01x03 - Doubled Pawns

Episode transcripts for the TV show, "The Queen's Gambit". Aired: October 23, 2020.*
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Set during the Cold w*r era, orphaned chess prodigy Beth Harmon struggles with addiction in a quest to become the greatest chess player in the world.
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01x03 - Doubled Pawns

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Well, now.


- Got a cigarette, doctor?
- Sorry, I…

I asked for a pleasant room,

and I believe they gave me one.

- I'm Beth.
- Harmon. Kentucky State Champion.

Nice to meet you.

There are two games a day,
and the time control is 120/40.

You get two hours to make 40 moves.

Welcome to Cincinnati.

Thank you.

And the rook comes to the seventh rank.

That right there…

That is a bone in the throat.

Guy takes one look at this,
he pays up, 20 bucks.

The Caro-Kann Defense, genuine bummer.

What's wrong with Caro-Kann?

It's all pawns and no hope.

Here, look, I'll show you, all right?
This is Caro-Kann.

I'd take the knight.

You're, um…

Aren't you that kid from Kentucky
who wiped out Harry Beltik?

If you take his knight,
then you double his pawns.

Big deal. Like I said, it's all pawns…

And no hope.

Let me show you how you win with Black.

Watch this.

What does White do here?

- Queen takes pawn.
- Queen takes pawn.

Rook to king eight. Check.

Queen falls.

- That's Mieses-Reshevsky.
- Yeah.

- From the '30s.
- Very good. Margate, 1935.

- White played rook to queen one.
- What else has he got?

All right, I gotta go.

Hey, you know what?

Reshevsky, he was playing like that…

Back when he was your age, little girl.

Or even younger.

Are you playing?

Oh, what, here?

Nah, nah.

Just come through, see some old friends.

And plus, playing too many opens…

It can only hurt me, you know what I mean?

Good luck.

- Hello.
- Hello.

Beth Harmon. Where am I playing?

It's table 15, right over there.

- Thank you.
- You're welcome.

- Beth Harmon.
- sh*t.

- Hey!
- Stupid…

- Harmon?
- What are you two doing here?

Losing mostly.

We're on the university team now.
Second and third alternate.

Oh, I'm sorry we won't get to play.

We're not.
You destroy everyone you play, Harmon.

- I can only lose so much.
- That's the truth.

I said slow down!

Isn't that skating rink
a little close to the bowling alley?

Do you mind?

- Sorry.
- It works out. You see, it…

It keeps the bowlers cool,
and you automatically…

What are you doing?

Replaying my earlier games.

What on earth for?

Looking for weaknesses in my play.

I see.


There aren't any.

Good girl.

It's so much more exciting
than I imagined.

Did you watch the whole game?

Of course.


When he brought out his rook,
then took that pawn…

I thought you were done for.
I should have known better.

Yes, you should have.


aren't you going to introduce me
to your friends?


Matt, Mike, this is my mom.

Mike, nice to meet you.

- Nice to meet you.
- And I'm Matt.

- Mm. A pleasure.
- Nice to meet you.

Well, I don't know about you young people,
but I'm famished.

- There's a restaurant in the hotel lobby.
- Mm. Show us the way?


I can't make up my mind
which one is more handsome.

I'd like to play in the US Open.

You might win it.

Would that lead to playing abroad?

In Europe, I mean?

No reason why not. They have to know you
before they invite you.

Would winning the Open
make them know about me?

Hell yes!

Benny Watts plays in Europe all the time
now that he has his international title.

How's the prize money?

- Pretty good, I think.
- Hm? What's pretty good?

More than in the States.

What about Russia?

The Soviets are m*rder.

They eat Americans for breakfast there.

I don't think there's been an American
with a prayer against them in 20 years.

It's like ballet.

They pay people to play chess.

We should probably go.
We don't wanna be late.

This one's for all the marbles.

Five hundred of them to be exact.

That's Rudolph. He's a master.

Beth cannot be happy
about being crowded into an ending

with a rook, a knight, and three pawns.

It's so complicated.


And that's check.

And that's mate.

I've allowed 12 dollars
for our celebration supper tonight,

and two dollars for a small breakfast
in the morning.

That makes our total expenses,
so far, $172.30.

Which leaves over 300 dollars.


I was thinking…

Perhaps you could give me 10%,
as an agent's commission?

Let's make it 15%.

Which would be 49 dollars and 54 cents.

They told me at Methuen
you were marvelous at math.

"Schoolgirl beats
Grandmaster in Pittsburgh."

