Book Review: The Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis


Title: The Queen's Gambit

By: Walter Tevis

Genre: Fiction

Pages: 243

Release Date: March 11th, 2003

Publisher: Vintage

Rating: ★★★★☆


Summary from Goodreads:

When she is sent to an orphanage at the age of eight, Beth Harmon soon discovers two ways to escape her surroundings, albeit fleetingly: playing chess and taking the little green pills given to her and the other children to keep them subdued. Before long, it becomes apparent that hers is a prodigious talent, and as she progresses to the top of the US chess rankings she is able to forge a new life for herself. But she can never quite overcome her urge to self-destruct. For Beth, there's more at stake than merely winning and losing.


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Some of you might be familiar with poor little Beth Harmon. The girl who was orphaned at the age of eight, but went on to become one of the world’s greatest chess players? Well, if you haven’t heard of this completely fictional character, I have a story for you.

When Beth is placed at the orphanage, she discovers two ways to escape her dreary life, chess and the little green pill they give her and the other children to keep them subdued. Before long, those around her realize Beth is a prodigy at chess. Using this talent, Beth forges a new path for herself as she climbs the ranks of the world best chess players, but she finds that the only opponent that she can’t beat is herself.

Reading about Beth and diving deeper into her back story really puts her extraordinary talent into perspective. Not only was she unwanted by her biological father, her mother was somewhat of a basket case. The only way for Beth to survive her childhood was to learn how to analyze a situation and react accordingly. This is also spurred on by her savant type mind, one that works through problems in a nero divergent way. Saying that she can picture the entire game of chess in her head, move by move is putting it lightly.

As we follow Beth play game after game of chess, we realize each mistake she makes, takes a toll on her psyche. It’s more damaging that the fame of winning.

Now, I know what you’re thinking… How could anyone read a book about chess, ugh… So boring! Well, it’s not. This book as one of the most thrilling reads I’ve picked up this year.

I really felt Beth’s journey comes to a close at the end when she finally confronts her inner demons and realizes winning isn’t everything.

If you loved the Netflix show, you will love this book. If you haven’t watched the show, read The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis. You won’t be disappointed.

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