2 Qg3+ 44.Ke3 Bf4+ 45.Ke4 Qg6+ 46.Kd4 Qf6+ 47.Ke4 Qe5# and if 42.Rxh4 Rxh4 the White king is in trouble with multiple threats of …Qf4, …Rh2+ etc. 42…R7h5 43.Kf1 Kg7! Just stopping any g7+ awkwardness. 44.Bd7 Rd4 45.Qe3 The overworked queen has to stand guard over f3. 45…Rd1+ 46.Re1 Bd4 0-1

 

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