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The Queen's Gambit and the Unexpectedly Thrilling and Glamorous World of Chess

Mary McCoy, Senior Librarian, Art, Music, & Recreation Department,
close up of woman staring at a chess board
Eyeing the situation - Contemplating intricate carvings in antique chess set. [1960], Valley Times Collection, photo credit: George Brich

Since debuting on Netflix in October, The Queen’s Gambit has become the streaming service’s number one show, and its most watched limited scripted series ever. It’s been responsible for a surge in chess set purchases, and new memberships in online chess programs.

Based on Walter Tevis’s 1983 novel of the same title, The Queen’s Gambit is a coming of age story about Beth Harmon, a chess prodigy who moves from the obscurity of a 1950s Kentucky orphanage to the global stage of international chess tournaments and a rise through the ranks of grandmasters.

The title refers to one of chess’s oldest known openings, and the series is peppered with captivating chess terminology (the Sicilian defense; the Marshall attack; the Caro-Kann, to name a few) and biographical details of famed and sometimes troubled grandmasters like Paul Morphy, Jose Raul Capablanca, and Alexander Alekhine that will have viewers curious to read up.

If you’re inspired to brush up your chess game, or at least to read up on the cutthroat and intense world of chess grandmasters, take a look at these books and ebooks, all available with your library card either through our e-book services or our contactless Library To Go curbside service.

And if you’ll never be a chess grandmaster, you can at least dream—or take this quiz to find out which grandmaster’s playing style and temperament best matches your own.

Recommended Reading

The Queen's Gambit
Tevis, Walter S.

Beth Harmon learns to play chess from the janitor at her Kentucky orphanage where habit forming sedatives are doled out to all of the children. Beth’s brilliance at the game permit her to compete internationally at the highest level, an unheard-of accomplishment for a female chess player in the 1960s.

How to Win Games and Beat People
Whipple, Tom

The Everything Tabletop Games Book

All the Wrong Moves: A Memoir About Chess, Love, and Ruining Everything
Chapin, Sasha

How to Win Chess Endgames
Robertie, Bill

A Knight Without a Castle: A Story of Resilience and Hope
Katende, Robert

Learn to Play Chess Like a Boss
Wolff, Patrick

303 Crushing Chess Tactics: Easy to Hard Tactical Challenges
Wilson, Fred

The Grandmaster: Magnus Carlsen and the Match That Made Chess Great Again
Butler, Brin-Jonathan

How to Play and Win at Chess
Saunders, John

Simple Chess: Mastering the Basic Principles
Emms, John

Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins
Kasparov, G. K.

Vera Menchik: A Biography of the First Women's World Chess Champion
Tanner, Robert B.

The History of Chess in Fifty Moves
Price, Bill

The Queen of Katwe
Crothers, Tim

Chess Bitch: Women in the Ultimate Intellectual Sport
Shahade, Jennifer

The Kings of New York
Weinreb, Michael