The Queen’s Gambit: That ending explained and all your questions answered

The Queen’s Gambit: That ending explained and all your questions answered


Anya Taylor-Joy in the Queen’s move.


If you’re still buzzing after Beth Harmon’s triumph in The Queen’s Gambit, let’s delve even further into the excellent Netflix miniseries. From asking if it’s a true story of a child prodigy to what a Queen’s Gambit is, hopefully we’ll answer all of your questions.

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Warning: spoilers ahead


Young Beth learns chess from Mr. Shaibel, the caretaker of her orphanage.


Is it based on a true story?

While The Queen’s Gambit acts as an inspiring sports story, it is an adaptation of a fictional coming-of-age novel of the same name from 1983 written by the American writer Walter Tevis. Tevis was a chess player himself and consulted real chess masters to make sure he was accurately describing the intricacies and rules of professional chess. So no, Elizabeth Harmon is not based on a true orphaned chess wonder from the 50s and 60s. However, if you are looking for a female chess player to read up on, Judit Polgar from Hungary is generally considered to be the strongest female chess player of all time.

What is the Queen’s Gambit?

The Queen’s Gambit is a chess opening that includes three games. It’s the move Beth used in her last win against Vasily Borgov, the Russian world champion. Beth starts out as a white woman and plays queen four to her pawns. Borgov plays queen four to his pawns and Beth plays queen bishop four her pawns. This is the queen’s gambit.

How does Beth’s real mother die?

When Beth was 9 years old, her real mother Alice committed suicide by driving into an oncoming vehicle. She first drives to Beth’s father’s house, where his new wife answers with her young son. Alice asks Paul for help looking after Beth, but Paul desperately throws her away from his new family. He says she can come back another time and they will talk, but it’s been five years since they last saw each other and he has clearly moved on. Alice tries to kill both of Beth in the crash. Beth miraculously survives, but suffers from emotional problems all her life.


Beth and Benny Watts.


Which pill does Beth take?

At Beth’s orphanage, the Methuen Home for Girls, the children are given tranquilizers to make them compliant. If a law forbidding this is passed and Beth’s pills are taken away, she will go into rehab and continue to struggle with her drug addiction.

How does Mrs. Wheatley die?

After her whirlwind romance with pen pal Manuel in Mexico City ends, Mrs. Wheatley no longer shows up for Beth’s match with Borgov. Beth returns to her hotel room and discovers Mrs. Wheatley dead. The coroner expects hepatitis, an inflammatory disease of the liver. Mrs. Wheatley was an alcoholic and had a huge bill of margaritas at the hotel.

How does Beth beat Benny Watts?

The first time Beth plays against Benny Watts, the reigning US champion, at the US Open in Las Vegas, he defeats her. Later, with the help of ex-Kentucky state champion Harry Beltik, Beth learns to study her opponents and all of the big games of her career instead of just improvising in the moment. She buys an issue of Chess Review with a feature on Watts and asks him personally questions about himself, such as why he carries a knife around (he says it’s protection from “whatever”). In the final game of the US Championship in Ohio, Beth quickly defeated him in 30 moves. She allows him to play the same move he made to defeat them the first time – trading queens – but this time she is prepared.


Beth and Borgov.


How does the adjournment work?

When Beth played her last game against Borgov in Russia, he asked her to adjourn until the next day. That means he has to write his next move on a piece of paper and seal it in an envelope. The director then begins the next session with the prepared move. This ensures that neither player knows what the board will look like the next time it is their turn.

Why does Borgov want to adjourn?

In the last game between Beth and Borgov at the Moscow Invitational, Beth appears to be the tired of the two after playing several long games in a row. But it is Borgov who asks to end the session and pick it up the next day. That decision could refer to Borgov’s interview in a tape that Beth sees during training with Harry, where Borgov talks about competing against people his half age like Beth and doesn’t know how much longer he can win. “I can fight anyone but time.” It is possible that he too is tired and realizes Beth’s fatigue and thinks it fair to call the adjournment. He could also feel threatened that he is going to lose, so he is pulling out to consult the other Russian players – Beth stumbled upon Borgov, who helped former world champions Luchenko postpone their game a day or two earlier.

Who is Iepe Rubingh?

The Queen’s Gambit is dedicated to Iepe Rubingh, the inventor of chess boxing, who died in May of this year at the age of 45 for reasons unknown. Chess boxing is a hybrid sport in which competitors take turns playing chess and boxing.

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