Queen's Gambit cover image Walter Tevis image
Walter Tevis (1928 - 1984)

The Queen's Gambit Chapter Thumbnails

NOTE: This page is, as it has been since Dec. 2004, about Walter Tevis's novel. The Netflix show* follows the book more than
most shows based on books seem to—which in this case is very good news—but there are differences.

*One day in Oct. 2020 a link came up on Netflix for a show called "Queen's Gambit," and I was like "Wait...no, what? Must be something with the same title." But as soon as I clicked on it and saw the name Beth Harmon I was like "NO WAY!!" both because I was happy to see it AND because I was seriously afraid that who ever made it would "hollywood-it-up" and ruin it. (You KNOW what I mean: They would have made Beth a hot blonde wearing a bikini all the time, there would be a car chase that ends with one car going over a cliff and the other driver stopping at the edge of the cliff and looking down saying "Checkmate. You lose." You KNOW I'm right!) Anyway it was a relief to find not only was the show good, it was VERY good! In may ways it was better than the book, which there's no way I'm believing that if you'd said it aloud!
      So now on in late Feb 2023, it's been almost 2 1/2 years since it came out and I've watched it all the way through—all seven episodes—five times, which is an average of one complete viewing evey six months. Which seems just right, and that's the last thing I'm saying about the TV show on this page. On to this fantastic book!

updated: 20FEB23

The idea behind this page is to act as a scene spotter, but also to tally Beth's wins and losses as she progresses. (After each match, 1-0 means white won, 0-1 means black won. To see if Beth won a particular game, compare her record after that game with her record after her preceding game.) Obviously, in her eleven year odyssey, Beth played more than the 97 or so games tallied by the end of the book. The tally only includes games that were mentioned in the text; some are described in detail, others are mentioned off hand, and others are simply alluded to. For instance, in Chapter One Beth takes five games straight off Mr. Shaibel. That was specific enough for me to add the five to the tally. But later, in Chapter Five, she won three huge tournaments while dropping just one game. Her tally only shows the loss because her wins are never specified. (I suppose you can assume an average of 6-7 wins in each of the three tournaments...I should/could probably add 20 or so to her win column after chapter 5.)



orphaned • glad to get the little pill • haircut • some kids go quickly • volleyball lesson • it's called chess • hoarding tranqs • SCHOLAR'S MATE 1-0 (0-1) • ceiling chess • SECOND GAME 1-0 (0-2) • First Win 1-0 (1-2) • two wins last week (3-2) • Shaibel barely wins (3-3) • the squares have names? • 20 moves (4-3) • mentally replaying nine games • six pills = deep warmth • Playing White (Levenfish) (5-3) • 8 YEARS OLD (and astounding) • White trash cracker bitch • Modern Chess Openings • "thumb" sucking • five games straight (10-3) • Mr. Ganz (Najdorf) (11-3), (Reti) (12-3) • Shaibel-Ganz Simul (14-3) (16-3)


Field Trip • Imagine five games • No more tranquilizers • Duncan High School simul/massacre (28-3)• backward pawns (30-3) • PHARMACY BREAK-IN • "no more chess" • Best bed in the ward • ALMOST 10


ALMOST 13 • Mr. & Mrs. Wheatley • Going Home • Own Room • 7th Grade • Fergussen visits • Ben Snyder's • Morris's Bookstore • "Goddam brain" • magazine theft • Morphy's miss • Letter to Mr. Shaibel • stealing from Margaret • $5 from Shaibel


KENTUCKY STATE CHAMPIONSHIP • Annette Packer (Sicilian) 0-1 (31-3) • Beltik d. Cullen • Cooke 1-0 (32-3) • Kaplan 0-1 (33-3) • Klein 1-0 (34-3) • Townes (Sicilian) 0-1 (35-3) • I could have done this at eight • Goldmann 0-1 (36-3) • getting her period • Sizemore 0-1 (37-3) • Mr. Wheatley's gone for good • Beltik (French) 1-0 (38-3) • Son of a bitch!


