Chess Terms
Beth Harmon

Beth Harmon

One of the most famous chess players in the world is also someone who never lived. Meet Beth Harmon, the fictional chess player who has taken the world by storm.

Who Is Beth Harmon?

Beth Harmon is a fictional character in the 1983 novel The Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis. The character gained notoriety after Scott Frank and Allan Scott adapted the novel into a Netflix miniseries of the same name in 2020.

Beth Harmon from the Queen's Gambit.
Beth Harmon played by Anya Taylor-Joy. Photo: The Queen's Gambit/Netflix.

Abandoned by her biological father, Beth went to an orphanage after her mother had died in a car accident. While living there, the orphanage's janitor taught her how to play chess, and she quickly became obsessed with the game and embarked on a trip to take on the World Champion Vasily Borgov.

Besides Beth's growth as a chess player, the show also deals with her personal struggles, such as alcohol and drug addiction and widespread misogyny she faced.

Beth Harmon's Playing Style

Harmon quickly becomes a strong chess player who can face even the strongest of opponents. Different characters describe Harmon's playing style as aggressive and sharp, and even strong players fear her over the board.

We can understand Beth's ruthless style by looking at her games throughout the show. She mercilessly destroys her opponents by sacrificing pieces and applying devastating tactical shots. Watch the video below where GM Simon Williams explains Beth's top five moves.

Beth Harmon's Opening Repertoire

The show depicts Beth as a flexible player who can crush her opponents using many different openings. However, it's clear that her two favorite openings are the Queen's Gambit and the Sicilian Defense.

The Queen's Gambit is a well-known and solid opening for White that starts after 1.d4 d5 2.c4. White gives up a pawn to gain better control of the center and later recapture the pawn with tempo, developing the light-squared bishop.

Beth Harmon playing the Queen's Gambit Accepted.
Beth playing the Queen's Gambit Accepted. Photo: The Queen's Gambit/Netflix.

The Sicilian Defense is an aggressive opening for Black that starts after 1.e4 c5. Black uses a wing pawn to attack the center and create imbalances in the position that in many occasions lead to sharp, double-edged games.

Beth Harmon from the Queen's Gambit learning the Sicilian Defense.
Mr. Shaibel, the orphanage's janitor, teaching young Beth how to play the Sicilian Defense. Photo: The Queen's Gambit/Netflix.

Do you want to learn these and other key openings in chess? Then take our Key Openings lesson to improve the way you start your games.


You now know who Beth Harmon is, how to play like her, and more. If you liked learning about Beth and want to play more like her, check out NM Jeremy Kane's Play Like Beth Harmon lesson.

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