Netflix Series Has Made Chess a Hit Again

Viewers of 'Queen's Gambit' have been inspired to play, sending sales of sets soaring
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 24, 2020 2:56 PM CST
Netflix Series Has Made Chess a Hit Again
Sales of chess sets have skyrocketed lately.   (Getty/ffikretow)

Chess already seemed like a good fit for a pandemic—challenging, competitive, and time-consuming. Sales were up early in the lockdown, as people stuck at home played games of all kinds more. But then, last month, a Netflix miniseries kicked off. "Ever since the Queen's Gambit launched, our chess sales have increased triple digits," an executive at Spin Master, a toy company that dominates the market for classic games, tells NPR. A marketing rep at Goliath Games, meanwhile, says sales are up 1,048%. Now chess sets are going the way of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. "Manufacturers and retailers weren’t likely prepared for this," a toy industry analyst tells the New York Times. Another sums up to NPR: "Good luck finding a chess set this holiday!"

The Netflix drama follows a female prodigy, Beth Harmon, trying to conquer the largely male world of chess while fighting addiction, and the story has inspired viewers to take up chess. "Beth’s can-do attitude, the way the board presented itself to her on the ceiling in a drug-induced haze, her mastery, her ego, made me add my own set to my shopping cart and get playing," a South African college student tells the Times. Experienced players appear to appreciate the Queen's Gambit, as well. "The chess community fell in love with the series because it successfully portrays different aspects of chess in all its richness: It's easy enough to be fun to play, but also complex enough to pose a challenge," says a spokesman for the International Chess Federation. (More chess stories.)

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