Chess pays • CINCINNATI • Pirate demos Reshevsky • (39-3) • Ohioan (Sicilian) (40-3) • the master (41-3) • Rudolph (42-3) • 10% • Houston • Easy win, with a draw (43-3-1) • Charleston, Atlanta, Miami: one loss (43-4-1) • 1881 • trip to NYC • Life Magazine article • AGE 14 • Apple Pi • Kansas City • missed US Open • at SIXTEEN


LAS VEGAS • photo shoot and skittles in Townes' room • beer • (7 wins against Townes?? p102+7) • Oklahoman (44-4-1) • New Yorker (King's Gambit) (45-4-1) • Benny Watts 0-1 (45-5-1) 40-minute move • High School • Russian lessons


Russian class party • weed • 1st party • 1st sex • 17 • learning to drink • graduation • 2243


MEXICO CITY, and Manuel • Mom says relax • beer & Borgov at the zoo • Octavio Marenco 0-1 (46-5-1) • Diedrich (QGD) (47-5-1) • Alma still sick (Oaxaca crossed with Denver) • Goodbye Manuel • Girev age 12 • "seal the move" • Mexican in 20+ (Sicilian) 0-1 (48-5-1) You make a man feel helpless • Girev, resumed QGA 1-0 (49-5-1) • 2370 • Solomon 1-0 (50-5-1) • Borgov (Ruy Lopez, Howell) 1-0, 17 moves (50-6-1)


Tequila sunrises • goodbye mother • Beltik moves in • Knight odds • Beltik moves out • she was glad to be alone/she hated being alone • Morphy


OHIO • Resnais (Sicilian, Rosso-Nimzo) 0-1 (51-6-1) • skittles with Benny 0-1 (51-7-1); 1-0 Sicilian (51-8-1); (52-12-2) • Californian (English) 0-1 (53-12-2) • Doesn't everybody? • Tuesday & Wednesday (55-12-2) • Benny Watts (Sicilian) 0-1 (56-12-2)


Beer with Benny • Going to NEW YORK • boardless game on the road with Benny (Levenfish) 0-1 (57-12-2) • Benny's NYC apartment • scrutinizing Russians • Intense, impersonal study • three new friends • simultaneous (60-12-2) (63-12-2) • 16 moves (64-12-2) • Intimacy? • Poker game • Next morning (Sicilian, Levenfish) (65-12-2)


FRANCE • Dutchman (Reti) 0-1 (66-12-2) • 18 • Frenchman (67-12-2) • Englishman (68-12-2) • Dutchman #2 (69-12-2) • Borgov (Sicilian, Boleslavski) 0-1 (69-13-2) • Back to Kentucky • A father's love • Buying the house • running errands • "A Gibson...On the rocks." • spectacular drinking • more than a hangover • KENTUCKY STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS • Foster 1-0 (69-14-2) • What is waste? • Mayday, mayday.


Where's Jolene? • Dinner at Toby's, Jolene's plan • Sweating • Cleaning house • Christian Crusade • SAN FRANCISCO • Andy Levitt 1-0 (70-14-2) • SF loves Beth! • Goodbye Mr. Shaibel • Road trip with Jolene • Methuen • No Christian Crusade • No Benny • No Money • No help


Long wait at Orly • Flight to MOSCOW • Pre-tournament orientation • Viktor Laev (Sicilian, Boleslavski) 0-1 (71-14-2) • Time to relax • Official dinner • Duhamel 1-0 (72-14-2) • Borgov takes a peek • Park chess players • Hellstrom & Shapkin (74-14-2) • Luchenko (adjournment) • Borgov gets help • Flento (English opening) 1-0 (75-14-2) • 19 •  Luchenko (resumed) 0-1 (76-14-2) gracious resignation • Borgov (Queen's Gambit, Albin - adjournment) • Photos & Interviews • To the rescue! • Borgov (resumed) draw refused, mate in nineteen 1-0 (77-14-2) • Post party • Back to the park

Beth's loss to Borgov at the end of Chapter 8:

White Vasili Borgov
Black Beth Harmon
Event Mexico City, 1964

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 a6
4. Ba4 Nf6
5. O-O Nxe4
6. d4 b5
7. Bb3 d5
8. dxe5 Be6
9. Qe2
[HAIR-SPLITTY DETAIL IF YOU PLAY THIS GAME OUT WHILE READING: "...Borgov, his face smooth and impassive, picked up his Queen and set it in front of the King, on king two." Borgov did indeed move 9. Q-K2 (9. Qe2), but not in front of the King; he'd castled back on move 5 and at this moment his King was not on K1 (e1) but on KN1 (g1).]
10. Nd4 c5
11. Nxe6 fxe6
12. c3 Nxb3
13. axb3 Qb6
14. Be3 Be7
15. Qg4 O-O
16. f3 d4
17. Bh6 1-0

