“As a competitive chess player and coach, I have received numerous questions about my thoughts on the recent Netflix hit, The Queen’s Gambit,” writes Pittsburgher Ashley Lynn Priore in Ms Magazine on December 26th. “Do I like it? Is it accurate? Is Beth Harmon real?”

Priore, 20, is the founder of a nonprofit and social enterprise called The Queen’s Gambit which uses chess as a catalyst for change and a model to empower and educate. “There is no better way to rehearse life than to play a game of chess,” as it says on its website. 

We caught up with her to get her reaction to the article and the series.

“Since the series debut, we have been getting so many inquiries about chess programming and just general questions about the role of chess in society,” Priore tells NEXTpittsburgh. “This is exciting. However, with so many articles being done by the series, I wanted to set the record straight on one thing people have been leaving out: it absolutely does not show what it is like to be a woman in chess.

She brings up a great point here:

“I’m a huge fan of Scott Frank,” she tells us, “but the series was based on a book (written by a man) and directed by a man. Think about that for a second. I hope to shine a light on this, and have people consider what I’ve been struggling with: what about the female experience through the lens of a female? Why didn’t they consult strong females in the game like the Polgar sisters?”

Why not, indeed?

In her article in Ms Magazine, Priore writes: “Let’s be clear: As a viewer, I loved the show. From its choreography to its score to its keen accuracy on chess moves (Grandmaster Garry Kasparov consulted on the film, so it was destined to be accurate), it is a brilliant work of art. As a female chess player, however, it fell short.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m glad that chess is on the rise. More people are buying chess sets than ever before and there is a rise in participation across the country.”

And while Priore is thrilled that chess is getting its due, there are things the top show on Netflix does not get right. Like this:

“When you are a female chess player, no man is going to kiss your hand after you beat him in a match,” she says. “He won’t give you a big old hug like Vasily Borgov did to Beth Harmon in the final episode of the series. Speaking from my own experience as a female chess player, some men are going to pick up the board, throw it in your face and call you a creative name that begins with a B.”

She knows because she experienced it.

And she wasn’t the only one, of course. In an interview with the St. Louis Dispatch, Susan Polgar, “often considered one of the best chess players in the world, faced sexual harassment and hostility. That is the real life of a female chess player—not the supportive brotherhood Beth experiences,” writes Priore.

It’s an interesting piece on a subject that has taken the country by storm, thanks to the Netflix show.

Read the full piece from Priore in Ms Magazine here.

NEXT staff

The staff at NEXTpittsburgh writes about the people driving change in the region and the innovative and cool things happening here.