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The Queen's Gambit

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  1,073 ratings  ·  199 reviews
Eight year-old orphan Beth Harmon is quiet, sullen, and by all appearances unremarkable. That is until she plays her first game of chess. Her senses grow sharper, her thinking clearer, and for the first time in her life she feels herself fully in control. By the age of sixteen, she's competing for the U.S. Open championship. But as she hones her skills on the professional ...more
Paperback, 243 pages
Published March 11th 2003 by Vintage (first published June 1st 1983)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,703)
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Jeremy Bagai
I so adore this book.

The twin passions of games (order, clarity, focus, beauty, creativity, competition, transcendence) and addiction (chaos, release, abdication, destruction, waste). Loneliness and alienation. Redemption.

Tevis works these themes in all his books. The Hustler (most similarly), The Man Who Fell to Earth (most wrenchingly).

But I think Queen's Gambit is his best. The writing is pure and invisible. The tension, excitement, and suspense brought out by the chess matches is unreal, an
...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
I read this in less than two days, among my fastest. The action is both on and off the chess board. The star is Beth Harmon, a female chess prodigy who was orphaned at eight and learned chess by at first watching, then playing with, the janitor at the basement of the orphanage's school basement. As punishment for stealing tranquilizers (to which she became addicted when the orphanage officials gave these to their wards regularly before) she was banned from playing the game for several years. She ...more
capobanda
Mr. Magoo

Di per sè, la storia di una giovane orfana che si emancipa da una condizione difficile grazie al suo talento sembrerebbe destinata ad offrire al lettore quel tipo di soddisfazione che ogni tanto -agli stremati dagli sguardi sull'abisso, dalle domande inevase e insomma dal senso di frustrazione generale che di solito comportano le buone letture- è necessaria come il pane.
Quel genere di piacere di bassa lega che attraverso l'eroe (ex sfigato) che ce la fa ti illude che c'è un ordine delle
...more
Sheela
Jun 03, 2010 Sheela is currently reading it
I found this book on a stoop and it sat on one of my shelves for months if not years. I pulled it off the shelf to give to a co-worker at a new job. I thought he looked awfully bored and was letting his potential go in a mind-numbing position. But I started reading the book on my way into this job and never put it down. I enjoyed the way Tevis created a girl who was real, surreal, and stronger as a female than often portrayed. Her wicked mind in chess captivated me. The book was meant for ME to ...more
Steve
This book got me into chess in a very big way. Sounds trite, but it literally changed my life.

=-=-=-=-

21SEP13. I saw that the above two sentences garnered a second like yesterday, but I knew when I saw it that (if not on Goodreads than somewhere) I'd written more than just those two sentences about this amazing book. Regarding some details mentioned below, I will reiterate that I'm still a chess-head as I approach the ninth anniversary of my first reading. I have way more than fifteen chess book
...more
Sandra
Premetto che non so giocare a scacchi.
Nonostante ciò questo romanzo -che racconta la vita di Elizabeth Harmon, da quando inizia a giocare a scacchi con il custode nello scantinato dell'orfanatrofio in cui vive dall'età di otto anni, fino a quando non diventa una campionessa mondiale di scacchi a diciannove anni- mi ha incatenato fino all'ultima pagina.
Elizabeth è una ragazza sola, incapace di instaurare rapporti umani, quasi un'aliena. E' una donna sola nel mondo maschilista degli scacchi, dove
...more
Emir Never
Sometime last year, I have read Michael Weinreb's The Kings of New York: A Year Among the Geeks, Oddballs, and Geniuses Who Make Up America's Top High School Chess Team and gave it a three-star rating. I could have rated it higher if not for Weinreb's obvious ignorance of chess notation, apparent in so many pages it was vexing, which made me took him as a complete chess patzer, a sportswriter who did not care enough to know what he was writing about.

But he was writing only about chess, right? Ex
...more
Daniel
Greatness is this book.

Tevis upset my understanding of writing and literature with "The Man Who Fell to Earth," and he did it again with this book. The prose is incredible in its transparency, while Tevis's storytelling is so straightforward as to be mind-boggling. There are no tricks, no boon-doggles, no fast-ones, and no gimmicks: the story unfolds the way the story needs to unfold, and all of it makes for great reading. And protagonist Beth Harmon? I will never forget her, and I will always h
...more
Ben Loory
An hour later she drew Goldmann and Board Three. She walked into the tournament room at exactly eleven, and the people standing stopped talking when she came in. Everyone looked at her. She heard someone whisper, "Thirteen fucking years old," and immediately the thought came into her mind, along with the exultant feeling the whispered voice had given her: I could have done this at eight.

