What I’ve learned from the Queen’s Gambit

A few months ago, I fell in love with the Queens Gambit book. I read it twice without a break and watched the mini-series. Although it seems like a story about a young girl Bet, and her path from the orphanage to the throne of the chess championship, the author makes us think about some universal themes.

The Queen’s Gambit, the book written by Walter Tevis, is simply enchanting. At some parts, the plot is a bit slow and might not catch the attention of people not really into mind games. Still, there are a few points I liked, although I’m not into chess yet:)

  • When it comes to success, it doesn’t matter where you come from. Your internal determination and drive, ambition to succeed will lead you to success. It’s ok to be envious as long as it motivates you to be the best in your field. And play fair.
  • Do you like to win, or do you hate losing? It’s of utmost importance to realize your motivation. Are you motivated toward something, or you’re trying to avoid something? Both motives are ok. And both are useful. The trick is to become aware of your pattern and to try to challenge it.
  • Never give up. Play until you’re alive. Even when the orphanage management prohibited Bet to play chess for a few years, the external circumstances she couldn’t influence, she never stopped “playing chess in her head” and waited until her time comes.
  • What would you do for a living even when nobody would pay you for it? Bet loves chess. She would play chess even if no one wanted to pay for her game.
  • Bet never stopped learning. What is your secret weapon? For just a moment, think about yourself, and what was the one thing about your character that always helped you survive?
  • Keep in touch with your friends. One day it may be too late to say to someone how much you respect him, love him, how much he touched your life.
  • It’s all about the journey. One of the memorable moments in the book was Bet’s dialogue with a 13-year-old Russian chess player Girev aiming to become the world champion within the next 2 years (quote from the book follows):

How old were you when you started playing?”, she asked.

“Five. I was District Champion at seven. I hope to be a World Champion one day.”


“In three years.”

“You’ll be sixteen in three years”, she said, “If you win, what will you do afterward?”.

He looked confused. “I don’t understand”, he replied.

“If you’re a World Champion at sixteen, what will you do with the rest of your life?”

He still looked confused. “I don’t understand”.

It says a lot about setting smart goals. The goals that are truly yours and not somebody else’s.

  • Never sell your beliefs for money. Even though Bet had the opportunity to get the financing from a religious movement to be able to travel to a chess tournament, she refused the donation feeling blackmailed by the movement representatives to talk bad things about communism that she hadn’t believed in.
  • All we need is encouragement. Only one person supporting you can make a huge difference in your life. Who has always supported you? Whom are you supporting right now?
  • Follow your passion. Even though there is a delicate line between passion and addiction, it’s worth saying no life is worth living without passion. Though the whole book, Bet was fighting her addictions to sleeping pills and alcohol. On the other hand, the same zeal was pushing her toward the mastery of the chess game.

Unfortunately, Tevis didn’t witness the glory of his book. He died only a year after the book got published. The book remained almost unknown until the Netflix mini-series. Better later than never.

Post published on Linkedin on10.10.2021. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-ive-learned-from-queens-gambit-danka-jokic

Reference: https://www.amazon.com/Queens-Gambit-Novel-Walter-Tevis/dp/1400030609

Pictures taken from Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/CIO6RP1JuJe/?utm_medium=copy_link

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