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Original photo by Jenna Wilson
Entertainment

‘Queen’s Gambit’ Inspired Me to Play Chess and Form a Closer Bond

Let’s be honest – I had no effing clue how to play chess. I remember my Dad trying to teach me once when I was younger and that was a disaster— too many rules and too much thinking for my little ten-year-old brain. Thus, I developed a bitchy attitude towards it, thinking it was for nerds with too much time on their hands.

Fast-forward a decade, Mom has been nagging at me for months to watch this new show on Netflix called The Queen’s Gambit. She described it as a show about a chess prodigy but how it’s ~so much more than that~. Daily convos went like this:

“Jenna, have you watched Queen’s Gambit yet?”

“No, Mom, I don’t care about chess!”

“No, no, no, you don’t understand. It’s different.”

Finally, I gave into the pressure and begrudgingly watched Episode 1. That led to Episode 2, and then the next one, and eventually the whole series was binged in less than a week. My mother was right all this time – this show was about so much more than chess. It was about survival, trauma, loss, and transformation, which are all prevalent themes I have experienced in my life as well. So, when you finish reading this article, go to Netflix straight away and watch the first episode – it’s worth it.

Post-binging, I suddenly became interested in the game I have been so apathetic towards for so long. Hearing that I wanted to relearn how to play chess, my dad immediately hopped on Amazon and bought a new chess set. When the set arrived, Dad quickly arranged all the pieces on the board and ordered me to sit down. As soon as I sat in front of the board, he began to rattle off all the rules and moves you could make. As he regaled me with all his chess knowledge, I began to wonder, “How does he know so much about chess? Why does he care so much?” I asked Dad what I was thinking and what he said truly shocked me. 

“I’ve been playing for 40 years, I was in a chess club.”

W H A T ? My dad, the big, buff personal trainer, has been a chess master this whole time? Immediately, the saying of “don’t judge a book by its cover” hit home right then and there. He told me how strategic the game is and how it’s all about noticing your opponent’s weakness and thinking 2 or 3 steps ahead. A beginner game turned into another, and soon I got a handle on how to play. I was getting better with each game because of learning from my mistakes.

I would visibly cringe every time I realized I messed up and gave Dad the opportunity to demolish the board. But whenever my nose scrunched up or I muttered “dammit,” he would always remind me of what not to do – “Never let them see you sweat. Psych them out as much as possible.”

Chess, simply put, is beautiful. It drives me insane every time, but that is exactly the reason I love it. Like Beth Harmon said in Queen’s Gambit, “it’s an entire world of just 64 squares. I can control it, I can dominate it.” Imagine having just one purpose, one objective right in front of you that you can reimagine a thousand different ways. People, even my earlier self, thought that chess was for nerds and had strict, boring rules. In reality, this is a game that fosters inventiveness and literally anyone can play – even me, the lost cause I once thought I was, or my dad, who I had no idea would ever be into this. This year has been so rough for everyone, but a true bright spot for me was being able to find a new passion that I can share with someone I love – checkmate.

 

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Jenna Wilson

Oswego '22

Jenna is a junior at SUNY Oswego majoring in Mass Communications and aiming for a Master's in Strategic Communications. Planning on working as a creative/art director, she’s also dreaming of yet another trip to Disney World. Jenna is also an avid lover of reality television, 90s music, and most of all, her family (and Bostons).
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