Carlsen on The Queen’s Gambit: “A little too unrealistic”

by ChessBase
11/22/2020 – The $1.5 million Champions Chess Tour kicks off today with the Skilling Open. World champion Magnus Carlsen is the top seed. Shortly before the start of the much anticipated tournament, the Norwegian talked about Netflix’s hit series ‘The Queen’s Gambit’. Carlsen found it extremely enjoyably, but also a little too unrealistic. | Photo: Play Magnus Group

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“I would say it’s a 5/6”

Press release by Play Magnus AS

World Champion Magnus Carlsen has finally given his view on the smash-hit Netflix series The Queen's Gambit.

The Norwegian called it “extremely enjoyable” and awarded it 5 out of 6 stars - but he did have some reservations.

He told

I would say it’s a 5 out of 6. I would have given it a full score except I found it a bit disturbing that all the kids in the series want to get adopted because in chess that means losing 10 games in a row and no kid would want to do that.

Kidding aside though, I thought it was very enjoyable. The optics were great; they did the chess pretty well with the games.

However, he did say it wasn’t perfect.

Carlsen added:

I just found the whole thing a little too unrealistic. I just couldn't quite buy that after being six years without playing a tournament game in an orphanage and you would then be one of the best players in a few years.

It’s a good story but to me, I found it a little too unrealistic. But in general, having said all that, it was extremely enjoyable.

The Queen's Gambit, Netflix

On Sunday Carlsen launches the $1.5 million Champions Chess Tour — his own ‘King’s Gambit’.

Carlsen's full interview will be aired during the coverage.

The first leg, the Skilling Open, is a 16-player tournament that includes the American speed chess king Hikaru Nakamura and teen hotshot Alireza Firouzja.

Skilling Open 2020

Nakamura is the world’s top blitz player and was only narrowly beaten by Carlsen in the first edition of the tour earlier this year.

Firouzja, meanwhile, is a 17-year-old who has taken the chess world by storm over the last year after leaving his home country of Iran.

Now resident in France, Firouzja is widely-tipped as a future champion who could one-day challenge pre-tournament favourite Carlsen.

Champions Chess Tour 2021

After the stunning mainstream success of The Queen’s Gambit, tour organiser Play Magnus Group revealed the new competition will be broadcast by sports network Eurosport across Europe and Asia.

It means the game will take its place alongside tennis, football and other premium sporting events after Europe’s leading sports channel secured rights to show a full season in 60 countries.

The Champions Chess Tour, launched by the Play Magnus Group, replaces the hugely-popular Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour put on earlier this year.

Viewers will also be able to participate in interactive activities with the leading chess stars during the season using tour passes to be made available at and

Champions Chess Tour competition dates include:

  • 22-30 November: Regular ($100,000 prize)
  • 26 December - 3 January: Major ($200,000 prize)
  • 6-14 February: Regular ($100,000 prize)
  • 13-21 March: Major ($200,000 prize)
  • 24 April – 2 May: Regular ($100,000 prize)
  • 22-30 May: Regular ($100,000 prize)
  • 26 June – 4 July: Major ($200,000 prize)
  • 31 July – 8 August: Regular ($100,000 prize)
  • 28 August - 5 September: Regular ($100,000 prize)
  • 25 September – 3 October: Final ($300,000 prize)


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Maatalkko Maatalkko 2/13/2021 12:10
I just realize that I’m posting on a super old page. Well, in caseAnyone is still reading this, Shaibel teaching Beth the Levenfish variation is a brilliant detail. It’s obscure today, but in the 1930s it was the main line. If Shaibel is a retired tournament player giving lessons in the late 50s, it would be natural for him to teach the Levenfish instead of the Yugoslav.
Maatalkko Maatalkko 2/13/2021 12:00
Shaibel must have been a relatively strong amateur player for a couple of reasons. One, he knows the faculty advisor of the local chess club and his personal testimony that a young girl beats him at chess is enough to make him visit the orphanage. He must be a player with an above average rating for that to make sense. Two, Beth is surprised at how bad the kids in high school play, so they were probably worse than Shaibel.

As for him being “a janitor”, I don’t know what kind of high powered circles you all run in, but in my experience it’s not hard to find chess players who are unemployed or underemployed. He clearly has some kind of unexplained backstory behind his humble life. The fact that he drinks whiskey out of a thermos in the middle of the day might be a clue. Personally, I like the fact that not all plot elements were spoon-fed to us.
sriep sriep 11/28/2020 11:20
"I just couldn't quite buy that after being six years without playing a tournament game in an orphanage and you would then be one of the best players in a few years"

The show is a little tricky with the way it telescopes time; you can get the wrong impression if you don't pay attention.

She learns at age eight then plays Shaibel daily for around a year. She starts off losing all her game, but by the time she is banned from playing, she is more than holding her own. The big question is "How strong is Shaibel? 1600? A retired IM?

Beth plays her first tournament at age 12-13. Seems like one IM, say two or three 2000+ players. Is it realistic for here to win all her games? I found this a big ask, but if you pencil in Shaibel as an IM it starts to come into focus.

