Is ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ based on a true story?

The Queen's Gambit


With no hesitation at all, Netflix has been known to bring life to a plethora of stories through their platform. Every year, the streaming giant releases countless films and TV series that, in a way, reveals a story through a dramatic resurgence through novels by talented writers. 

One that caught the eye of every subscriber of the platform is The Queen’s Gambit––garnering buzz after buzz, news after news. Centered around a female chess prodigy taking down the men of the business, is the series based on a true story?

Is it based on a true story?

Unfortunately, for those who have been hoping for a name to search for whoever Beth really is in the real word, her quest to become a chess grandmaster is not based on a true story. However, this does not discount the series’ source material in Walter Tevis’ 1983 fiction novel of the same name in any way. 

The truth is, the project would’ve come way earlier if not for certain circumstances. In the early 2000s, screenwriter Jesse Kornbluth and the late Heath Ledger (who, by the way, is an absolute chess player), were in the development stage for a film based on Tevis’ novel. However, Ledger’s untimely death put this project to a halt. 

It wasn’t until almost two decades later when the streaming giant partnered with co-creator of the series, Allan Scott, and finally brought the novel to life. 

Where is it based on, then?

Before Tevis’ death in 1984––just a year after his publication of The Queen’s Gambit––The New York Times revealed an interview with the author about the origins of the story. Apparently, if there was anyone the series is about, it would be Tevis himself, saying:

I first began to play chess with my sister and the kids on my block,” Tevis said.I once won a prize of $250 and became a Class C player. I now play against a computer so I don’t have to face a real-life opponent sneering at me—I can always pull out the plug. I’ve played well enough to know what a good game is. I can beat the average person, but I’m afraid to play those guys who set up boards in the street on Broadway.

Tevis was a true man of the culture––not just chess, but life in general. At that point, people felt as if the novel was more about the intelligence and strength of a woman instead of chess. 

I like Beth for her bravery and intelligence. In the past, many women have had to hide their brains, but not today,” he said. 


Though your current favorite series on Netflix isn’t really based on a true story, rest assured that it was firmly based on the life and beliefs of Walter Tevis, the author of the source material. Though it wasn’t about his journey to chess nirvana, Tevis’ familiarity with the subject is more than enough to supply Netflix its next biggest thing, named after one of the most aggressive chess openings, in The Queen’s Gambit.

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