"Onlookers were amazed
at her youthful fine points of strategy."

"She shows the assurance
of a player twice her age."

That's national recognition, dear.

I'm afraid she's had a bit of a relapse.

The doctor wants to keep her in bed
for a few more days.

I'm sure she'll be better by Monday.

One of the worst colds
I've ever seen in a child.

The poor dear.

We're gonna be late.


Lots of liquids.

- Thank you.
- You're welcome.

There's a tournament in Houston
over the holidays, starting on the 26th.

I understand it's very easy
to travel on Christmas Day

since most people are home
eating plum pudding or whatever.

I saw that one, too.

I believe we could fly to Houston,

have a very pleasant
winter vacation in the sun.

Do girly things.

I hear they have
a very lovely beauty spa at the hotel.

Yes, Mother.

She has a fever of 101.

Must be the flu.

She won't be back
until after the holidays.

They're calling you a wunderkind.

I might have to start keeping a scrapbook.

How's your meal?

This might be
the best Christmas I've ever had.

Is that a martini?


I find the onion
slightly more refined than the olive.

I should probably learn
how to speak Russian.

Do they teach that at Fairfield?

I'd have to take a night class
at the junior college.

The kids would all be older than you.

And by kids, I mean boys.

They say you're the real thing.

That's it, honey,
hold it up so we can see it.

So, can you tell
the readers of Life how it feels?

I mean, to be a girl among all those men?

I don't mind it.

Isn't it intimidating?

I mean, when I was a girl,
I wasn't allowed to be competitive.

I played with dolls.

- Chess isn't always competitive.
- No, but you play to win.

Yes, but chess can also be…



You're an orphan, Beth.

Yes, I know that.

No, yes, of course you do.
I was wondering how you learned to play.

Mr. Shaibel taught me.

He was the janitor at Methuen.

A janitor taught you how to play?

- Really?
- When I was eight.

I imagine…

It must have been such a distraction
from life in such a depressing place.

You must have been very lonely.

I'm fine being alone.

Do you imagine
that you saw the king as a father,

and the queen as a mother?

I mean, one to att*ck, one to protect?

They're just pieces.

And it was the board I noticed first.

The board?


It's an entire world of just 64 squares.

I feel…

Safe in it.

I can control it, I can dominate it.

And it's predictable.

So, if I get hurt,
I only have myself to blame.

How interesting.

Tell me, Elizabeth.

Have you ever heard
of something called apophenia?

No, what's that?

It's the finding of pattern or meaning
where other people don't.

Sometimes, people with this condition
get feelings of revelation or ecstasies.

Sometimes, people find patterns or meaning
where there aren't any.

Hm. What does that have to do with me?

Creativity and psychosis
often go hand in hand.

Or, for that matter, genius and madness.

You think I'm crazy?

- No, of course not. I was just asking...
- I think that's enough.

Beth has homework to finish.

She is, after all,
still a young woman in school.

- Just like all the other kids her age.
- Of course.

- It was an honor to meet you.
- Thanks.

You know…

You might try bridge.

- I hear a lot of chess players enjoy it.
- I'll show you out.

"With some people, chess is a pastime."

"With others, it is a compulsion,
even an addiction."

"And every now and then,
a person comes along

for whom it is a birthright."

"Now and then, a small boy appears
and dazzles us with his precocity,

at what may be
the world's most difficult game."

"But what if that boy were a girl?"

"A young, unsmiling girl, with brown eyes,
red hair, and a dark blue dress?"

We started a chess club.

"Into the male-dominated world

of the nation's top chess tournaments,

strolls a teenage girl
with bright, intense eyes,

from Fairfield High School
in Lexington, Kentucky."

"She is quiet, well-mannered,

and out for blood."

"Beth Harmon…"

Where was I?

It's all Greek, all of a sudden.

It's okay, I've heard enough.

I don't know why my body
is so intent on sabotaging my brain,

when my brain is perfectly capable
of sabotaging itself.

It's mostly about my being a girl.

Well, you are one.

It shouldn't be that important.

They didn't print half the things I said.

They didn't tell about Mr. Shaibel,

and they didn't say anything
about how I play the Sicilian.

Beth, dear, it makes you a celebrity.

Yeah, for being a girl.

Did you ever think maybe
it's the drinking that's making you sick?

Oh, please.

I've flirted with alcohol most of my life.

If anything, I think it's high time
I consummated the relationship.

To motherhood.


We're having a pledge party,

Friday night, my house.

