Tuesday, December 1

Chess: Beth Harmon and Magnus Carlsen unleash an unlikely boom | Chess


Beth Harmon, heroine of the Netflix miniseries The Queen’s Gambit, has joined Magnus Carlsen and easy access to internet games as a trigger for the unlikely chess boom of 2020.

The current world interest is probably the greatest the game has experienced since Bobby Fischer defeated Boris Spassky in Reykjavik in 1972, which, incidentally, served as the inspiration for Walter Tevis to write his 1983 novel where Beth is the central character. .

The 2020 boom is unlikely because it coincides with a contrasting disaster for regular chess on the board. Covid-19 has ruined every level, from grandmasters tournaments to weekly club nights. Games face to face with a human opponent are currently more rare occurrences than even during the two world wars.

Meanwhile, chess websites, where within seconds of clicking you are paired with an opponent of just the right strength for a game that will only take a few minutes of your time, are flourishing like never before. Participation in lichess Y chess.com It has multiplied by six or seven figures at a dizzying rate of growth, while tens of thousands of eager fans tune in to watch the latest tournament of world champion Magnus Carlsen.

You don’t have to wait long to see the legendary Norwegian in action. Carlsen is playing Banter Blitz, commenting on the game while doing his moves, in chess24.com, beginning Friday afternoon at 3pm. Sunday at 3pm begins the $ 100,000 16-player Skilling Open, the first $ 1.5 million Tour of Champions event in a year. Carlsen, who will turn 30 during the Nov. 30 tournament, will have a good chance of winning against an eminent group.

Walter Tevis wrote The Queen’s Gambit in 1983, a year before his death. He was a C-Class gamer, and the film’s drab initial setting reflects his personal experiences. Beth’s fictional chess career begins in 1958, the year of Bobby Fischer’s first American title at age 14, and ends in 1967, when she won her eighth and final crown of eight appearances.

Anya Taylor-Joy
Anya Taylor-Joy (right) plays chess prodigy Beth Harmon in the Netflix miniseries The Queen’s Gambit, based on the 1983 Walter Tevis novel of the same name. Photograph: Everett Collection Inc / Alamy Stock Photo

Fischer learned Russian to study Soviet literature, just like Beth in the movie. Fischer did not abuse substances like Beth, but had other well-documented inner demons. Beth’s mother dies early in the series, while Fischer’s mother left him to pursue a medical degree. Playing white against the Sicilian Defense, Beth uses the Fischer-Sozin Attack.

Garry Kasparov was the series’ chess consultant, along with Bruce Pandolfini. a prominent chess teacher from the United States. Kasparov’s choice of games for the series included the classics won by Paul Morphy at the Paris opera. in 1858, Richard Reti 1910 brevity against Savielly Tartakower, and a victory for Rashid Nezhmetdinov in Riga 1955. These three games have something in common: a queen sacrifice.

Kasparov’s teams are all men’s victories, who missed the chance to show off equally brilliant women’s games. Only four of them would have incidentally provided a mini-story of the best moments in women’s chess.

The world’s first female champion, Vera Menchik, who was tragically killed by a 1944 flying bomb, scored with a powerful attack and queen sacrifice against badminton baronet Sir George Thomas in London 1932. Nona Gaprindashvili, the Georgian who won strong events against men, sacrificed both towers for inevitable companion. Judit Polgar, the number one woman of all time, beat Vishy Anand with a brilliant tactic in 1998.

Four years later, at the Russia v World Cup match in Moscow, Polgar became the only woman to defeat Kasparov himself, in a captured final. on video.

There is hope that The Queen’s Gambit will inspire many more girls to play chess. In China, India, Russia, and Eastern Europe there are numerous strong female players, while in the US, Rex Sinquefield’s endorsement and prize funds of $ 100,000 for the US women’s title and $ 16,000 for Girls in America have encouraged several rapidly improving teenage talents.

It is different and worse in Britain and Western Europe, where the rewards of gambling for women are low. The most rewarding chess job right now is streaming, where the top three on the field Anna Rudolf, Anna Cramling, and Fiona Steil-Antoni have a combined total of around 100,000 followers. Perhaps a Beth Harmon Award, an equivalent to the 1973 Slater Awards that transformed English chess and launched a generation of grandmasters, would be the answer.

3698: 1 Kh8 +! Kxh8 2 Kh1 + Kg8 3 Kh8 +! Kxh8 4 Qh1 + Rh6 5 Qxh6 + Kg8 6 Qh7 mate. This spectacular but standard tactic works here because the bishop on b2 immobilizes the pawn on g7.

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