2020 saw the Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit (opens in new tab) Become something of a blockbuster hit: The show, based on a 1981 novel of the same name, follows chess prodigy Beth Harmon on her journey from playing basements to playing the world’s best in the Soviet Union. Now, Netflix has decided to belatedly capitalize on the show’s popularity by creating a Netflix-exclusive chess client.
The Queen’s Gambit Chess is a strange old bird. It was unforgettably introduced by Geoff Keighley as “not just a chess board” because of course it’s not like chess is a good game in its own right, but he would later overcome that by selling some of the aspirational venues you can play, including… the orphanage where Beth grows up and learns the game.
Video games! To take it seriously for a moment, this is a very interesting move by Netflix. The game includes reruns of some of the show’s encounters with great opponents, chess puzzles, chess lessons, and most importantly, online games. It will come as part of any standard Netflix account, and thanks to the show’s popularity, it’s sure to draw a sizable player base to the game of kings.
The mark here looks like a Trojan horse. The trailer makes it clear that the game includes several different ways to play visually and a wide selection of unlockable chess sets. It’s not like chess is underserved online, there are a number of fantastic options with large player bases, but the Netflix ecosystem is so large that this could easily create a sizable niche among players who would never dream of looking for something like chess. with.
“What happened recently after the phenomenal success of The Queen’s Gambit just goes to show that the passion for chess is still there.” former world champion Garry Kasparov told us last year (opens in new tab). “Unlike other games, chess has survived for about 1,500 years. And the game has always adjusted to the demands of modern times.”
The Queen’s Chess Game is likely destined to be looked down upon by the more hardcore chess crowd, but I suspect it will be a very successful re-enactment of one of the most important games in history. PC Gamer already talked to Kasparov about the game of kings in the computer age (opens in new tab) (he was a key consultant on The Queen’s Gambit), though even he infiltrates the odd round or two of Hearthstone (opens in new tab).