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

Everything you need to know about the source material for the new Netflix series.


The latest hit drama series to land on Netflix sees Emma star Anya Taylor-Joy play an orphaned chess prodigy who battles addiction while rising to Grandmaster status.


The Queen’s Gambit, created for the small screen by Scott Frank (Godless) is not an original story… but what are its origins? Does it take inspiration from real-life events?

Read on for everything you need to know (and if you’re still wondering about whether to watch the series, check out RadioTimes.com‘s The Queen’s Gambit review).

Is The Queen’s Gambit based on a book?

It is indeed – the series is an adaptation of Walter Tevis’ 1983 book of the novel name, with Scott Frank having written the screenplay.

Tevis reportedly based the chess scenes on his own experience as a class C player, while he also relied on help from National Master Bruce Pandolfini – who also served as a chess consultant on the new series.

The series is by all accounts a relatively faithful adaptation of the source material, and it’s also a long time coming, with several previous attempts having been made to bring the story to the screen.

In 1983, The New York Times journalist Jesse Kornbluth acquired rights for a screenplay and said there were several actors and directors interested, but eventually the rights were sold to another studio and the project called off.

Nine years later in 1992, Scottish screenwriter Allan Shiach acquired the rights, with directors including Michael Apted and Bernardo Bertolucci involved before pulling out.

There were also hopes for a film version with Heath Ledger as director, in what would have been his directorial debut, but following the actor’s tragic death plans for the film were shelved.

Tevis who also wrote The Hustler, The Color of Money and The Man Who Fell to Earth (each of which were adapted into films) wrote about plans to write a sequel to the novel, but he never did – and passed away from lung cancer just a year after publication, aged 56.

Is the Queen’s Gambit based on a true story?

No, although Tevis drew on his own experiences as a chess player for some of the more technical details of the story, there is no real chess player by the name of Beth Harmon.

Tevis previously told The Times that the character was created as a “tribute to brainy women” adding that “I like Beth for her bravery and intelligence. In the past, many women have had to hide their brains, but not today,” he said.


He listed his daughter and his aunt – who had gifted him with his first chess set – among the women who had inspired the character.

The Queen’s Gambit is streaming now on Netflix. Looking for something else to watch? Check out our guide to the best series on Netflix and best movies on Netflix, or visit our TV Guide.