01x04 - Middle Game

Episode transcripts for the TV show, "The Queen's Gambit". Aired: October 23, 2020.
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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01x04 - Middle Game

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[teacher, in Russian] I love.

[students repeat phrase]

He loves.

[students repeat phrase]

You love.

[students repeat phrase]

We love.

[students repeat phrase]

- [in English] One more time, Beth.
- [repeats line in Russian]

- [teacher enunciating in Russian]
- [Beth repeating]

[teacher, in English] Good.

One more time.

[teacher speaking in Russian]

[students repeat phrase]

[footsteps descending]

[indistinct conversations]

[bugs chirping softly]

[man] Hey. What's your name again?

It's Beth, nimrod.

Right. Well, Beth Nimrod,
what are you doing?

You know, like, right now.

- [chill music playing]
- [bl*ws slowly]

[man] You're the chess player.

- [Beth] That's right.
- [man] Hm.

[inhales sharply] US Women's Champion?

US Open Co-Champion.

[chuckles] Must be a trip.

I guess.

[bl*ws slowly]

- Do you play?
- No, too cerebral.

- Played a lot of Monopoly, though.
- Never played that game.

Mm, don't.
It makes you a sl*ve to capitalism.

I-I still dream
about making money, though.

So, why are you taking Russian classes
if you're a sl*ve to capitalism?


[inhales sharply]
I wanna read Dostoevsky in the original.

[speaking in Russian]

"You really like the shape of me"?

I'm stoned. I shouldn't
be speaking a foreign language.

And I should probably call home.


Phone's in the bedroom,
through the kitchen.


[chill music continues]

[match strikes]

- [music stops abruptly]
- [phone ringing]

- [TV playing indistinctly]
- Hello?

[Beth] Hey, I just wanted to let you know
that I'm with some friends.

- From my Russian class.
- Oh.

Go on to bed. I've got a key.

Did you say
you're partying with college students?



Just be careful what you smoke, honey.


See you in the morning?

[receiver clatters]

[chill music continues]

[sighs, giggles]


- [exhales]
- [breathing heavily]

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

- [kissing]
- …Trade rooks with?




What's that burning purple thing there?

You tell me.

- [man breathing heavily]
- [Beth yelps]

["Somewhere I Belong" by Gabot Szabo
playing distantly]

- How much longer?
- Um…

- I'm close.
- Okay.

[man moans]

I'm sorry, I'm just really stoned.

Yeah, me too.

[man panting]

♪ Fairy castles dark and black
In the moonlight ♪

♪ The jingle jangle
Just arrives a stallion ♪

- ♪ Seagull flies across my eyes forev... ♪
- [Beth sighs]

- [music stops abruptly]
- [birds chirping]

[Beth] "Everybody went to Cincinnati
to see a movie."

"Stay as long as you like."

["Along Comes Mary"
by The Association playing]

♪ Every time I think
That I'm the only one who's lonely ♪

♪ Someone calls on me ♪

♪ And every now and then
I spend my time in rhyme and verse ♪

♪ And curse those faults in me ♪

♪ And then along comes Mary ♪

♪ And does she want to give me kicks
And be my steady chick ♪

♪ And give me pick of memories ♪

♪ Or maybe rather gather tales
Of all the fails and tribulations ♪

♪ No one ever sees ♪

♪ When we met I was sure out to lunch ♪

♪ Now my empty cup
Tastes as sweet as the punch… ♪

[Mrs. Wheatley] You might have called.

[Beth] I'm sorry.
Didn't wanna wake you up.

- [Mrs. Wheatley] I wouldn't have minded.
- Anyways, I'm all right.

I'm going to Cincinnati…

To see a movie.

So, I won't be home tonight, either.

I'll be home after school Monday.

Are you with a boy?

[Beth] I was last night.

Oh, Beth.

I'm all right. I…

Had a good time.

Well, chess isn't the only thing in life.

- It's just…
- I won't get pregnant.

[chuckles dryly]

Famous last words.

