Anyone who thinks chess is boring clearly hasn’t seen The Queen’s Gambit.
This mini-series, based on the novel of the same name by Walter Tevis, has proved a hit since it landed on Netflix, October 23. So much so that growing numbers of people are trying out the game on their cell phones, maybe in the hope of reaching the same level of expertise as the show’s chess prodigy, Beth Harmon.
The Queen’s Gambit follows the life of Beth Harmon (played by Anya Taylor-Joy), who is placed in a Kentucky orphanage as a child following her mother’s death in a car accident. There, she discovers an unexpected talent for chess thanks to the janitor, Mr Shaibel (Bill Camp), who teaches her about the game, while also developing a tranquilliser addiction. Beth battles constantly with her addiction over the years, while trying to make her name in the ultra-competitive world of chess grandmasters.
Although entirely fictional, Beth Harmon’s rise in the world of chess seems to be inciting viewers to learn about this game, which has been around for over 15 centuries. Since the show’s seven episodes landed on Netflix, mobile chess games have been topping search results in various application stores. Daily downloads have also grown by 63% in the US and 11% worldwide, according to app specialists AppAnnie. For example, the “Chess” app from AI Factory Limited currently stands at number 14 in the most downloaded paid-for games on Google Play in the US.
And this newfound interest in the game goes beyond mobile apps — it’s also being seen in publishing. The best-seller The Queen’s Gambit rose to 16th place in the most-downloaded fictional e-books in Apple’s iBookstore, according to data from Pop Vortex. And that’s a respectable place, considering that Walter Tevis’s coming-of-age novel was first published in 1983.