Two Chess Grandmasters Weigh in on “The Queen’s Gambit”

The new hit Netflix show “The Queen’s Gambit” follows a young woman’s spectacular rise through the male-dominated world of chess. To discuss the series and its impact, Christiane speaks with two of the greatest chess players of all time. Garry Kasparov was a consultant on the show, while Judit Polgar is widely considered the best female player ever.

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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: So let me ask you, Judit, because you are actually a real master. Tell me your exact title. But you were very, very young when you entered the world of chess. And you reached a very, very top rank. What was it — is it realistic to you, what we have seen? The character in the film, in the series, is called Beth Harmon, an orphan from Kentucky, who learns from the janitor how to play a phenomenal game of chess. How much of it, in terms of the actual playing, was realistic to you?

JUDIT POLGAR, CHESS GRANDMASTER: Oh, I love the chess things. And thanks, Garry, for being there. And I know there were some other people also there. It was a real joy to follow all the chess scenes, and looking some parts of the board only and figuring out what can happen. So, it was — it’s a real joy for chess players, I think, to follow all these chess scenes. But, generally speaking, of course, I think Beth, when she started to play chess, she was 8 or 9, if I remember well. I started to play chess when I was 5 years old. And I think most of the big champions, they started earlier in the age. And I have to tell you that, if you want to become a world champion, you can’t afford having pills and drugs and drinks. But, of course, I love the way Beth was playing. And the whole movie it is just so rich in every way.

AMANPOUR: And you refer to pills and drinks. She obviously in — the character, it’s based on a novel, let’s be frank — was very heavily addicted, and that affected her playing. And she really had to pull herself together by the end to win that final victory. Garry, let — now let’s get to the nitty-gritty of this. You have played — you have played Judit. We will get to when she beat you. But in terms of you respecting or feeling that women could actually handle this game, you were not always a convert.

GARRY KASPAROV, CHESS GRANDMASTER: Yes. Look, just not to confuse historical record, so the score is heavily in my favor.


KASPAROV: So, we played many years with Judit, yes. But, when I played Judit, and we have to say that she was absolutely phenomenal. And none of us — I’m talking about my male colleagues — viewed her as a female player. She was one of the top 10 players in the world, period. So — and it’s a unique accomplishment. And the Judit story proves that, though the story of Beth Harmon is kind of an exaggeration, it’s Hollywood, but, still, it’s doable. And the fact is that Harmon had to struggle with these addictions, with green pills, with alcohol, and eventually she was helped many of your friends. And she learned about this even team spirit of working together. And that’s what contributed to her final victory in Moscow. I think that makes this story so attractive to millions and millions of people, who don’t even know how to move chess pieces.

About This Episode EXPAND

Christiane speaks with former senior adviser to Barack Obama Valerie Jarrett about the former president’s new memoir. She also speaks with chess grandmasters Judit Polgar and Garry Kasparov about the new hit Netflix show “The Queen’s Gambit.” Hari Sreenivasan speaks with Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics Dan Ariely about the stranger side of human behavior brought on by the pandemic