Episode 3 of The Queen’s Gambit begins with glimpses of Beth’s past, including her Mother heading out to the lake and going swimming. It’s a joyous occasion and one that sees a big grin cross Beth’s face as her Mother embraces her. The sound of a ticking clock echoes in the background, snapping her back to reality.
Back in the present we’re in Cincinnati 1963 as Beth and Alma arrive at their pleasant room and prepare for the chess tournament to come. Beth’s well-known there as the Kentucky State Champ. She beats her opponents with ease and Alma even turns up to watch.
Matt and Mike show up as familiar faces too, eventually heading out for dinner with Alma. Beth has one eye on the US Open though as she continues to compete in tournaments across the US. She certainly doesn’t have time for any romance or relationship issues right now.
For Christmas Beth and Alma head to the spa where Beth decides she needs to learn Russian. Before that though, she’s interviewed by a reporter from Life magazine back home. Ignoring her struggles, the reporter instead comments on her future resting on a knife-point. There’s a thin line between creativity and madness.
This interview – and subsequent article in the magazine – sees Beth begin to gain quite the crowd but also a lot of fame solely for being a girl.
Beth is then invited along to a pledge party with the girls from school; the same girls who originally bullied and shunned her. She immediately feels out of place, realizing they’re only interested in boys and music.
Beth decides to take her leave, but not before eyeing up the alcohol on the counter. This seemingly starts up that same heady cocktail of booze and pills we’ve seen at the start of episode 1.
3 years pass and we pick back up with Beth in Las Vegas, 1966. There, she meets Townes and they discuss their changing fates. Townes is now working as a magazine reporter and she agrees to follow him up to his room to play chess and snap photos. There’s obvious sexual chemistry between them but it’s interrupted by Townes’ roommate Roger Dione arriving.
Tensions between Alma and Beth begin to simmer up too, with the former drinking and encouraging Beth to do the same. That evening Beth talks about her tournament, including her feelings toward US champion Benny Watts. He constantly has a crowd around him and certainly knows his stuff.
Later that day, Beth runs into Benny himself who discusses game strategy. Specifically, a weakness in Beth’s game. The previous player she faced could have beaten her. This revelation certainly rattles Beth but she soon settles down after popping another green pill.
The match with Benny begins and Beth keeps a cool demeanor. Inside though she panics, eventually leading to her first loss. Despite this though, she still gets a share of the prize money. While the money is all Alma cares about, the game and her losing is what Beth dwells on.
Just before Beth leaves Las Vegas, Townes hurries after her and admits that she’ll have another chance to face Benny in the future. Holding Alma’s hand, she and Beth drive away in silence as they reflect on what may have been.
The Episode Review
The cracks in Alma and Beth’s relationship begin to form as the pair drift and begin to see things differently. Alma only cares about the money while Beth’s passion for the game pull them in opposite directions. That’s before mentioning Alma’s worsening alcohol addiction, which appears to be a horrible omen for what may come to pass in the future.
The excellent cinematography continues too, with a wonderful musical score accompanying this one. The smooth camera movements as Beth entered the hotel in Las Vegas felt like something ripped right from Marvelous Mrs Maisel.
That’s to say nothing of the tension with Benny in the final game, which perfectly captured the mood and tone of the piece. With Beth facing her first loss, what’s next for our young prodigy?