After watching Borgov move 17. Bh6, Beth thinks that she "would have to bring her Rook up to protect," (17...Rf7) after which Beth fears that Borgov would "take the Knight with his Queen" (18. Qxe4) and she would take his Bishop on h6 with her pawn (18...gxh6) and Borgov would then capture her Rook on a8 with check (19. Qxa8+) "and the whole thing would blow apart," so she resigns. Now, it's all theater anyway when you're down a Knight—to the World Champion, no less—but don't take the Bishop. 18...Rd8 (or 18...Rff8) maybe keeps White to a three point advantage...for a while at least. (19. Bf4 b4 20. c4 Rdf8 21. Bg3 Bg5 22.Qd3 Be3+ 23. Kh1 Bf4 24. Bxf4 Rxf4)

About four pages into Chapter 11 Benny challenges Beth to a boardless (spoken) game on their drive to NYC. It's more or less impossible to follow this game as the characters spoke it. I try to explain why below.

White Benny Watts
Black Beth Harmon

1. e4 c5 ("Let's play chess. I'll be White. Pawn to K-4;" "Pawn to Q-B4"
2. Nf3 d6 ("N to K-B3;" "Pawn to Q-3")
3. d4 cxd4 ("Pawn to Q-4;" "Pawn takes pawn")
4. Nxd4 Nf6 ("Knight takes;" "Knight (to) K-B3.")
5. Nc3 g6 ("Knight to Q-B3;" "Pawn to K-N3.")
6. f4 (Benny: "Pawn to B-4;" Beth: "Pawn to B-4?" Benny: (Yeah, it's) "The Levenfish. I never liked it." Beth "Play your knight."

There's serious confusion here if you attempt to play this out on a board or, in the spirit of the scene, follow along in your head: Benny says "P to B four," (6. f4) and Beth repeats "P to B four," not because she also is moving a pawn to bishop four—she can't: her only pawn on a bishop file is blocked by the Knight on f6. No, here Beth is simply in disbelief. (She's basically saying "Really? P to B four?") He confirms his move by identifying the Levenfish opening. The confusion only deepens now as Beth, exasperated, flat out tells Benny to "play your knight." Benny bristles and says "Don't tell me what to move." After a tense few minutes Benny accedes: "You're right, I'll move Knight to B3." So...did Benny take back the Levenfish pawn move (6. f4) and is now returning the Knight—which on the 4th move took Black's pawn on d4—back to K-B3? (6.Nf3) It sounds like it, but the next thing Beth says is "Okay. I'll take the Knight." How?? The only piece or pawn of hers that's now in a position to take anything is her f6 Knight which could take Benny's e4 pawn. The only scenario that makes any kind of sense would be 6...Bxf3, but she'd need to have put her light-square Bishop on g4 first (6...Bg4), a move that is never mentioned. It gets worse.
     Beth: "I'll take the Knight" (7...Bxf3)
     Benny: "Pawn takes" (8. gxf3)
     Beth: "P-K5" She can't make this move. Her King's pawn on e7 can only go to e5, which in the old notation is K4, not K5. Now, this could simply be a typo that should read 8...P-K4 (8...e5) but I think it's not. Keep reading.
     Benny: Pawn takes again (Yeah: this makes no sense. Benny has no pawns that could take anything. But keep reading. There's some chatter about Scharz's footnotes, then...)
     Beth: "Queen takes Queen. Check"
     Benny: "King takes" ...the last spoken move. (We're told Beth goes on to win on the 27th move.)
The ONLY possible continuation where any of this makes sense is one in which, after Benny makes the move 8.gxf3 he immediately moves again, moving HIS pawn to K5 (9.e5) and the simplest explanation for this—it seems to me—is that Tevis got crossed up and switched move attribution: Benny's speaking Beth's Black piece moves, and vice versa.
6...Nc6 ("I'll move Knight to B3")
7. Nxc6 bxc6 ("I'll take the Knight;" "Pawn takes")
8. e5 dxe5 ("Pawn to King five;" "Pawn takes again")
9. Qxd8+ Kxd8 ("Queen takes Queen, check;" "King takes")

This has happened before—a writer getting crossed up when writing a chess game. In the 2011 "Downey/Law" Sherlock Holmes movie
A Game of Shadows the director and/or editor had Holmes and Moriarty switch colors while making the moves of an actual (and famous) game which had been played in 1966 between Danish Grandmaster Bent Larsen and Soviet-Armenian Grandmaster Tigran Petrosian, in—of all places—Santa Monica, CA.)
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created: 12DEC04
modified: 19FEB23 (greatly expanded the discussion on the Chapter 11 spoken game.)