I just finished the series The Queens Gambit on Netflix. It was captivating from start to finish. Then a friend sent me a story on Maria Teresa Mora, a young protégé Cuban girl who took the chess by storm in 1922. “To be a girl in a sea of men.” This set the stage of this story.
María Teresa Mora Iturralde (15 October 1902 – 3 October 1980) was a Cuban chess master. Born in Havana, she is the only person who received direct lessons from José Raúl Capablanca. Mora was the first woman to win the Cuban Chess Championship (in 1922).
Mora was awarded the Woman International Master (WIM) title in 1950.
In 1950, Maria Theresa was named the first Latin American woman to be given the Women’s International Master title. When Capablanca and Maria Theresa finally competed against each other, it was a three game series. She won twice and had a draw for the third game. Nobody could have imagined the pupil would beat the teacher.
There is no specific story of someone holding her down, but rather Maria Theresa is an emblem of a brilliant woman lost in the shuffle of a mans sport, lacking any career development, or international competitions that could have allowed her to reach her potential. To put it short, this is what people mean when they use the word “systemic” means of sexism. Perhaps, in a perfect world, Maria Theresa would have defeated Bobby Fischer AND the Russian champions of the world — had she been given the chance.
The Queen’s Gambit, Netflix hit the nail on the head with this one.
The Queen’s Gambit is a fictional story that follows the life of an orphan chess prodigy, Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), during her quest to become the world’s greatest chess player while struggling with emotional problems and drug and alcohol dependency. Named after a chess opening, the story begins in the mid-1950s and proceeds into the 1960s.
The series starts in a girls’ orphanage in Lexington, Kentucky, where a nine-year old Beth (Isla Johnston), having lost her mother in a car crash, meets Jolene (Moses Ingram), a vibrant and friendly girl a few years older than her, Helen Deardorff (Christiane Seidel), the woman running the orphanage, and Mr. Shaibel (Bill Camp), the custodian of the orphanage, who teaches Beth chess. As was common during the 1950s, the orphanage dispenses daily tranquilizer pills to the girls, which turns into an addiction for Beth. A few years later, Beth is adopted by Alma Wheatley (Marielle Heller) and her husband from Lexington. After being adopted and adjusting to her new home, Beth enrolls herself in chess tournaments even though she has no prior experience. She wins many games and finally gets noticed by others and develops friendships with several people, including former Kentucky state champion Harry Beltik (Harry Melling), chess savant Benny Watts (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), and Townes (Jacob Fortune-Lloyd). As Beth continues to win games and reaps the financial benefits of her success, she becomes more dependent on drugs and alcohol, and starts to lose control of her life.
Nevertheless, she finally defeats the Russian chess world champion in Moscow in a spectacular game in which the Queen’s Gambit opening is played.
It is in the story of redemption for one’s self and learning to feel worthy. This young girl, then young woman, learning to navigate a very confusing world by watching, paying attention, and experimenting inside her chess world head, was intriguing and kept the story moving.
The actress and supporting roles were all well suited, especially Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth. She was born to play this role and she did it with such style and grace. A newcomer no longer. A five star rating…..don’t miss it.