The Queen’s Gambit in Berlin

by André Schulz
11/21/2020 – Netflix’s ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ has been praised by viewers and critics as the best chess movie in history. The series is set in an orphanage in the United States and in tournament halls in Paris and Moscow. But where was the film shot? To a large extent, in Berlin! | Photo: Netflix

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Attentive readers of the ChessBase news site may remember how last summer a production company for a series to be broadcast by Netflix was looking for extras in Berlin, preferably chess players, preferably with an “Eastern European appearance”. No fewer than 500 extras were sought after. Obviously, numerous film and chess friends contacted us.

Now we know that the request was for the hit series ‘The Queen’s Gambit’. And they did not publish the request in Berlin for the extras to make a trip to the United States, Paris or Moscow. In fact, many of the shots, especially those of tournaments, were shot in Germany, in Berlin. Tip magazine and Atlas of Wonders, a website dedicated to present shooting location guides of the latest movies and TV shows, have tracked down the locations of the series.

The orphanage where Beth Harmon grew up after the death of her mother is in fact the Schloss Schulzendorf, built in 1889. It stands on the outskirts of Berlin, in the district of Dahme-Spreewald.

Photo: Pixabay

Ben Snyder’s shop, where Beth is newly clothed by her adoptive mother in episode two, is actually the second-hand department stores Humana at Frankfurter Tor in Berlin.

The shop in the film | Photo: Netflix

And the original | Photo: Humana

The chess tournament at the Henry Clay High School in Lexington, Kentucky, was filmed in the gym of the Max Taut School in Berlin-Rummelsburg.

Tournament hall | Photo: Netflix

Later, Beth Harmon goes with her mother to Cincinnati to play in a chess open. The shoots for this tournament — in the series it took place in a hotel — were made at the Rathaus Spandau and at the Meistersaal, an old music hall on Köthener Straße in Kreuzberg. Later, the music hall was used as a recording studio by the Meisel Group of Companies. David Bowie, Depeche Mode, Iggy Pop and many other well-known artists recorded at the very same studio.  

The Open in Las Vegas was held in the stylish “Hotel Mariposa”. But in reality it is the Palais am Berliner Funkturm, which houses a huge ballroom and this wonderful staircase from the 1960s.

Photo: Atlas of Wonders / Netflix

In episode four, Beth Harman plays an international tournament at “Aztech Palace” in Mexico City. The recordings for this were shot in the foyer of the Friedrichstadt Palace in Berlin.

In the next episode, Beth Harman participated in the U.S. Championships, Ohio 1967. The scenes for this tournament were shot at the Evangelische Hochschule Berlin in Zehlendorf.

Ohio or Zehlendorf? | Photo: Netflix

Then Beth Harman flies to Paris for an international tournament in episode six. The recording of the Parisian café took place in Berlin’s Bode-Museum. The tournament footage was shot in Haus Cumberland, a grand hotel on Kürfürstendamm.

Haus Cumberland | Photo: Netflix

Finally, the big tournament in Moscow, where Beth Harmon competes against the Soviet elite and world champion Borgov was shot in the Bärensaal of Berlin’s Old City Hall.

The Bärensaal | Photo: Netflix

The facades of the houses on Berlin’s Karl Marx Allee served as the facade of the hotel in Moscow. This is also where the final scene takes place. Karl-Marx-Allee is also home to the legendary Kulturcafé Sybille, where the Emanuel Lasker Society has held numerous chess events with illustrious chess guests in the past.

The Panorama Bar of the Kino International film theatre on Karl-Marx-Allee served as the backdrop for the hotel’s restaurant. The opening ceremony of the 2015 Rapid and Blitz World Championship took place at the same theatre. Top chess stars, including plenty of world chess champions such as Boris Spassky, Vladimir Kramnik, Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen, were in the venue.

Henrik Carlsen and Helmut Pfleger | Photo: André Schulz

Anand and Carlsen | Photo: André Schulz

Beth Harmon in the Panorama Bar, 5 years later — or 48 years before | Photo: Netflix

In the final scene, Beth Harmon is celebrated by the chess-loving “Muscovite” fans. This scene was shot in the Rose Garden on Karl-Marx-Allee.

Beth Harmon in Berlin | Photo: Netflix

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André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.

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