The other Apple Pis
asked me to invite you.

- Friday night?
- 7:30.

Can you make it?

It was really something to see you
in the newspaper all those times.

All those places you've been,
which was your favorite?

I liked Houston.

But now that my rating's up to 1800,
I hope to go to Las Vegas

to play in the US Open next month.

What about the boys?

Are they good-looking?

Do you date any of them?

- There's not really much time for that.
- But if you had the time…

Is there anyone you've met
that you'd like to…

Trade rooks with, or whatever?

I mean, I trade rooks all the time,
but it's not...

I bet you do.

Now, ladies and gentlemen,

Hullabaloo proudly presents
your favorite band from Turtle Creek…

- Thank you, Dora.
- …The Vogues!

- Who wants a cupcake?
- Yes, please.

I love this song. Turn it up.

I'm gonna use the bathroom.



That is you.

My stars! You look…



You're welcome.

I thought we might bump into each other

when I saw your name
on the tournament list.

- I didn't see yours.
- I'm not playing.

Chess Review sent me to write it up.

Must confess,
I was hoping to see you here last year.

I was supposed to.

I even paid the fee,
but my mother got sick.

- And I didn't want to come alone.
- She all right?


I should have come on my own,

but I told myself that the Open's
not as important as the US Championships.

Oh, no. No, it's not.

But I'm sure glad you came.

It's probably a good idea for me to play

in something other
than the events I pick for the money.

- Looks like you're making a lot.
- Yeah, I guess so.

Still, you could become
a world-class player, be a real pro.

- I started taking Russian at night.
- Oh, that's smart.

Don't wanna plateau.

No, plateaus are the worst.

And you're far too old
to be called a prodigy anymore.

I should do something on you
for the magazine.

- I was on the cover last month.
- Of course.

I must have got it mixed up
with the one in Life magazine.

I also work for the Herald-Leader.

In Lexington?

I could do a half-page
on you for Sunday's paper.

- Won't be as big a deal as Life, but...
- Yeah, sure.

If you want to.

I got a camera in my room.

In your room?

Chess boards, too. We could play.


Let's go up.

Why don't you sit over by the window?

- Uh, may I…
- Oh, yeah, just toss them.

I wasn't ready.

You look great.

Scooch to your left.

That's right.


"Ruy Lopez."

You could go by the board.


I see you've done this before.

Do you want me to play?

Sure. Black to move.

All right, slow down.

Yeah, that's more my-my speed.


You've grown up, Harmon.

You've even gotten good-looking.

- I don't even know your first name.
- Everyone calls me Townes.

Maybe that's why I call you Harmon,
instead of Elizabeth.

It's Beth.

I like Harmon.

Oh, hi.

- Roger.
- I'm not interrupting, am I?

Th-That's okay. Uh, we're just…

Beth Harmon, this is Roger Dione.

Harmon? The chess prodigy.

- I've heard so much about you.
- Nice to meet you.

I thought you were gonna play
some baccarat?

Thought I'd quit while
I was behind and go read by the pool.

You two carry on.
I'll be gone in a minute.

- Let's play chess.
- Okay.



Here we go.

Pleasure to meet you, Beth.

You too.

Dinner's at nine.

Don't forget.

Marge, did your aunt
leave you everything?

I was her only heir.

Where have you been, honey?

You've been gone for hours.

- Playing chess.
- I don't wanna talk about it.

- Practicing.
- Okay.

That's all?

Yeah, that's all.

Well, it's the perfume I use
that makes me smell so nice.

Do me a favor
and hand me a beer on the desk?

What do you want?

I think I've got one.
I think I've got a gimmick.

A gimmick is an angle that works for you.

To keep you
from working too hard for yourself.

- Simple.
- Specifically, what is your angle?


I suppose you've never had beer.

- All right, Sam.
- Here.

Come here.

My father used to work here
as a mill hand.

- So did mine. When he was sober.
- Whoa, whoa, whoa. Not so fast.

Now, you're even.

Now, I'm even.

I was 21 when I took it over.
It had 3,000 workers then.

It's got 30,000 now.

Ran as far as that gate,
now it goes down to the edge of the river.

And I did it all by myself.

- Without Walter, without...
- I'd like another.

- All by myself.
- You really shouldn't.

Half of this should make quite a score.

All right.

But if you're gonna have one,
get me one, too.

That's what I had in mind.

You went out of here
a dirty kid once before,

that can happen again.

Escape from clothesline drudgery,

but listen to Jinx first.

