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The Queen's Gambit

4.10  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,806 Ratings  ·  279 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 3,000)
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Lynne King
At eighteen, Beth Harmon has established herself as the queen of American chess. She may be the most gifted player since Morphy or Capablanca; no one knows just how gifted she is – how great a potential she holds in that young girl’s body with its dazzling brain. To find out, to show the world if America has outgrown its inferior status in world chess, she will have to go where the big boys are. She will have to go to the Soviet Union.

Imagine this story though. Beth, a plain, shy eight year ol
...more
Jeremy Bagai
Jun 28, 2011 Jeremy Bagai rated it it was amazing
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
Andrew Smith
Dec 26, 2014 Andrew Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read somewhere that this is one of Lawrence Block's favourite stories. Well, if it's good enough for LB...
I'd enjoyed chess as a child and recall the hype and excitement surrounding the world championship match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky, in the 70's. This book captures the excitement chess can evoke (trust me) - and you don't even have to have played the game to enjoy it.
The story of an eight year old orphan who transforms her life through chess is brilliantly told. I was sad whe
...more
Arwen56
Come molti altri lettori, di cui ho scorso le recensioni, degli scacchi conosco solo le regole generali. In teoria, quindi, potrei anche giocare una partita, ma probabilmente la perderei nel giro di un minuto al massimo. Ciò nonostante, questo romanzo, che pure ha frequentissime descrizioni di agguerriti confronti tra giocatori esperti, mi ha veramente tenuta avvinta dall’inizio alla fine.

Il fatto è che Tevis ha creato qui con Elizabeth Harmon un altro personaggio affascinante, al pari dell’alie
...more
Daniel
Apr 22, 2014 Daniel rated it it was amazing
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
Piperitapitta
Cosa c'entro io con gli scacchi?

Assolutamente niente, ma questa è una storia il cui minimo comune multiplo tra la maggior parte dei lettori aNobiiani che l'hanno amata è quello di non saper assolutamente giocare a scacchi.

È una bella storia di solitudine e disagio, di crescita e formazione, di scompiglio interiore e apparente impenetrabilità.
Beth Harmon ha soli otto anni quando, già orfana di padre, le muore la madre e, sola al mondo, viene portata nella Methuen Home in Kentucky.
È una bambina so
...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
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
capobanda
Oct 14, 2012 capobanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nordamericani
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
Steve
Oct 23, 2014 Steve rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 20, 2012 Sandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa
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
Ben Loory
Sep 24, 2013 Ben Loory rated it really liked it
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.

Roger Hecht
Dec 31, 2013 Roger Hecht rated it it was amazing
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
notgettingenough
Sep 09, 2015 notgettingenough rated it it was ok
Shelves: games
What did I think?

Like most chess novels, it just doesn't ring true if you are involved at a competitive level. If you aren't, then I imagine this is a fair way to spend an aeroplane trip. Me? It irritated me constantly, but I've given it a second star on the basis that if I wasn't me, I probably would have liked it.
Luke
Oct 17, 2009 Luke rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
L.A. Starks
Jan 29, 2015 L.A. Starks rated it really liked it
This book, first published in 1983--a year before Tevis' death--features a strong, appealing female protagonist focused on winning at chess. Beth Harmon carries the book with her story as a savant who visualizes complex chess plays as readily as people breathe.

I recommend this book for the unusual Asperger's-like characterization of Beth, her genius, and her courage. However, readers should be aware that The Queen's Gambit is dense with arcane chess terminology.
Diane
Jul 05, 2015 Diane rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels, favorites
"Her mind was luminous, and her soul sang to her in the sweet moves of chess."

This was a reread for me. I had never heard of Walter Tevis, but the description of this book interested me, so I bought it. It wasn't until later that I learned Walter Tevis was the author of The Hustler and The Man Who Fell to Earth, both of which were made into movies. I have on idea why "The Queen's Gambit" was never filmed. It certainly should be. I haven't played chess since I was in junior high and I've forgotte
...more
Daniel Gonçalves
Having read two sci fi books by Tevis, this surprised me in a different way. I guess he wrote this novel, which doesn't really classify as one given that there is very Little plot, to chess fans. I am not one and never really understood nor had the desire to grasp the complexity of the game.

But, if you enjoh chess, then you will have fun with this. If not, read "The man who fell to earth".
Sasha
Apr 12, 2015 Sasha rated it it was amazing
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
Terry Pearce
Dec 21, 2015 Terry Pearce rated it it was amazing
I think maybe this is may favourite kind of book. It makes me think of Don Carpenter's Hard Rain Falling, Carson McCullers' The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and John Williams' Stoner. Simple, measured, yet beautiful prose; a straightforward storyline about a life; melancholy and heartache and difficulty that is at the same time minute and all-encompassing. Beth is a beautiful character and you cannot but feel and root for her, and while in the mix is plenty of plot, it is measured and each step thou ...more
Alexandra aka Auntie J
4/8/15 Kindle Daily Deal $1.99.
Stephen Curran
It is a testament to Walter Tevis's craftsmanship that he can structure a novel around a game as unsexy as chess and still make it gripping. It's the rhythm of the sentences, the marks he hits while describing the numerous games, that make it remarkably engaging. He knows how to string a reader along.

The Queen's Gambit can be seen as a sister book to The Hustler, mainly because it is structured around a succession of tournaments. The main character here, though, is an outsider in her field: firs
...more
Jenne
Mar 14, 2007 Jenne rated it it was amazing
I found this book lying on a table at the library one day and started reading it. A great story--I keep recommending it to people but I don't think anyone's taken me up on it yet.
Erik Hanberg
Mar 19, 2014 Erik Hanberg rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recommended
A joy to read from front to back. Whether you know chess or not, I would highly recommend this book. Loved it.
Saul Escalona
Feb 20, 2016 Saul Escalona rated it really liked it
4.5 stars
The Queens Gambit starts out thrilling , enjoyable, catching ; reminding me of :
- Orphan Train by C B Kline, the drama of the orphan girl life.
- Chess story by Stefan Zweig, the thrilling of chess fiction.
- Bolero , orchestral music by M Ravel , the crescendo of the challenges the girl has to confront.
The story telling was great until 3/4 of the way, then the writer changed the plot and the girl closed up and became an alcoholic, that was alright but it was poorly developed and incohere
...more
Stuart
Feb 24, 2014 Stuart rated it liked it
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
Tom
Aug 13, 2015 Tom rated it really liked it
Never played chess, never learned any of rules or strategies, and still don't understand them despite Tevis's meticulous depiction of matches, but none of that mattered. I found this story utterly compelling. I read a fair amount of "sports lit," but nothing could top this for drama and suspense. I must've changed my mind a half dozen times about how it would end, and was still surprised. But this is far more than a sports story (is chess considered sport?). Tevis really gets inside skin of youn ...more
Emi Bevacqua
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Davide Nole
Feb 17, 2015 Davide Nole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Questo libro ha due giudizi per me: c'è il giudizio della persona sentimentale e che ha ancora un cuore, che gli darebbe 4 stelline, mentre la persona con il solo raziocinio starebbe sulle 3.

La vicenda è bellissima e palesemente ispirata alla vita di Bobby Fischer, solamente che il Bobby non è un Robert ma una ragazza. Sinceramente questo mette in evidenza "solamente" la freddezza iniziale del mondo scacchistico all'ascesa al trono della protagonista, tanto che il sesso della protagonista sembra
...more
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La Stamberga dei ...: La regina degli scacchi di Walter Tevis 3 19 Sep 21, 2013 10:14PM  
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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.
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