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The Queen's Gambit

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  21,153 ratings  ·  2,783 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 February 5th 1983)
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Popular Answered Questions
Bon Tom No, this definitely isn't what you're looking for. The main character is slightly prone to addictions, but nothing scientific in description. The book…moreNo, this definitely isn't what you're looking for. The main character is slightly prone to addictions, but nothing scientific in description. The book is of a kind "show, don't tell".(less)
Andrew Chandler no, but (like the tv series), extra levels of enjoyment are unlocked with more knowledge. The board layout, the moves of the pieces, and a cheatsheet …moreno, but (like the tv series), extra levels of enjoyment are unlocked with more knowledge. The board layout, the moves of the pieces, and a cheatsheet on chess descriptive notation (like Queens Bishop 4) help to visualize the board, but the book is able to give drama and excitement to the games without this knowledge(less)

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Average rating 4.24  · 
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Joe Valdez
Nov 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-general
The Queen's Gambit is the first novel I've read in some time that I looked forward to cracking open in the evening to finish. Rather than simply wanting to get through it, I didn't want it to end. Published in 1983, the title has multiplied its Google searches in the last month by virtue of a successful Netflix mini-series. Walter Tevis is an author who'd been on my radar for a while though, with several science fiction novels, as well as The Hustler and its sequel The Color of Money. With The Q ...more
Sam Quixote
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Blimey o’reilly, The Queen’s Gambit was an absolutely stonking good novel – the best I’ve read in ages! Why hasn’t anyone ever told me to read Walter Tevis before?! He’s an utterly fantabulous writer!

Set in 1950s/60s America, Beth Harmon is an orphaned chess prodigy who rises up through the ranks to become the American No.1 and heads across the Iron Curtain to take on the World Champion: the intimidating Russian Borgov!

The story is a bildungsroman but also about genius and addiction. In the or
...more
Elyse  Walters
Oct 30, 2020 rated it liked it
While I enjoyed this book about a young orphan girl....
who became addicted to prescription medication—
while at the same time became addicted to the game chess....
Grows into a brilliant world chess champion....
I found myself more interested in her drug addiction ( something that thank heavens I have no personal experience with), her history, and relationships than ‘reading’ about the specific pieces on the board being played - ( knights, ponds, rooks, queens, bishop, kings, check or checkmate) .
...more
BlackOxford
Dec 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american
The Tragedy of Success

The Queens Gambit is about professional chess in the same way that David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest is about professional tennis. That is to say, the core of the book is about how we use our talents to destroy ourselves. In this it is sImilar to Stefan Zweig’s Chess Story which, although written three quarters of a century ago, carries the same warning about the same game.

Beth is a chess prodigy. The first impression of her story might be that she is another Billy Eliot
...more
Anne
Nov 07, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, thriller, fiction, audio
11/15/20 Update: After listening to this book I watched the Netflix adaptation and loved it.

Review:
This novel was my "waiting for election results" choice. I tried 3 books previous to this one but was too distracted to become engaged in them. This story, though, heavy on plot, was perfect; I was able to become engaged immediately. I won't discuss the plot because there are already so many reviews of this book on GR. I'll just say do yourself a favor and don't listen to the Audible recording. T
...more
Lisa Vegan
I love this book. It’s feeling really challenging to try to start my next (any) book because I doubt I’ll enjoy it as much as I liked this one. I have added this one to my favorites shelf.