- ♪ Sweet as the punch ♪
- ♪ So sweet ♪

- ♪ Sweet as the punch ♪
- ♪ So sweet ♪

- ♪ Sweet as the punch ♪
- ♪ So sweet ♪

- ♪ Sweet as the punch ♪
- ♪ So sweet ♪

♪ Sweet as the punch ♪

[startles awake]

- [sighs]
- [man 2] Elizabeth Harmon.

- Congrats.
- [camera shutter clicks]

[whistles loudly]

[Mrs. Wheatley applauding]

- [cork pops]
- [Mrs. Wheatley and Beth laugh]

I'm so proud of you.


All right, open it.

It's a Bulova.

It's perfect.

Thank you. [giggles]


I suppose you'll be going
to a grad night party or two.


We have Mexico City in two weeks.

And then the US Championship.

And then Remy-Vallon.

In Paris.


They invited me.

- Paris.
- [Beth chuckles]

My God!

- [giggles]
- [exciting music building]

Things are beginning to happen.

[airplane roars]

- Another cerveza, por favor.
- [stewardess] Yes.

- What are you reading about?
- Pawn structure analysis.

Sounds exciting.

It is.



I have a confession to make.

Do you know what a pen pal is?

Someone you exchange letters with.

Yes, exactly.

- [stewardess] Your beer, Ms. Wheatley.
- Thank you.


When I was in high school,
my Spanish class was given a list

of boys in Mexico
who were studying English.

I picked one,
and I sent him a letter about myself.

We corresponded for a rather long time,
even when I was married to Allston.

We exchanged photographs.

His name is Manuel.

He's meeting us at the airport.

Have you ever met him before?


I have to say, I am really quite thrilled.


Is he the reason you wanted to come
to Mexico early?

I suppose so.


[upbeat trumpet music playing]

[Manuel sighs, chuckles]

Every single famous person
in Latin-American history,

art or politics,
has sometime come to Mexico City.

- [Mrs. Wheatley] Mm. I can see why.
- [Manuel chuckles]

- [Mrs. Wheatley] It's lovely.
- [Manuel] Oh, yeah.

I like to say that I was born in Mexico…

But I am from Mexico City.

[Mrs. Wheatley laughing]

[upbeat trumpet music continues]

[Matt] Beth?

You just get here?

A few days ago.

- I thought you were done with tournaments.
- I am. Mike's a glutton for punishment.

- [laughs] Yeah.
- Your mom has a new friend.

She came in at three o'clock this morning,
2:30 the day before.

He's got a green Dodge
that always seems to be at her disposal.

And they've had lunch and dinner
every day this week.

I'm pretty sure they're f*cking.

I thought, at first, it was the altitude.

7,350 feet.

Good lord, it's enough
to make a person positively giddy.

Now, I think it's the culture.

There's no hint
of a Protestant ethic in Mexico.

They're all Latin Catholics,

and they all live in the here and now.

[Beth] You really need
to stop reading Alan Watts.

It's annoying.

I think I'll have just one margarita
before I go out.

Will you call for one, honey?

- [woman] Recepción.
- Yes, could we get a margarita and a Coke?

- [in English] Room number?
- 713.

- Coming soon.
- Yes, thank you.

You know you could come along
to the folklórico.

I understand the costumes alone
are worth the price of admission.

- It's such a beautiful day.
- It's been raining the last two days.

Has it?

I hadn't noticed.

The tournament starts tomorrow.
I need to work on these endgames.

You know, perhaps, Beth,
you have to work on yourself.

Chess is not all there is.

It's what I know.

My experience has taught me what
you know isn't always what's important.

And what's important?

Living and growing.

[chuckles] Living your life.

- With a sleazy Mexican salesman.
- Treating yourself. Adventure.

You haven't visited Bellas Artes,
or even been to Chapultepec Park.

The zoo there is delightful.

You've taken
all of your meals in this room,

you've had your nose
buried in a chess book.

Shouldn't you just relax
the day before the tournament?

Think about something other than chess?