Luke
Picked up a used copy of The Queen's Gambit after reading favorable (gushing, actually) blurbs from Michael Ondaatje and Jonathan Lethem on the back cover. The novel traces the coming of age of its protagonist, Beth Harmon, orphaned at the age of eight, who turns out to be a chess prodigy and is playing against the best players in the world by the time she's a teenager. The writing is exquisite, especially the earlier passages when Beth is living in a Kentucky orphanage and first learning the ga ...more
Roger Hecht
Walter Tevis is known mainly for his novels, The Hustler, The Man Who Fell to Earth, and The Color of Money. I’ve read none of them, but I have read Queen’s Gambit, his novel about world class chess. Few novelists tackle chess, yet it is one of the most competitive games known to man—mano a mano, boxing for the mind, the ultimate war game. Its struggle is mental, though the means are in many ways physical and in all ways personal. (The Queen’s Gambit is a chess opening, where a push of the Queen ...more
Robert
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sasha
I read this book when I was 13 years old, when it first came out. I probably re-read it at least twice and I have never forgotten it.

It's hard to distill the reasons I like Beth Harmon and her journey, she is (as other reviewers have mentioned) not easy to like.

But she feels real to me, and she felt real to me when I was 13. She has what she loves, Chess, and she has what she needs, tranquilizers, to which she became addicted in the orphanage and with which she will struggle throughout her jour
...more
Stuart
Things I learned from this book: (1) Almaden is better quality cheap wine than Gallo, (2) Librium pills are green, (3) orphanages are mean, (4) the Russians are really good at chess, (5) sex between chess masters is boring, (6) the English opening is pretty much the Sicilian defense reversed, (7) black girls don't play chess but they make good personal trainers, (8) speed chess played for money is called "skittles," (9) Tevis really never really gets the hang of writing from a female perspective ...more
Lynn Green
Walter Tevis may be best known for his novel about pool players called The Hustler, but his novel set in the world of professional chess players shows that he understands the psychology of chess as well or even better than that of pool playing.

Chess will never have the broad appeal and media exposure of athletic sports or even game like Poker. Chess is a war game that is played more in the players' heads than it is on the board. This book does a better job of getting into the mind of the chess p
...more
Wendy Chard
The quiet, chess-like subtleties of this book were what made me love it. One particular example. Beth's arch nemesis throughout is the unbeatable, poker-faced Russian world champ, Borgov, who never seems remotely moved by her, while their meetings- and even just thoughts of their meetings- leave her flustered and out of character. Borgov's refusal to consider Beth (a female, an American) as a threat to his title is something that she's relentlessly dealing with. Anyway, by the end Beth is meetin ...more
La Stamberga dei Lettori
E' un romanzo particolarmente avvincente, che riesce a tenere desta l'attenzione dei lettori come pochi altri dall'inizio alla conclusione. Conoscere il gioco degli scacchi non è indispensabile, così come nel romanzo L'arte di vivere in difesa si può ugualmente apprezzare la storia pur non sapendo niente di baseball.

Il raffronto fra i due libri non è stato fatto per caso. Per quanto possa sembrare strano, gli scacchi sono uno sport a tutti gli effetti (in Italia una disciplina affiliata al CONI)
...more
Nicole
I picked this book up at the library completely on a whim because Michael Ondaatje blurbed it and I love his writing. If he liked this book enough to announce so publicly on its cover, I feel pretty okay about giving it a shot. And I'm really glad I did. There's something very cool to me about getting to see characters with a remarkable skill use that skill. And, for as neat as fantastical skills can be, it's even cooler when it's a real-world skill. I'm terrible at chess, have only the vaguest ...more
Piewacket
I just finished this book for the 2nd time and I think I liked even better than the first. I shoud add I rarely re-read books. Tevis is a master at creating compelling characters and the thrill of competition. It takes a kind of single minded focus and obsession to be a great chess player or a great pool player and Tevis truly understands that. You really have to love the game itself to give yourself over to it.