I’m so grateful that my book club agreed to read this for our March book. For me it was the perfect book at the perfect time. In fact, some of my book club members were having a hard time getting a copy, so I quickly finished the last couple of chapters so that they could read my library copy before its due dat
...more
Andrew Smith
Dec 16, 2013 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
Anthony
Oct 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is, quite simply, a fantastic novel. Wholly immersive, exciting, and human, it combines in completely satisfying prose the the unlikely pairing of a fascinating portrait of a brilliant and complicated young woman with the page-turning suspense of a great thriller in its depiction of high-stakes chess tournaments. I love chess, and I wonder how readers who don’t would feel about this novel, but for me Tevis elegantly and accessibly makes manifest the particular and singular joy of discoverin ...more
Chris
Dec 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Utterly loved this novel -- every bit as much as I savored the TV series. Who knew chess could be so freaking tense? Also, Beth Harmon is a fascinating creation: a savant with deep scars. Charismatic and messy. Every page of the novel is alive with both possibility and dread. PS: Once again I simply forget to post my review here weeks ago. Trust me, this isn't a month-long read. I devoured it in days. ...more
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
...more
K. Elizabeth
What an exhilarating read! Though, I must admit, I felt like the beginning of the book was stronger than the end. That said, the overall story was unique and fast-paced. And the characters, which if anyone knows me understands that's the most important aspect of a novel (in my eyes), were flawed and realistic, which I absolutely loved.

Can't wait to watch the show!
...more
Corina
Jan 02, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first book of 2021

POPSUGAR READING CHALLENGE - A book set in multiple countries

4.5 stars

Amazing book!!!

And of course I wish I had read the book first. But I must say the TV show is exactly like the book. They did a marvelous job following the book. And now after I watched the show and listened to the audiobook I can say that the book is as fascinating as the show.

The Queen's Gambit was one of my most favorite shows of 2020, and it's the one show I have been recommending nonstop. So, if you h
...more
Dave Schaafsma
Dec 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
So maybe you are one of the purportedly 62 million people who have seen (the truly wonderful) Queen’s Gambit series, and I don’t have to tell you anything about it. But have you also read the book, that I was listening to as I saw the series and finished it the next day, a couple days ago? Though I and the world are aware of Walter Tevis’s novels that became blockbuster movies--The Hustler, The Color of Money, The Man Who Fell to Earth--I think this is the first of his novels that I have read, a ...more
Lisa
Nov 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Queen's Gambit, about a female chess prodigy, is loaded with chess games: chess strategy, openings, middle game, endings. I know nothing about chess, the audiobook was poorly narrated and I did not particularly like Beth Harmon - yet I was still riveted! A testament to Tevis' strong writing! ...more
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
Jonathan K
Jan 06, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For aspiring chess players

Rating: 3.5 stars
I was drawn to this story due to the popularity of the Netflix series which I'd never seen. A lover of the game and fan of 'Searching for Bobby Fischer', I found it engaging on many fronts. Similar to Josh Waitzkin, Beth is gifted child with a unique talent. An adopted orphan, her foster mother is emotionally distant but supportive. Once she realizes how gifted her daughter is, she sees dollar signs and acts as a manager. As a character, Beth is relati
...more
Mehenaz
Dec 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing


As much as I wished to have discovered the book before the TV show, that didn't stop the words from amusing me. Even if you don't know what any of the chess pieces do and have no interest in chess, Beth alone can make up for all that. What a character she is! She deserves more appreciation and acknowledgement as one of the most well-developed femme fatale. So, here's a tribute to the one who's "unapologetically feminine," yet not a goddess without flaws.

Instagram: @tishamonten
...more
Joy D
Set in the 1950s and 1960s, Elizabeth Harmon is a chess prodigy with addiction issues. She learns chess at age eight from a janitor at her orphanage and obviously has a gift for the game. When she is adopted at age twelve, she eventually gets a chance to compete in tournaments. Her addiction issues originate in the practice of medicating children to keep them subdued and losing her parents at a young age.

The chess tournaments are well-crafted, and the author creates a sense of dramatic tension.
...more
John Martin
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm a tad biased rating this. In my youth, I was a chess junkie. The rise of Bobby Fischer coincided with my early adolescence. Thus I understand some of the technical stuff in this book and I can appreciate descriptions of well-turned wooden chess men. But putting nostalgia aside, I wonder if slabs of the narrative would be inaccessible to non chess players. The book was written in the early 1980s. The writing style might have been cutting-edge then but things have moved on in 35 years. Ditto t ...more
Lee
Sep 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Quite possibly a perfect example of a certain type of taut, pulsating novel -- and a lesson in precision and how to mesmerise your readers. And Tevis should have way more.
Alicia Groscost
Nov 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
You don't have to play chess to like this book!

