Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit is driving sales of chess sets and books

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Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit debuted on October 23. The Queen’s Gambit is a fictional series about teenage chess prodigy Beth Harmon who was taught chess by Mr. Shaibel, the janitor at her orphanage. The mini-series follows Beth’s life as she battles world champion chess players and masters. It’s an awkward coming of age story with dysfunctional characters, amazing fashion and masterful chess.

Since the debut of The Queen’s Gambit, the sales of chess boards are up 87% and sales of related strategy books are up more than 600%. The interest in chess related searches on Google have also quadrupled. Below is more on the story from Malaysia’s The Star:

In the three weeks after The Queen’s Gambit premiered, unit sales of chess sets jumped 87% in the United States and chess book sales rose an eye-popping 603%, according to research firm NPD Group. The spike comes after years of flat or negative growth in those categories, NPD said.

Prior to the premiere of The Queen’s Gambit, week-over-week chess set sales in the U.S. had been relatively flat for 13 weeks – and soared after the limited series hit Netflix, according to US Retail Tracking Service data from NPD.

There was a similar rise in sales of chess books, per NPD BookScan, which reported higher US print book unit sales for the following titles: Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess by Bobby Fischer; Chess Fundamentals by Jose Capablanca; Chess For Kids by Michael Basman; and The Complete Book Of Chess Strategy: Grandmaster Techniques From A To Z by Jeremy Silman.

“The idea that a streaming television series can have an impact on product sales is not a new one, but we are finally able to view it through the data,” said Juli Lennett, NPD Group toys industry adviser.

“The sales of chess books and chess sets, which had previously been flat or declining for years, turned sharply upward as the popular new series gained viewers.”

[From Star]

I watched all seven episodes of The Queen’s Gambit in one day, it was that good. The show also reignited my desire to learn how to play chess. I loved that they made a female the protagonist in a movie about chess. Usually, men dominate the sport. I also love how they didn’t make Jolene, the only black character and Beth’s best friend from the orphanage, a savior. In fact, Jolene made it clear to Beth that she wasn’t her savior. The show also had some very awkward sexual moments for Beth. It felt as if The Queen’s Gambit firmly grasped how women viewed themselves and their sexuality in the mid to late 60s prior to the sexual revolution. Beth and Jolene were complete badasses.

One of my favorite things that has come from the movie is this meme:

All in all, The Queen’s Gambit somehow made chess exciting and I understand why there’s a renewed interest in it. If you can get past the terrible 60′s matching pattern décor, and that the little boy from Love Actually is a grown man who looks like a teenager, then The Queen Gambit is definitely a must see.

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photos via social media and Netflix Press credit: Courtesy of Netflix 2020

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34 Responses to “Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit is driving sales of chess sets and books”

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  1. VirgoGirl29 says:

    My vote for one of the best series of 2020!

    • Keroppi says:

      +1 hands down, no competition!

    • (TheOG) Jan90067 says:

      It wasn’t something I had the least interest in, and my sister sat me down, turned it on, and said,”WATCH!” I didn’t get up from the couch for 3 episodes! It was FANTASTIC!! LOVED IT!! And the CLOTHES!!!!

      While I *know* I can’t play chess to save my life, my BIL told me my younger nephew (20) began to try and learn after watching this with his roommates. So my Hanukkah gift to him is a really nice wooden chess set and 2 books on strategies that he can use now (here at home), and take with him whenever he goes back to Uni in WI. FINALLY, a gift I KNOW he’ll love! lol

      • Traveler says:

        Same here. I started watching it because I was bored and had nothing else on my plate. At first I thought “this is too dark” (the world is more than dark enough for me right now I definitely don’t seek it out in my entertainment) but I simply couldn’t stop watching. It was disturbing and incredible.
        Great series.

    • minx says:

      Absolutely!

  2. Belig says:

    It’s hilarious how split the reaction to Benny has been. His whole teenage dirtbag / chess cowboy look shouldn’t work, and yet…

  3. Esmom says:

    I enjoyed it a lot. It brought back memories of my kids’ competitive chess playing days, including the time their school team won the city championship. Many more girls in the 2000s than back in Beth Harmon’s day.

    I played with my kids a bit when they were first learning at ages 4 and 5 but they quickly surpassed my basic knowledge and I haven’t played since. It’s good to hear people are interested in learning. Both my kids still play it recreationally in college with roommates and friends and it’s a nice antidote to video games and social media.

    Even the period details were less garish and more fascinating and nostalgic to me. I loved adult Beth’s wardrobe.

  4. Jackson says:

    I loved TQG. Loved loved loved.
    My only complaint was that I would have liked there to have been a couple more episodes. Maybe one seeing her go through more of her addiction battle and the fallout it created in her life/game. And then a second episode that showed a deepening connection with her group/friends.
    And yeah, it’s made me want to dig out the old chess board. And get a cute outfit. :)

  5. Lauren says:

    I really enjoyed TQG. I scratched my head a few times wondering where I had seen Benny before then I realized he was that kid from GOT. The one that went with Bran over the wall and died.