I found it amazing that he was able to describe the matches in a way that even a novi
...more
Matt
Mar 16, 2010 Matt rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Matt by: Michael Ondaatje (via the front cover)
This quick read was absolutely gripping and tons of fun! By the author of the novels that The Hustler and The Color of Money were based on, this one focuses on a young orphan girl chess prodigy. Even if you know next to nothing about high-level chess, this novel is great at sucking you in and putting you on the edge of your seat as the young American pushes her way into the male-dominated world of competitive chess in the mid-'60s, culminating with a showdown with THE RUSSIANS! (As a side note, ...more
Paul
This is a very enjoyable book. How Tevis makes fictional chess matches as exciting as he does is beyond me, but there is definite tension in those scenes. The main character, Beth Harmon, is very flawed but immensely likable and it's impossible not to root for her. It's also notable that this story is so enjoyable for a person (like me) who doesn't know how to play chess. Various part of matches are described in detail, move by move, but it's done in a way that doesn't detract from the enjoyment ...more
Erik Hanberg
A joy to read from front to back. Whether you know chess or not, I would highly recommend this book. Loved it.
Piperitapitta
Assolutamente niente, ma questa �� una storia il cui minimo comune multiplo tra la maggior parte dei lettori aNobiiani che l'hanno amata �� quello di non saper assolutamente giocare a scacchi.

�� una bella storia di solitudine e disagio, di crescita e formazione, di scompiglio interiore e apparente impenetrabilit��.
Beth Harmon ha soli otto anni quando, gi�� orfana di padre, le muore la madre e, sola al mondo, viene portata nella Methuen Home in Kentucky.
�� una bambina solitaria, ripiegata su se s
...more
Piperitapitta
Assolutamente niente, ma questa �� una storia il cui minimo comune multiplo tra la maggior parte dei lettori aNobiiani che l'hanno amata �� quello di non saper assolutamente giocare a scacchi.

�� una bella storia di solitudine e disagio, di crescita e formazione, di scompiglio interiore e apparente impenetrabilit��.
Beth Harmon ha soli otto anni quando, gi�� orfana di padre, le muore la madre e, sola al mondo, viene portata nella Methuen Home in Kentucky.
�� una bambina solitaria, ripiegata su se s
...more
Christian Schwoerke
I read this book shortly after it was published in 1983, and I recall it fondly as a book that kept me absorbed throughout. I couldn’t remember the ending, however, and I re-read it last week with a certain dread that all was going to go the way of Tevis’ best-known characters (those of The Hustler and The Man Who Fell to Earth), a failure to live up to potential and to complete the task at hand.

There’s something obsessive and monomaniacal about playing chess well. I’ve never become that way abo
...more
christina
A book about an orphaned girl, who it turns out loves chess, and pills...

The plot is surprisingly brisk, surprising for a person who cares little to nothing about chess,
and there is a lot of chess; games, moves, plotting, etc.

There is a a definite bleakness about this story, a sort of rattling loneliness that permeates her whole life, despite her prodigy status and the soaring violin triumph one expects from such a story.

A talented piece of writing to be sure.

Sean
What a beautiful book. A eight year old girl, an orphan, finds she has a talent for chess. An obsession with chess. She rises up and up in the chess world, playing tournament after tournament, eventually facing off against the Russian world champion. One of the amazing things about this book is that literally nothing surprising happens in it. Every win, every loss, it's all played out precisely how you know it has to be. Which you'd think would be a weakness. But it's not. It's a strength. It's ...more
Kstangl
A smart, tight novel about an orphaned chess prodigy rising to international fame during the Cold War. Even though I don't know a thing about chess strategy, I was very much caught up in the tense tournament scenes. I'm still not quite sure what to make of the lack of emotional development of the main character, but perhaps I should give the novel credit for being realistic rather than pandering to my apparent need for an artificially satisfying conclusion.
Moonglum
I loved Beth's combination of heroism and fragility. I loved how she was anti-social, and yet how important human connection was to her. And I dig superstar players of games, especially when they are also alcoholic junkies. And I always love it when fierce competitors, find moments of civility, grace, sportsmanship, and mutual respect. Kind of like in the amine 'Battleship Yamamoto', only on a less grand and high falutin' scale.
camilla
Wow. What an amazing novel. I don't know much about chess but I was completely hooked during the matches in this book. So intense and interesting. Tevis does a wonderful job getting inside the main character's head. She's so blank on the outside but so much is going on inside, such a battle to overcome and stay calm and triumph. The whole story is just beautiful. By the end of the book I couldn't stop smiling. An exquisite read.
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La Stamberga dei ...: La regina degli scacchi di Walter Tevis 3 19 Sep 21, 2013 07:14AM  
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Walter Stone Tevis was an American novelist and short story writer. Three of his six novels were adapted into major films: The Hustler, The Color of Money and The Man Who Fell to Earth. His books have been translated into at least 18 languages.
More about Walter Tevis...
Mockingbird The Man Who Fell to Earth The Hustler The Color of Money Steps of the Sun

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