Tomorrow, at ten o'clock,
I play black against Octavio Marenco.

That means he gets to move first.

Yes. I know what playing black means.

He's 34 and an International Grandmaster.

If I lose, we'll be paying for this trip…

This adventure…

Out of capital.

If I win, I'll be playing someone even
better than Marenco in the afternoon.

I need to study my endgame.

You're what they call
an intuitive player, are you not?

Yes, I have been called that before.

Sometimes, the moves come to me.

I've noticed the moves
they applaud the loudest

are the ones you make rather quickly.

And there's a certain look on your face.

Intuition can't be found in books.

I think you just don't like Manuel.

Manuel is all right.

But he doesn't come by to see me.

That's irrelevant. [chuckles softly]

You need to relax.

There's no player in the world
as gifted as you are.

I haven't the remotest idea
what faculties a person needs

in order to play chess well,

but I am convinced
that relaxation can only improve them.


- [thunder rumbling]
- [birds chirping, geese honking]


- [Beth] Una cerveza Corona, por favor.
- Sí.

[Mr. Shaibel]
People like you have a hard time.

[pensive music playing]

Two sides of the same coin.

You've got your gift…

[coin clatters softly]

…and you've got what it costs.

Hard to say for you what that will be.

[Beth sighs]

You'll have your
time in the sun, but for how long?

You've got so much anger in you.

You'll have to be careful.


Let's play.

[indistinct chatter]


[speaking Russian indistinctly]

- [door opens]
- [Mrs. Wheatley giggles, coughs]

[door closes]

- [clatter]
- [Mrs. Wheatley] Shit.

You can turn on the light. I'm now awake.

- [Beth exhales drowsily]
- [Mrs. Wheatley sniffles]

I'm sorry.


I seem to have caught a virus.

I don't know if I'll be able
to watch your match in the morning.

- It's all right.
- [sighs heavily]

You'll tell me all about it?

[moans softly] Sure.

- Every move?
- [chuckles]

Of course.

- [rain pouring]
- Hi, boys.

- Hey.
- Hey.

Lovely night for a swim.

[boys chuckling]

[in Spanish] This is Juan Alberto Diaz

coming to you live from the Mexico City
Invitational Chess Tournament

at the Palacio Azteca where

the big story
has been the seventeen-year-old

from Lexington, Kentucky,
Elizabeth Harmon.

[Beth, in English]
Neither of us spoke the other's language.

[man whispering indistinctly]

He opened with a pawn to king four.

I played pawn to queen's bishop four.

In 31 moves,
I had his king in a mating net.

You're a wonder.

[pensive music playing]

[thunder rumbling]

[water splashes]

[Diaz, in Spanish]
Undefeated, this morning she played

the Queen's Gambit Declined

against the Austrian, Diedrich.

Facing relentless pressure
in the middle of the board,

Harmon had him
on his heels from the start.

She did it mostly with pawns,

and crushed his position
as one might crush an egg.

Diedrich played well,

made no blunders or anything
that could properly be called a mistake,

but Harmon moved with such deadly accuracy,
such measured control,

that his position was hopeless

by the 23rd move.

Impressive play by this young woman.

[all laughing]

Borgov retreats his knight,

but he's really attacking
the black knight.

This is a very interesting position.

It is dangerous for both sides.

How is Black going to answer the thr*at?

[chess clock ticking]

Will he defend himself or counter att*ck?

It could go either way.

- [door opens]
- Mother?

[Mrs. Wheatley] Out here.

[distant traffic sounds]

[Mrs. Wheatley]
Fresh air feels nice, doesn't it?

Aren't you going out?

No, Manuel's not coming tonight.

He had business in Oaxaca.


How long will he be gone?

At least until we leave.

I'm sorry.

I've never been to Oaxaca, but…

I imagine it resembles Denver.

We can have dinner together.

You can take me
to one of the places you know.

Of course. [chuckles ruefully]

It was fun while it lasted.

[anticipatory music playing]

[with Russian accent] Good afternoon.