    • (TheOG) Jan90067 says:

      Also Liam Neeson’s adorable son in “Love Actually” 😊. Only difference btwn then and now is he’s taller, and has the mustache! Otherwise, he looks the same! lol

      • Lauren says:

        I think I’m one of the few people in the planet that hasn’t seen love actually. romcoms are snooze inducing for me lol

  6. Juju says:

    I’m half way through it but my husband loved it and asked me if we could order a new chess set. Winter combined with the pandemic is the perfect time to revisit board games and card games as we hunker down. It’s the winter of hygge for me!

  7. Case says:

    This show was just excellent. I’ve been impressed with Anya Taylor-Joy since her debut in The Witch and she was brilliant in this. I hope her work is recognized during award season. It really excited me to see a female protagonist who doesn’t say much and is pretty serious and weird. Felt like a personality type mostly reserved for male characters until now.

    This show seems to have come out at the perfect time too. People are prepping for a long winter indoors and chess is the perfect pastime.

    Side note: That tweet about Jessica Hyatt!!! How cool. I wish her the best!

  8. Becks1 says:

    We haven’t seen it yet but I’m hoping we can binge it over the Christmas break. I find streaming services overwhelming sometimes, there’s just so much content.

  9. Mu says:

    This show was si great un Manu levels. All the actors are really impressive, including Alma, Beth’s adoptive mother. Do you really miss her when she is not in the screen anymore. I was really hopin that CB writes no TQG

    • minx says:

      Alma was a wonderful character. I thought things were going in a certain direction with her and then it surprised me. I loved her relationship with Beth.

  10. Amelie says:

    The Queen’s Gambit is based on a book of the same name so the choice to make the protagonist a woman didn’t come out of nowhere, it’s in the book (written by a male author I might add). I haven’t watched the series yet, though I saw a few random parts while my mom was watching it. I am interested in reading the book and watching the series to compare the two.

  11. Other Renee says:

    I’ve only seen one episode but really like it so far. It did prompt me to ask my husband where our chess set is hiding. My beloved uncle taught me how to play. He’s passed away but I have really great memories from that time in my childhood. Also, I was the only female on my high school chess team. I think I only played for a year because there were other after-school activities I preferred, but it was a lot of fun. It prompted me to read chess books and learn about strategy. I remember attending a large tournament and being the only female there. I would be really glad to see this show encourage a lot of young girls to take an interest in chess.

  12. Jules says:

    Male authors trying to show a woman at rock bottom–lol!
    I thought the actress was Emma Stone for a sec.

  13. Keroppi says:

    If anyone knows about the MBTI (Myers-Briggs) personality types, Beth is a good example of a female INTJ character. Very rare to see this protrayed well!

    • Case says:

      Wow you’re right! I’m an INFJ, perhaps that’s why I was so drawn to this character and happy to see this kind of personality represented in a female protagonist.

      • Keroppi says:

        I’m an INTJ and my husband is an INFJ. We both loved this series.

        One of the other things that I loved was that there were so many moments when she was silent, yet you could still understand what she was thinking and feeling. Anya did an amazing job!

    • Mignionette says:

      OMG I am also an INTJ and I can see what you mean.

  14. Shells_Bells says:

    Loved TQG. The set design & costumes are especially great!

  15. LittlePenguin says:

    It was such a quiet little show that punched big. So much happens, but not big and splashy and it was just a nice cozy watch. This is the tv I want. An excellent story with character development as a limited series. I loved seeing the fashion and the terrible decor. (I am trying to convince my husband we should add heavy velvet curtains to the archway but he won’t let me :) )

    **SPOILER**
    I absolutely loved how the men came together at the end to help Beth. That made the series even more amazing for me. A strong woman won’t ruin something, it can only make you better.

    • Keroppi says:

      This is one of those series where I hope there is not a season 2. It is perfect as is!

      • Case says:

        I get so mad when a miniseries gets a second season. I don’t like to commit to a lot of shows with multiple seasons. The whole appeal of them, for me, is that I can watch it over the course of a week, be finished with it, and feel satisfied in having watched a complete story.

      • LittlePenguin says:

        @Keroppi Don’t even say that! This had better stay as one season!!!

  16. Kate says:

    The show is incredible, I agree. I have always loved chess, and I’m a natural red head so I love the lead actress even more. Plus I loved her in SPLIT, really happy to see her continue to blossom professionally.

  17. anon says:

    Some of the scenes around her early drug use and eventual addiction were disturbing, because she was only nine. But, that *did* happen at orphanages back then.

    What I loved about the show was that, in spite of her infinite, palpable loneliness, she did manage to patch together a network of chosen family, who in the end had her back.

    Loved it.

  18. Feeshalori says:

    I’m a child of the ‘60s so had a great revisit of the fashion, decor and music, and nearly cried at hearing Classical Gas, my all-time favorite song of that era. I still have my 45 record too. It was a mesmerizing series, I’m hoping for a second season, and I admit I dug my old chess pieces out from high school and purchased a checkerboard and strategy book off Amazon!

  19. Belig says:

    I wanted to add, for everyone who’s watched it and everyone who hasn’t yet: there’s a lot of subtle little things here and there, throwbacks to previous lines or moments, or clues that something more could be going on. The fans have picked up on many things, and even done some theorizing. I recommend checking out Reddit… and then, maybe going for a rewatch!

  20. Thirtynine says:

    I love chess, bu it was too grim for me, couldn’t watch past 3 episodes, but the clothes were glorious.