World’s Best Chess Player Said Netflix’s “The Queen’s Gambit” “Did Better At Chess” than anything Hollywood has done, but the game still has a culture of belittling women.


  • Magnus Carlsen, the world’s highest ranked chess player, said Netflix pulled off “The Queen’s Gambit,” the limited series about a chess prodigy set in the 1950s and 1960s.

  • In an interview this week, Carlsen told Insider the show deserves praise for touting protagonist Beth Harmon’s raw talent, rather than focusing on her gender.

  • “I love that once… it became clear that she had great abilities, there wasn’t a lot of ‘I don’t think she can be good because she’s a girl.’ “, did he declare.
  • But Carlsen warned that chess still has a lingering culture of sexism. Women are rare at the highest level of the game, and several Grandmasters have said that women lack the mental agility to compete with men.

  • Online chess is booming during the pandemic, and Carlsen and various chess platforms are trying to attract new players with fast, talking new formats.

  • Visit the Insider homepage for more stories.

The world’s best chess player said “The Queen’s Gambit” “played chess better” than anyone, but warned the game still has a long way to go in eradicating its lingering culture of sexism.

The Netflix limited series – which has been the platform’s most popular show for three straight weeks – traces the fictional rise of struggling chess prodigy Beth Harmon as she excels in the chess world dominated by men of the 1960s.

When asked what he thought of the show by Insider in a rare interview with reporters on Thursday, world number one Magnus Carlsen praised him for highlighting chess playing abilities Harmon, rather than his gender.

“I like the fact that once Beth started to have results, and once it became clear that she had great abilities, there wasn’t a whole lot of” I don’t think she was. ‘she can be good because she’s a girl,’ ”said the 29-year-old Norwegian said.

“It’s all gone. I found it very, very pleasant that she was judged on her abilities.

“Chess societies have not been very nice to women and girls”

At higher levels, chess has a representation problem.

Taylor-Joy in Netflix’s “The Queen’s Gambit”. Netflix

Few of the top players are women, and two grandmasters – a title given to players deemed to have mastered the game – have said that women are not mentally savvy enough to challenge men.

These remarks drew criticism from the main players. And on Thursday, Carlsen agreed with the women, saying, “I don’t think in principle women have a less natural ability to be good at chess than men.”

“This is a problem that has existed in the chess world for a long time. I think there is definitely a huge amount of work to be done there.

“In general, chess societies haven’t been very nice to women and girls over the years,” he said. “Certainly there has to be a bit of culture change.”

Carlsen suggested changing the format of chess tournaments to make them more gender-fair. Currently, most tournaments are either mixed ‘open’ or ‘women-only’, and Carlsen said that need to change to address the misconception that men are inherently better than women at the game.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily very good. There should only be “open” tournaments or there should only be male and female tournaments, ”he said.

The shortage of female players is most evident at the top of the game, Carlsen said, adding that the younger generation is much more representative.

“There isn’t much of a difference between boys and girls. It is clear that the difference is later, ”he said.

Insider has reached out to the International Chess Federation to comment on Carlsen’s suggestion on changing tournament formats.

The show impressed Carlsen, but he said some scenes are more fiction than reality.

Carlsen, who has been playing chess since the age of five, said “The Queen’s Gambit” taught him something new.

“There were a number of fragments that I wasn’t really familiar with, and they were also very picturesque,” ​​he said.

Beth harmon the bet of queen netflix anya taylor-joy

Taylor-Joy moves a “The Queen’s Gambit” chess piece. Netflix

However, the Grandmaster also said that some elements of the series are based more on fiction than reality.

“There were a few things that intrigued me, like the fact that she was so bad at blitzing when she tried it,” he said.

Blitz is a quick form of chess in which players have about three minutes to complete all of their moves. In episode five, Harmon surrenders by playing blitz for the first time.

“I would expect someone with so much understanding and so much ability to be able to play the blitz at least decently,” he said.

Another scene that intrigued Carlsen in the series was a chess match played by the character of Harry Beltik, a local chess celebrity, in episode two.

“You propose a draw and then resign immediately?” It’s not actually happening, ”Carlsen said.

The chess world is desperate to attract new players

The release of “The Queen’s Gambit” came amid a huge chess boom, with record numbers of people signing up to online platforms like and Chessable during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Earlier this week, even launched an AI version of Beth Harmon for players to try their luck against the fictional character.)

On Sunday, Carlsen will play the first round of his Champions Chess Tour, the second iteration of a world tour he launched last year. The total prize money this year is $ 1.5 million.

The tournament – the chess equivalent of the ATP Tour of Tennis and the PGA Tour of Golf – sees 16 of the world’s best players engage in quick matches.

Quick chess, according to Carlsen, is the key to attracting new players and big sponsors to elevate the game. It is also, he said, the best way to really determine the best players in the world.

Magnus carlsen

Magnus Carlsen seen in 2018. Getty

Classic chess off the board – where players can often have more than an hour to do all of their moves – are far from accessible and unsuitable for the modern world.

“Almost without fail, at least 70% of the matches will be drawn, and it’s just not everyone’s cup of tea, and for the players too, it can be frustrating,” he said. declared.

Another format that the chess world hopes to attract new players is “Banter Blitz” – a fast-paced series of matches in which players can talk to each other to force mistakes.

The insider asked Carlsen how he would react if we tried to get him to be wrong.

“I wouldn’t really listen to you,” he said. “I would put you aside and focus on my own game.”


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