- [camera shutter clicks]
- I am Georgi Girev.

Beth Harmon.

[Georgi] I'm honored.

- [button clicks]
- [suspenseful music playing]

[Georgi sighs]

It's been five hours.

Perhaps we should adjourn now.

You must seal your move.

Miss Harmon must seal her move now.

Play will resume tomorrow at ten,
before your regular matches.

Miss Harmon.


May I ask you something?

In America, I'm told
that one sees films inside the car.

Is this true?


You mean drive-in movies?

Yes, Elvis Presley movies.

Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor…

That happens?

It does.

I would dig that.

[pensive music playing]

[Mrs. Wheatley moans]


[director] Pawn to rook five.

- [button clicks]
- [chess clock ticking]

[pensive music playing]

[piece slides]

[button clicks]

- [piece clacks]
- [button clicks]

[piece slides]

[button clicks]

- [piece clacks]
- [button clicks]

- [piece slides]
- [button clicks]

- [piece clacks]
- [button clicks]


[piece slides]

[button clicks]

- [piece clacks]
- [button clicks]


[Georgi] For you, Beth Harmon…

I resign the old-fashioned way.

[chess clock stops ticking]

I've never been to a drive-in, either.

I should not have let you do that.

With the rook.


But you won't let
the next one that tries it.

How old were you
when you started playing?


I was district champion at seven.

I will be world champion one day.


In three years.

You'll be 16 in three years.

If you win…

What will you do next?

I-I don't understand.

If you're world champion at 16…

What will you do
with the rest of your life?

I don't understand.

You're the best I've ever played.

Until you play Borgov.

[soft music playing on piano]

[footsteps approaching]

[piano music plays louder]


Look what I found.

- [piano stops]
- [onlookers applauding]

Everyone, this is Elizabeth Harmon,
the US Champion.


I'm sorry I missed your match,

but the bath was so lovely.

I soaked the entire afternoon.

[Beth] I'm glad.

- You look better.
- I feel better.

- Are you hungry?
- Starving.

[man] Thank you.
You play beautiful, señora.

Thank you.

So much for your stage fright.

I play fine as long as it's for fun.

Where shall we go?

Any one of the new places
you've been to?


Let's eat in the room.

- [Mrs. Wheatley chews loudly]
- [pensive music playing]

[elevator dings]

- [elevator dings]
- [man 1] You wanna grab it? Here.

[elevator dings]

[man 2, in Russian] In Moscow, she'll be
jet-lagged. We can destroy her then.

[in Russian] She's getting better.

Have to deal with her here or in Paris

before she gets too strong.

There's talk she's a drunk.

Her game is almost all att*ck.

So she doesn't always watch her back.

When she blunders, she gets angry,

and can be dangerous.

- [man 3, in Russian] Like all women.
- She's an orphan. A survivor.

She's like us...
Losing is not an option for her.

Otherwise, what would her life be?

[elevator dings]

[pensive music continues]

[Mike] Those two guys,
they're number two and three in the world.

- [Beth] And those guys?
- [Matt] KGB.

Make sure Borgov doesn't run away.

Will you save a seat for my mother?

- Yeah.
- Yeah.

[pensive music playing]

You may start your opponent's clock.

- [button clicks]
- [thrilling music playing]

[Diaz, in Spanish] Pawn to king four.

She always plays
the Sicilian to that opening.

It's the most common opening
for White in the game of chess,

and Borgov has been called
the "Master of the Sicilian."

Harmon moves pawn to queen bishop four,

hoping to play him on ground
that's fresh for both of them,

that won't give him
the advantage of his superior knowledge.

And now Borgov has brought out
his king's knight to bishop three,

…and Harmon,

of course,
brings hers to queen bishop three,

attacking the center.

But Borgov moves his bishop
to knight five,

signaling he's going to play
the Closed Sicilian,

not the Open.

[camera shutter clicks]

[director, in English]
Please do not disturb the players.

[in Spanish]
The Rossolimo. A rare opening…

Harmon pushes her pawn

to rook three,
attacking Borgov's bishop.