When you buy
your dryer, be sure you get the best kind,

a gas dryer.

Your most delicate fabrics
are safe in a gas dryer.

See? A gentle stream of warm air
sends the clothes' moisture away.

My first match
was against this guy from Oklahoma.

It was all over in two dozen moves.


Then, this guy from San Francisco.

I played the Marshall.

Um, sacrificed my queen,
the way that Paul Morphy did one time.

Mm-hm. One more.

What about, um…

What's his name?
The one you told me about.

Bobby something?

- Benny Watts.
- Yes, him.

No losses, but one draw.

Queens Gambit Declined
is so well respected.

I've seen him a couple of times.

Always got a crowd around him.

Well, of course, he's the US Champion.

He's Benny Watts.

Some people say
he's the most talented American player

since Morphy.

I read about a game
he played in Copenhagen,

a draw against Najdorf.

That was in 1948,

which means that Benny
was eight years old.

I've seen a picture of him at 13
in front of a whole bunch of sailors.

He played against the entire team
at Annapolis without losing a game.

Sounds like someone else I know.

When I was nine,
I was playing Mr. Shaibel in the basement.

Anyway, I'm not afraid of him.

I don't suppose
there's anyone you're afraid of.

There is one player that scares me.


The Russian.


It's a lot more
of a dynamic game than the Caro.

Which is not the case
with QGD versus Slav.

You're Beth Harmon.


I saw the piece in Life.

Game they printed, that was a pretty one.
The one with you and Beltik.

Thank you.

I'm, uh, Benny Watts.

I know.

We met a couple of years ago
in Cincinnati.

Didn't meet, but we spoke.

- Cincinnati?
- You didn't play that year.

Okay, I'll take your word for it.

Guess I'll see you tomorrow.

You shouldn't have castled.

In your game with Beltik.

I needed to get the rook out.

Well, you could have lost your advantage.

I don't think so.

He plays pawn-takes-pawn.
You can't take back.

- Wait a minute.
- I can't.

I got an adjournment I gotta go play.
But set it up, think it out.

Your problem is your queen knight.

I don't want to set it up
and think it out.

Beltik could have b*at me.

But he didn't.

Yes, but he could have.

What's worse is I didn't even see it.

Benny Watts, just by reading
about a player he knows nothing about,

he picks it up.

I was so proud of myself
when I found an error in a Morphy game,

and now someone's done it to me.

Stop thinking about
what might have happened in the past,

and get some sleep.

So stupid!

Pawn to bishop four, right?


I thought he could see
what I was planning.

I thought he could hear my heart b*ating,
and know how panicked I was.

He still had time to get out of it.

But he took the piece just as I planned.

I went into that game
with a perfect score.

Benny had two draws,
so a draw would give me the title.

I wanted to win.

I wanted to hammer his weaknesses.

I wanted to show that pirate
that I could b*at him,

even though I didn't play
the way he thought I should.

Then, he captured my center pawn,
my protected pawn,

the pawn that had held his queen
to her corner for most of the game.

I don't understand.

He forced an exchange of queens.


Couldn't believe it.

And then I saw what it meant.

With the pawn gone,
I was open to a rook-bishop mate,

because of the bishop
on the open diagonal.

I could protect my retreating knight
by moving one of the rooks over,

but the protection wouldn't last,

because his f*cking,
innocent-looking knight

would block my king's escape.

The more I looked,
the worse it all became.

Caught me completely off guard.

It was brutal.

It's the kind of thing
I did to other people.

Kind of thing that Morphy did,
and I missed it.

I'd been thinking about doubled pawns.

You were thinking about winning.

What did you do?

I needed a counterthreat.

A move that would stop him in his tracks,
but there wasn't any.

I spent half an hour studying the board,

and decided that Benny's move
was even sounder than I thought.

I thought maybe
I could trade my way out of it

if he att*cked too fast, but…

He was careful.

I had to retreat, but he kept coming.

I wanted to scream.

You resign, now.

Tough game.

You'll split the prize money.

You'll be co-champions.

You will still get a trophy,
albeit a smaller one.

It happens all the time.

I made some inquiries.

- The Open Championship is often shared.
- I didn't see what he was doing.

You can't finesse everything all the time.

Nobody can.

You don't know anything about chess.

- I know what it feels like to lose.
- Yeah, I bet you do.

And now you do, too.


I'm sorry.


I know how badly you wanted to b*at Benny.

You'll get another sh*t.

Doesn't matter.

Give my best to Roger.

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