Number one in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, New Zealand: The Queen’s Gambit has already reached the top of the list of the most watched series of the streaming service.

The adaptation of the novel by Walter Tevis has firmly captured the imagination of Netflix subscribers all over the world, winning rave reviews and giving an insight into the mysterious world of chess.

Who’s the leading actress? Who were the chess experts who assisted the team? How was Heath Ledger involved in the film project? Check out our 25 facts about The Queen’s Gambit.

An amazingly talented young actress: Isla Johnston as Beth Harmon as a child.


The Netflix limited drama series The Queen’s Gambit, which premiered worldwide on 23 October 2020, is a coming-of-age story that explores the true cost of genius.

Abandoned and entrusted to a Kentucky orphanage in the late 1950s, a young Beth Harmon discovers an astonishing talent for chess thanks to the janitor who teaches her more than only the basics and introduces her to a teacher who’s in charge of a college chess club.

Beth develops an addiction to tranquilizers which have been provided by the state to sedate the children.

Beth (Anya Taylor-Joy) takes advantage of Alma’s medical prescriptions.

The series is written and directed by Academy Award nominee Scott Frank (Godless) and executive produced by Frank, William Horberg (The Talented Mr. Ripley) and Allan Scott, who also co-created the series.

The Queen’s Gambit began taking shape as a limited series in 2018, but almost 30 years prior, executive producer and co-creator of the series Allan Scott had acquired the rights to the novel. Heath Ledger, who was going to direct it, died in the middle of preparing the movie.

Before the director and the producers started with the casting, Ellen Lewis, a veteran casting director, had a short list of women and Anya Taylor-Joy was on that list. They didn’t even have a script yet. So Scott sent Anya the book and she loved it.

Beth is fascinated by chess player Townes (Jacob Fortune-Lloyd).

“I fell in love with Beth immediately and there was a really strong kinship,” recalls Taylor-Joy. “Even though I knew nothing about chess whatsoever, I understood her really well and I cared about her. I think that being a teenage girl is rough enough without being a genius, and while she is a genius, for a large portion of this story, she is also just a 15-year-old girl who is desperately trying to connect. She felt very “other” and I could connect with that. It broke my heart when I first read it and it continues to break my heart still.”

Taylor-Joy says that what her character experiences with the relationship with Mr. Shaibel (Bill Camp) is the first true connection to another human being. “This is somebody who she feels understands not only her gift but how her brain works. It’s also somebody who can tell her no, and she doesn’t get a lot of no. She’s so strong-willed and in charge of herself that she runs the show a lot and some of her more narcissistic tendencies are egotistical tendencies, especially when it comes to winning. She craves having a paternal figure who can tell her no.”

Beth signs her first autographs at her school. The story, set during the Cold War era, follows Beth from the age of eight to twenty-two.

Beth is played by the talented young British actress Isla Johnston (as a child) and the amazing Anya Taylor-Joy (24). Anya was born in Miami, but grew up in Argentina until the age of six before moving to Great Britain with her parents. She’s the youngest of six siblings. Today, she’s still fluent in Spanish. She’s best known for her appearances in The Witch (2015), Split (2017) and Emma (2019).

Anya Taylor-Joy has 1.5 million followers on Instagram.

Marielle Heller (41) plays Mrs. Alma Wheatley, a lonely housewife with an absent husband and her own vices. She welcomes Beth as both her adopted daughter and much needed companion. Beth owes her a lot. Alma believes in Beth’s talent and organizes Beth’s trips to national and international chess tournaments. Marielle Heller is not only a talented actress, but also the director of A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood starring Tom Hanks.

Thomas Brodie-Sangster plays Benny Watts. Arrogant, confident and calm, Watts, a young chess talent himself, becomes one of Beth’s greatest opponents as well as one of her closest allies. Brodie-Sangster, a 30-year-old British actor, is best known for his roles in Game of Thrones and Death of a Superhero.

Harry Melling plays Harry Beltik: A traditional learner and one of the best chess players in the state of Kentucky, Harry is in awe of Beth’s talent and enters her life when she is at a low point.

Harry Melling is an acclaimed British screen and stage actor. He is best known onscreen for portraying Dudley Dursley across five films in the Harry Potter film franchise.

He currently stars in Netflix’s critically-acclaimed global hit, The Old Guard, starring Charlize Theron, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Matthias Schoenaerts. Melling also co-stars in the Netflix psychological thriller, The Devil All The Time, in which he plays an ambitious Southern preacher in a film produced by Jake Gyllenhaal.

USSR vs. USA: Borgov, Beth’s most feared competitor, has no difficulty in beating the young American in Mexico City.

Taking on the role of the Russian grandmaster Vacily Borgov is Polish actor Marcin Dorocinski. Unknowingly, Borgov pushes Beth to overcome a lot of her own self-sabotaging ways – something she must learn to do if she is ever going to beat him. Franks explains, “Beth keeps self-destructing along the way. She’s got it all there for the taking and she self-destructs partly because she doesn’t think she deserves it. It’s not Borgov who beats her several times in the course of the story, he’s not the problem. She could have beaten him. It’s that she gets in her own way.”

Fellow orphan Jolene lends Beth the money to travel to Moscow and attend the World Chess Championship.

Moses Ingram, who plays Jolene, made her television debut in The Queen’s Gambit. A Baltimore native, Ingram attended the Yale School of Drama where she was the winner of the 2018 Princess Grace Award.

She will next play the role of Lady Macduff opposite Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand in Macbeth, directed by Joel Coen.

Beth at the Chess World Championship in Moscow. Nobody knows that she took Russian classes in the States to learn the language and understand her competitors.

Daniel Parker, head of hair and make-up, is known for his work on Cloud Atlas (2012), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994) and In A Better World (2010). For Chernobyl, Parker was nominated for two Emmy Awards.

The soundtrack of The Queen’s Gambit was composed by Carlos Rafael Rivera, an Emmy Award winning composer. He mentored with Randy Newman while studying at USC’s Thornton School of Music.


Bruce Pandolfini, widely considered to be America’s most experienced chess teacher, rose to prominence as an analyst for the WNET/PBS coverage of the 1972 Fischer-Spassky World Chess Championship Match. It was Bruce who gave the first accredited college courses on chess at the New School for Social Research, where he was on the faculty from 1972 to 1991. He has had many celebrated students, including Fabiano Caruana, the highest ranked American player in history and the third highest rated player of
all-time, and Josh Waitzkin, subject of Searching for Bobby Fischer, a 1988 best-selling memoir by Fred Waitzkin, which was adapted in 1993 by Paramount into a major motion picture. Besides creating all the chess in the film, and training all the actors, Bruce was portrayed by Ben Kingsley.

Bruce has been an advisor for advertising, film and publishing since the early 1970s. In 1983, he was Random House’s consultant for Walter Tevis’s novel, The Queen’s Gambit, a title Bruce created. That association led to his consulting for Netflix on their present original production

Beth discovers Moscow on her own. The US Secret Service agent rushed to the airport to catch a flight back to the US.


Haunted by her personal demons and burdened with the gift of genius, Beth navigates between her social awkwardness amongst peers and her overconfident ego behind a chessboard.







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Photos: Courtesy of Netflix © 2020

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