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Anish Giri on the Queen’s Gambit

December 21, 2020

Much like the rest of us, Chess Grandmaster Anish Giri thoroughly enjoyed The Queen’s Gambit, the biggest scripted series on Netflix to date. Based on Walter Tevis’ 1983 book by the same name, The Queen’s Gambit follows the life of a young chess prodigy. Her success – against the odds- speaks to the importance of determination, family and staying true to yourself. The Queen’s Gambit is of course a play on the chess opening of the same name – it starts with the moves: 1. d4 d5: 2. c4. It is one of the oldest openings and is still widely used today. We asked Anish a few questions about the Queen’s Gambit.   

What did you enjoy most about the Queen’s Gambit?

As a chess player you are thrilled to see the accuracy in the chess games that were part of the story. Those were real games with interesting combinations even for me. I am still very childish when it comes to being a movie critic, so I also highly enjoyed the happy ending!

Who is your favourite up and coming woman chess player?

My wife is a chess player! In terms of young talent, from what I have seen at the recent events, there is a lot of promising talent from Russia and India. We also have a few talented young women in the Netherlands. I will not mention the names, as there are too many to mention and I don’t want to pick favourites!

How do you think this series is changing chess?

It has definitely brought a lot of mainstream attention to our sport. It is good for both amateur chess in terms of growing the chess fan base, and for professional chess in making sponsors realize that it is worth investing into the sport. 

What do you think about Beth Harmon’s character helps her become a chess master?

She is chess obsessed and that is certainly essential! Intense focus on your main goal is also crucial.

You were born in Russia and have played chess there– is the chess culture still anything like we see in the series?

Chess is certainly even more mainstream in Russia than in Western Europe or the US, so yes! I don’t think they play chess in every park, but they certainly do in some. 

What of your chess discipline do you translate into your everyday life?

When I reflect on my life, I see that I make decisions in the same way both on and off the board. I take some time to analyse the situation, cut the knot and then never look back with regrets, only thinking about the next move. 

Who taught you to play chess? You were 6 when you learned?  

My mother tried teaching me at 5, but I only grasped the rules fully when I was 6, after I read the rules of chess in a book that was a gift to me from my dad’s friend.

Do you hope to see more female chess players compete alongside men?

Yes of course. To be honest when I face an opponent I prepare by looking at his games and it has no relevance to me whether it is a woman or a man and which country she or he is from.

What are your thoughts on the Queens Gambit as a chess opening?

The Queens Gambit is actually a very common opening sequence in chess. It happens after White plays the queen pawn forward two squares, Black replies symmetrically and White pushes the pawn in front of the left Bishop two squares offering Black to take the pawn, making it a gambit. If Black captures the pawn, White is quickly able to regain it, so it is not a very risky opening. The theory only starts from there, there is Queen’s Gambit Accepted and various systems within the Queen’s Gambit Declined.

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