Beth Harmon
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Beth Harmon

Beth Harmon
The Queen's Gambit character
First appearanceThe Queen's Gambit (1983 novel)
Created byWalter Tevis
Adapted byScott Frank (2020 miniseries)
Portrayed byAnya Taylor-Joy
Isla Johnston (age 8)
Annabeth Kelly (age 5)
In-universe information
Full nameElizabeth Harmon
OccupationChess player
FamilyAlice Harmon (biological mother; deceased)
Paul Harmon (biological father)
Alma Wheatley (adoptive mother; deceased)
Allston Wheatley (adoptive father)
OriginLexington, Kentucky

Elizabeth "Beth" Harmon is a fictional character and the main protagonist in the Walter Tevis novel The Queen's Gambit and the Netflix drama miniseries of the same name, in which she is portrayed by Anya Taylor-Joy.[1][2][3][4] Taylor-Joy's performance as Beth was critically acclaimed. She has been nominated for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie.[5] She also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Miniseries or Television Film[6] and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie.[7]

Fictional biography

Beth is a chess prodigy who was orphaned at age eight when her mother died in a car crash. Growing up in an orphanage, she was taught chess by the custodian Mr. Shaibel, and soon became a strong player. While at the orphanage, she struggles with an addiction to tranquilizers. In her teens she was adopted and began her rapid rise in the chess world, eventually challenging the top Soviet players. As her skill and profile grows, her struggles with tranquilizers and eventually alcohol worsen.[8]

Concept and inspiration

Diana Lanni, a New York chess player contemporary with Tevis who represented the United States at the 1982 Chess Olympiad in Lucerne, suggested she was at least in part the inspiration for the Beth Harmon character, and that her friend grandmaster Larry Kaufman was the inspiration for the book's Harry Beltik character. Lanni thinks it is plausible she got Tevis' attention when playing at the outdoor tables at Washington Square Park as the only woman, and as someone with depression and addiction problems.[9] Other real life chess players said to have inspired her include Bobby Fischer and Tevis himself.[10][11][12] Tevis, however, explicitly denied any of his characters were based on any real life people. He also said he found it more interesting to write a female character.[13]

Television adaptation

After several aborted attempts to bring the novel to screen, Netflix announced they had acquired the rights, with Anya Taylor-Joy confirmed as the show's lead, on March 19, 2019, with a Twitter post by Netflix Queue.[14][15][16]

See also


  1. ^ "The Queen's Gambit: meet the real Beth Harmon... Bobby Fischer". British GQ. Retrieved 2020.
  2. ^ "Chess: Beth Harmon and Magnus Carlsen triggers for an unlikely boom". the Guardian. November 20, 2020. Retrieved 2020.
  3. ^ "How Beth Harmon became a style icon in The Queen's Gambit". The Independent. November 15, 2020. Retrieved 2020.
  4. ^ Dry, Jude (November 13, 2020). "'The Queen's Gambit': Let's Celebrate Beth Harmon Doing Whatever the Hell She Wants". IndieWire. Retrieved 2020.
  5. ^ "73rd Emmy Awards Nominations". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 2021.
  6. ^ "Anya Taylor-Joy". Golden Globes. Retrieved 2021.
  7. ^ Gonzalez, Sandra (April 4, 2021). "SAG Awards: See the full list of winners". CNN. Retrieved 2021.
  8. ^ "The Queen's Gambit: Why is everyone suddenly talking about chess?". Sky News. Retrieved 2020.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Dray, Kayleigh (December 4, 2020). "The Queen's Gambit was inspired by a tragic true story". Stylist. Retrieved 2021.
  11. ^ Kerridge, Jake (October 30, 2020). "Literature's lonely alien: the troubled author behind The Queen's Gambit". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2021.
  12. ^ Nicolaou, Elena (November 23, 2020). "Beth of "The Queen's Gambit" Is Partially Based on Chess's Most Famous Pros". Oprah Magazine. Retrieved 2021.
  13. ^ Sarah Beth Cohen, Tevis --May 1983, December 25, 2020, citing Chess Life interview with Marcy Soltis, May 1983
  14. ^ Thorne, Will (March 19, 2019). "Anya Taylor-Joy to Star in 'The Queen's Gambit' Limited Series at Netflix". Variety. Retrieved 2021.
  15. ^ Porter, Rick (March 19, 2019). "Anya Taylor-Joy to Star in Netflix Limited Series 'The Queen's Gambit'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2021.
  16. ^ "Anya Taylor-Joy to play chess prodigy in The Queen's Gambit, a new Netflix limited series from Godless creator - Entertainment News , Firstpost". Firstpost. March 20, 2019. Retrieved 2021.

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