The Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis

Published March 26, 2023

The Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis

Book info

  • Title The Queen's Gambit
  • Author Walter Tevis
  • Year 1983
  • Genre Literary Fiction

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.


This was surprisingly good. I never got round to watching the Netflix adaptation, even though people were raving about it. I probably will now, having read the book. It’s just an interesting story following the coming-of-age difficulties of a young chess prodigy as she fights to first get access to the game, then to break through because of her gender and her age, and then to battle her own demons to try and get to the top. The chess sections are meaningless to me as someone who can only just about tell you what the different pieces are called, but still it remained engaging which is a difficult thing to do. And I loved the ending, that sometimes reaching the pinnacle isn’t everything and you want to just go back to the simple pleasures that got you into it in the first place.

Rating: 4 / 5

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