Queen’s Gambit review

 

Been enjoying the Queen’s Gambit on Netflix. If it wasn’t obvious from my own writing, I like talky stuff. There’s only so much you can do with action.

* He punches him in the fucking face. Like, pow!
* And the other guy is all like, no way, and punches him back in the fucking face. Like as if to say, ‘this is who I am, face-punching fucker.’ Bam!
* And the first guy is all like, how about a punch to the throat? You see that coming? Kachow!

I can’t imagine how they pitched a series to Netflix. It was based on a novel, but it’s a novel about chess in the 60s starring a woman who doesn’t punch faces or fight zombies or do much other than play chess. Like, how did that pitch go? I can just see some execs sitting on the edge of their seats.

* And her mom dies. Does she come back as a ghost? Like avenge her death against the evil chess master?
* No. Her mom was a loon and bad role model in most ways. She stays dead.

I played chess in high school. Was in the chess club for maybe a year? I was, at one point, ranked 2nd as a sophomore. I think because I kept tying the teacher and first place guy. You can see a lot about people by how they do games like that. I played soccer for maybe 30 years and I mostly played defense or goalkeeper. That was my personality. I’d see enemy players break away to our goal and I couldn’t just let it go. While the true forwards/strikers were like, meh, once it’s away from me, I don’t care.

So my chess game was glacial. All defense. Slow plod forward. And that probably threw a lot of high school kids who are attack attack impatient. I played in one tournament but didn’t advance very far because I had an early tie.

Watching the show, I was reminded of a few things. When they say stuff like, “mate in 5” that’s not because they’re so brilliant they instantly see 5 turns in the future. It’s because humans are awesome at pattern recognition and they’ve seen the pattern so frequently they know what is up. An analogy I came up with at the time (along with some mathematicians from the NSA) was balls. If you go into a hallway you’ve never been in before, and you’re given a ball you’ve never held before (basketball, golf ball, rubber ball, whatever), and you bounce it against the floor and wall, your next throw you’ll be able to almost exactly pinpoint where that ball will land. That’s some crazy math/physics going on. It’s not that we’re all secret calculus experts, it’s just that we know patterns. And we know walls and toy balls fairly well, assuming we grew up on earth.

What I really like about the show is the attention to detail in place. I love history and love seeing it at least moderately represented. Almost always it’s like, some guy in the Dark Ages with a washboard stomach and perfect teeth talking about the noble Prince of Whatever. And it’s fine that fantasy is fantasy. But if you’re going to bother showing the 1400s and say it’s accurate, then at least try. Yes, you’re going to have handsome/pretty actors.

Anyway, good show.

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