By the time of the final episode, she is about twenty. In the intervening seven to eight years, she has been playing around one tournament a month. She was supporting both herself and her foster mother with her winnings with enough saved to buy a suburban house with cash; Approaching 100 tournaments and 500 tournament games.

In the decade prior to the final Moscow tournament, she would have been one the highest-earning and prolific chess professionals in the world!
Fastblack Fastblack 11/28/2020 01:20
This is a fictional movie why is it getting so much hype. For a real chess story based in facts based on a true life story (queen of katwe) should have recived this much media attention. Can anyone explain why this true story has been overlooked .
Fish4Life Fish4Life 11/25/2020 08:29
Actually ...She falsely believes she needs the pills but over comes that by the end of the series. I think the message is that she is better off with out them and she beats the addiction in the end!
nimzotech nimzotech 11/25/2020 03:37
@Fianschetto and @Rambus - because anybody in a Janitor position is presumed unintelligent and thus are only permitted to go as far as knowing Sicilian Defense but not the Levenfish variation of the Sicilian?
nimzotech nimzotech 11/25/2020 03:33
@sligunner - Per Chessbase databses 1.e4 and 2. Nc3 is classified as "Closed Sicilian" - 3.Bb5 can still follow.
g3 and Bg2 are not necessary for a closed sicilian.

@Thorpe - Carlsen's 5/6 rating was too kind. You are focusing on how dealing with losing was realistic or not. The important point everybody seems to have missed in their reviews is the fact Beth was addicted to tranquillizers (green pills) - which "enabled" her to hallucinate and envision the chessboard on the ceiling along with different variations. This was was only with the help of the green pills. Surprised you are not concerned with the false message this may send to non-chess players - thinking taking drugs may help them become better chess players, or at least visualize the board better. This is not respectful to chess - to say the least.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 11/25/2020 02:27
@sligunner, you have to make a move before offering a draw. Unless you mean that the opposite happened.
Fianshetto Fianshetto 11/24/2020 10:12

lol, and apparently even with deep chess knowledge he remained a "Janitor"?
sligunner sligunner 11/24/2020 01:46
I have no idea, with Kasparov one of the advisers, why all these things happened during game play:
* Players talking to each other about their moves – "No, there's no way your king can escape," etc. NEVER HAPPENS.
* Grandmasters resigning by turning their king over. NEVER HAPPENS.
* The world champion, Borgov, making a move, hitting his clock, THEN offering a draw (in his opponent's time). This breaks the riles, and NEVER HAPPENS at this level.
* 3.Bb5 in the Sicilian being described as the "Close Sicilian." NO, the Closed Sicilian is e4, Nc3, d3, g3 and Bg2 for white.
* The Slav being described as the "QGD Slav." NO! The Slav Defence is the Slav Defece, not the Queen's Gambit Declined (QGD) where black plays e6 not c6.
This excellent series was described as "the most accurate ever" when it comes to chess. If that's the case, I'd hate to have seen all the other chess movies.
Gerald C Gerald C 11/23/2020 11:11
A very nice movie with a cute Anya Taylor-Joy !
mrstillwater mrstillwater 11/23/2020 08:24
@Thorpe You seem to be taking his comments strangely personally. You also seem to have misunderstood the term "fiction" - something being fictional doesn't mean it can't be realistic. The fact that the main character is shown winning a string of tournaments without losing a single game, despite never having played in a single one before and only have played one person in her life is unrealistic and silly - even the best players in the world lose lots of games when they're first starting out and it would benefited Beth's character significantly if it had shown her losing even just a couple of games occasionally.

Having said that, the series is still very well made and enjoyable, I just wish it had shown her development as a player slightly more realistically.
Thorpe Thorpe 11/23/2020 03:43
Of course! It's fiction!
(And FYI when I taught my 5 yr olds chess, I carefully worked "Losing" in gradually... since yes... that does turn beginners sour & the grace of losing needs to be taught.)

But come on!
To deduct a STAR for that?
What other movie centrally portraying chess has zoomed to #1 watched on Netflix in day and sat there for so long?!?!


This movie was VERY RESPECTFUL of chess and the whole world of chess. And if you ever had your head out of the game... (which obviously as world champion he doesn't)... he'd have some thankful perspective!

The movie was very well balanced at many levels of story telling and did a superb job building an entertaining emotion grabbing arc from start to finish!

And FYI Rambus, when you're a "janitor"... then that will explain to you how a "janitor" could know Levenfish.
Tanishq Khodwe Tanishq Khodwe 11/23/2020 08:04
siddhantx siddhantx 11/23/2020 06:14
Rambus Rambus 11/23/2020 03:35
The janitor knowing the Sicilian Defence - ok I can accept. But the Levenfish variation?!
Minnesota Fats Minnesota Fats 11/22/2020 05:36
is the prize money in these online tournaments much highter than regular tournaments ? Quite amazed by the money to be gained.