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What Exactly is a Queen’s Gambit?

When it comes to strategic board games, chess is at the pinnacle. It’s a game which utilizes a board containing 64 squares that act to create the playing field for 16 pieces grouped together on opposite sides. Each piece’s species determines their specific powers. The eight pawns move forward and can only attack diagonally, the two bishops move and attack diagonally, the two knights move and attack in L-shaped paths, the two rooks operates vertically and horizontally, the one queen combines the powers of the rooks and the bishops, and the one king can only move one square at a time.

Queen's Gambit
Image Courtesy of Netflix

Historical Interest in Chess

Since the 15th century, chess has had the reputation of being the sport of the mind. The many parameters which go into a game of chess is what creates its allure and sets it apart from other strategy games like Checkers and Go. Chess has been the center of many cultural events. The finals for the World Chess Championship in 1972 between Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer created global excitement and served as a metaphor for the Cold War. The beating of World Champion Garry Kasparov by a computer named Deep Blue signaled the strength of artificial intelligence compared to the human mind.

In 2020, there has been a dramatic upsurgence in the public’s interest in chess. The king of strategy games is making an impression on the esports community with high streaming numbers and a series of online tournaments. Famous chess personalities such as Hikaru Nakamura and Magnus Carlson are banking on this continuously expanding audience for chess, with the latter becoming the highest-earning pro gamer of 2020

Another major reason for the significant rise of interest in chess comes from the Netflix mini series The Queen’s Gambit, which achieved 62 million viewers in its first four weeks, becoming the most-viewed scripted miniseries of all time. Everybody already knows what chess is, and now The Queen’s Gambit is a household name. With more people getting into chess and learning different strategies, they might soon come across the reason the show got its name. 

What is the Queen’s Gambit?

Let’s break it down. A game of chess typically has a total of 30 moves with the number of  moves in chess amounting to around 10^123 possibilities. But before anything happens, the player going first must create the initial moves for the game. This is called an opening and there are dozens of possible openings to choose from. A category of chess openings involves some sort of gambit, which is an opening where the player sacrifices one of their pieces to achieve an advantageous position on the board.

The opponent has the option to either accept or decline the sacrificial offering. By attacking the sacrifice with one of their pieces, they would be accepting the gambit. If they leave the sacrifice alone and continue to develop positions with other pieces, they would be declining the gambit. After the gambit is declined your strategy would have to be adjusted.

This brings us to the Queen’s Gambit, an opening as old as chess itself. 

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Image Courtesy of

Chess players commonly communicate using the numbers and letters system of the board. To start the opening with the intention of creating a Queen’s Gambit, White must first move the queen’s pawn from d2 to d4. For there to be a Queen’s Gambit, Black must move their queen’s pawn from d7 to d5. White now has the ability to create the famous opening move by positioning the bishop’s pawn at c4 to act as the gambit.

With the gambit at c4, Black now has the option to use their d5 pawn to attack. If Black decides to make this move, however, they would not be able to retain the pawn given that pawns cannot move backwards. Black will now have to attack on the queenside while White has the advantage of more space on the board.

If the Queen’s Gambit is declined, the most advisable way to counter it would be to move the king’s pawn from e7 to e6. This makes sure that if the c4 pawn attacked the d5 pawn, the e6 pawn could then attack White’s pawn without being at a disadvantage.

You’re not always guaranteed the opening you initially wanted because the opposing player also has a role in setting it up. Depending on the reactionary moves of your opponent, you could be able to pull off the opening which inspired the name for the most talked-about show of recent memory. 

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