The queen's gambit

The queen's gambit

Apr 4, 2011, 3:44 AM |

I'm sure everybody knows about the "queen's gambit" opening it's probably the most famous opening just after the king pawn's opening.

What maybe not everybody knows yet, is this is also a title of one of Walter Tevis book and one of my all time favourite. Walter Tevis it's maybe better known (at least here in europe) for the Hustler a novel which came out in 1959 and which was made into film two years after from director Robert Rossen with a screenplay by Tevis himself and with actor such as Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason.

It tells about the life of a young pool player, Fast Eddie Felson that challenge the best players to come to clash with the invincible Minnesota Fats  in a game of epic several times, from which Fast Eddie finally result winner.

In 1983 many years and books later, "The queen's gambit" came to light and it's the story of Beth Harmon, a young girl orphan surrounded by a world that frightens and that leads her to become dependent on tranquilizers. One day by chance Beth comes into contact with the custodian of the institute, which teaches her how to play chess, on which she will eventually starts to commits all her energies, but that will be later prohibited by the director of the orphanage as punishment.

Once adopted by Wheatley, a middle-aged married couple, the adoptive father leave his wife shortly thereafter. Then to help Mrs  Wheatley, Beth begins to use her skills in chess tournaments with bigger and bigger cash prizes. Alone again, after the death of his adoptive mother, Beth makes a rapid ascent to the top of American chess, and clashing with the Grand Masters International, then after a long journey of rehabilitation from depression and alcoholism, finally manages to redeem herself by becoming the first woman chess champion.

It's a great novel really well written from a great writer which somehow portrays some of the character and fighting of Bobby Fischer but here the protagonist is a girl.

To write a novel like that in 1983 was certainly an act of courage and also showed great respect for women.

In the foreword of the novel Italian version it is mentioned that:

In April 1983 a letter came to New York times in which somebody challenged the "incredibly antiquated view of female psychology and the world of professional chess" flaunted in an article in the newspaper a few days before. "There is no evidence that men have more physical strength of women," wrote a disgruntled reader. According to him were many other reasons that kept women away from the arena chess. Starting with the low economic return.

Here is a link to a Walter Tevis audio interview in 1983 talking about the game of chess and his "The queen's gambit" book