The Effect “The Queen’s Gambit” Had on the Chess Community


(Image via Lifestyle Asia)

Paige Everson, Writer

Let’s start by getting this out of the way and telling you that chess is a sport. The International Olympic Committee has recognized chess as a sport. Even though this acknowledgment lacks recognition as an Olympic Sport, which would earn inclusion in the games, it is an acknowledgment of the sport-like properties essential in chess.

“The Queen’s Gambit” is a fictional story about an orphaned Kentucky girl in the 1960s who becomes a chess champion while still in her teens. The gifted main character, Beth Harmon, battles addictions to pills and alcohol – and some sexist assumptions about her chess skills – while beating one male grandmaster after another.

The show was watched by 62 million households in the first 28 days after its release, more than any previous Netflix scripted limited series. In the week when the show launched in the US, the UK, and many other countries, worldwide Google searches for chess increased significantly. eBay said it had a 273% increase in searches for chess sets in the ten days following the show’s release

The first widely seen chess recognition was when people started to spend more time at home because of the pandemic. At that time, sales of chess sets have soared by 60% since last year as more people spend time at home. And since the release of The Queen’s Gambit, the sales continue to keep rising. Sales of chess sets and accessories shot up by nearly 215%. Sales of chess clocks and timers have gone up 45%. The sales of score pads are the most impressive because they have risen to nearly 300% overtime since the release.

The number of people starting to play chess is colossal. Even though people can not play between different households, millions of people have turned to the internet to play online chess sites. There is also a chess site that lets you play against “Beth Harmon” herself.

International grandmaster Maurice Ashley said last month he had been overwhelmed with messages from people – mostly women – asking him whether he has seen it and is enthusiastic about the game.

Nick Barton, director of business development at, says the show has been a cultural phenomenon for chess fans. Many viewers can relate to its “themes of addiction, loss, personal conflict, and overcoming adversity”, he said.

Even though there has been an increase in chess interest: there have been some negative effects to the chess world as well. The amount of cheating has gone up. The most logical reason for the increase of cheating potentially has to do with the fact that The Queen’s Gambit was shown as a girl winning it all. So other people are taking to the fact that cheating will get you higher in the rankings.

Chess is an incredible sport and should not allow cheating at all. But besides those few people willing to do the wrong thing to win, chess has increased in popularity and numbers. It has become more and more popular all over the world with major thanks to The Queen’s Gambit.