I absolutely loved this, but will admit I did this in backwards order by watching the Netflix Series first. Once I was part of the way through the series I confirmed it had started as book and then promptly switched over. The book had little nuances that were different, but overall the book and the series were very much aligned. The characters are well thought out and I really don't see how the book or the series could have been improved!
...more
Wendy'sThoughts
Oct 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Walter Tevis Fans
December 8, 2020-UPDATE
When I find out about something I loved, I want to share it with everyone. I loved The Queen's Gambit, a mini-series on Netflix based on the book by Walter Tevis. The main character was done by the brilliant actor, Anya Taylor-Joy, and was written and directed by Scott Frank. (See Review Below)

Well, these two talented people are at it again! They have taken on a new project, Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov. I can only imagine it will be as captivating as the other
...more
Andy Marr
Nov 30, 2020 marked it as dnf
Positively pawnographic.

Truly, the chess descriptions in this book were so gratuitous, they made Bobby Fischer's My 60 Memorable Games seem tame by comparison. It's a shame, because there was a fantastic underdog story hidden in its pages, and just desperate to get out...
...more
Eugenia
Dec 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
GAHHHHHH!! ❤️👏❤️👏❤️👏 Sooooo GOOD!

FANTASTIC NARRATION!
Amazing coming of age story.

From
8 yo - 19 yo
Orphanage - adoption
Addiction - sobriety
Chess - chess - chess
Sexism - sexism

I’ve not seen the show on Netflix, but now I surely will.

Even if you don’t know the vagaries of chess, you can follow the path of a child prodigy playing the best players in the world and overcoming obstacles set by society and her own fears.
BRIONY
Dec 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The story, based in 1950/60s Kentucky America is about an orphaned chess prodigy Beth Harmon on her rise to becoming the world's leading chess player. Growing up she struggles with emotional issues and drug/alcohol problems. It’s about life, love, friendship and passion. There are not many books that make me feel as strongly as I did whilst reading this. I felt quite lost when I finished it. ...more
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
This was a great book about chess, feminism, and drug/alcohol addiction. A girl orphaned at age 8 and sent to an orphanage in 1950s Kentucky develops into a chess prodigy who competes at the global level in male-dominated chess competitions. This is the best kind of storytelling - well-drawn characters, a taut storyline, and wonderful prose.
Nigeyb
Nov 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Queen's Gambit is the second novel I've read by Walter Tevis. As a fanatical teenage David Bowie fan I read The Man Who Fell to Earth back in the late 1970s and which I concluded was every bit as good as Nick Roeg's amazing film adaptation with Bowie playing the lead role. I'm going to reread it at some point to discover how I feel about it a few decades on.

Three of Walter Tevis's six novels were adapted into major films: The Hustler, The Color of Money and The Man Who Fell to Earth. The Que
...more
Doug
Nov 26, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
When our book club decided to read this I initially demurred, since I don't play chess and only know a very rudimentary amount about even HOW it is played, so figured this wouldn't make much sense to me. But the enthusiasm of other members, plus the worldwide acclaim for its new TV adaptation, persuaded me to give it a try. But, sad to say, my initial impulse proved correct.

I think the book's success largely depends upon you really rooting for and caring about Beth's chess wins, but I don't hav
...more
Iulia
Nov 22, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2020
I read this book after watching (and absolutely loving) the show on Netflix. This is unusual for me, and what's even more unusual is that I enjoyed *gasp* the show a bit more than I did the book. I just feel like the tweaks the producers made to the story actually enriched it, and the 60's atmosphere, somewhat neglected in the book, was brought to life gloriously via sets and wardrobe. I would still recommend both reading The Queen's Gambit and watching its adaptation, what I would like to empha ...more
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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. The Queen's Gambit has also been adapted in 2020 into a 7-episode mini-series. His books have been translated into at least 18 languages. ...more

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