- [pieces clatter]
- [chess clock button clicks]

[Diaz] Borgov castles.

Harmon must now decide

to open the game or keep it closed.

[Mike] White has the advantage.

Since it always has the first move,
it always has the advantage.

I read that when computers
learn to play chess,

and play against other computers,

White will always win
because of the first move.

Like tic-tac-toe.

Borgov's not a machine.

[Matt chuckles] That you know of.

- [piece slides]
- [chess clock button clicks]

[chess clock ticking]

[pensive music continues]

[piece clatters loudly]

[Beth] I didn't expect it.

No one really plays it.

It threw me off.

Just like he knew it would.

From that point on, the whole game
was like a foregone conclusion. I…

I couldn't fight this feeling
that I'd already lost.

Like in the books,

where you know the outcome,
but you play it out

just to see how it would happen, and…

I mean, every move he made was so…

Obvious, so…

Unimaginative, so bureaucratic.

And the whole time, I'd look at his face,

and there was no doubt.

No weakness.

I'm so glad you didn't see it.


[light switch clicks]

[exhales shakily]

I'm sorry.

What was it?

Hepatitis, possibly.

We will know tomorrow.

Could you give me a tranquilizer?

- Yes. I have a sedative.
- I don't want a sedative.

Could I have a prescription for Librium?

You don't need a prescription
to buy Librium in Mexico.

I suggest meprobamate.

There's a farmacia here in the hotel.

Again, I'm very sorry for your loss.

Allow us to help you
with any arrangements.

Signing papers, dealing with authorities.

And, of course,
the bill will be taken care of.

- Thank you.
- Including the liquor bill,

which was significant.

Though, I'm sure none
of the many margaritas she consumed

was the culprit
in your mother's untimely passing.

She did mention something
about the quality of the tequila.


Whatever we can do to help.

I need to find him.

[phone ringing]

[phone ringing]

[phone ringing]


[manager] I have your call.

From Denver.

Thank you.

This is Allston Wheatley.

It's Beth, Mr. Wheatley.


Your daughter.

- Elizabeth Harmon.
- And you're in Mexico?

It's about Mrs. Wheatley.

How is Alma? Is she there with you?

She's d*ad.

She d*ed this morning.

- Mr. Wheatley...
- Can't you handle this?

I-I can't be going off to Mexico.

There's an autopsy in the morning,
and I have to buy new plane tickets…

I mean, I have to get
a new ticket for myself.

- I don't know where to bury her.
- Call Durgin Brothers in Lexington.

There's a family plot
in her maiden name, Benson.

What about the house?

Look, I don't want any part of this.

I got problems enough in Denver.

Get her up to Kentucky and bury her,
and the house is yours. Just…

Make the mortgage payments.

You need money?

I don't know.
I don't know how much it'll cost.

I heard you're doing all right.
The child-prodigy thing.

Can't you charge it or something?

I'll ask the hotel.

Good, you do that.
I'm strapped for cash right now,

but call Second National Bank
and ask for Mr. Erlich.

That's E-R-L-I-C-H.

Say you can have the house.
He knows how to reach me.

Don't you want to know how she d*ed?

What was it?


I think. We'll know tomorrow.


She was sick a lot.

[receiver slams]

[melancholy music playing]


[distant traffic sounds]

[airplane engine starting]

[music intensifies]



[“The gift” by Lukas Frank playing]

♪ Through her dreams reach arms of night ♪

♪ she moves each street with her eyes ♪

♪ a small town ♪

♪ blooms upside down ♪

♪ and rains with lunes ♪

♪ of iris light ♪

♪ limp red tongue and tusk of light ♪

♪ she strides in the maw
of the limelight ♪

♪ a faint crowd ♪

♪ let it wane down ♪

♪ down to you ♪

♪ ooh ♪

♪ she's gone ♪

♪ off into the highway song ♪

♪ the cars ♪

♪ they whisper and they sigh ♪

♪ her name endlessly ♪
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