Channel Your Inner Beth Harmon With These Gorgeous Chess Sets

Hadley Keller
·3-min read
Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

From House Beautiful

Although for the past few years the most popular Queen on Netflix was undoubtedly Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, as portrayed by Claire Foy and Olivia Colman in The Crown, this fall another type of queen made her mark: Beth Harmon, the captivating protagonist of The Queen's Gambit, a Netflix original that became on overnight sensation, leading fans to laud Anya Taylor-Joy's portrayal of a troubled chess prodigy. The show has also, apparently, inspired a slew of discerning viewers to pick up chess.

Call it the Queen's Gambit effect: Chessboards are flying off the (literal and virtual) shelves in the wake of the show's hit season. Just ask Anthony Barzilay Freund, editorial director and director of fine art at vintage site 1stDibs: "The Queen's Gambit is driving an interest in the game of chess among new audiences and demographics," Freund confirms to House Beautiful. "At 1stDibs, in just the month following the show's release, we've seen a 100% increase in sales of chessboards, pieces, and tables as compared to this time period last year."

Photo credit: Jane Beiles
Photo credit: Jane Beiles

Of course, it shouldn't come as a surprise that fans of the show are flocking to sites like 1stDibs, where buyers can score such luxury takes on the game as a $35,000 set in cast marble, sterling silver, and lapis lazuli—or a black and pink marble board for a more modest $420. The Italian design site Artemest, meanwhile, offers up a twist on the traditional black-and-white set in gilded and silver brass for $910. While these may be a far cry from the humble set a young Beth learned the game on in the basement of an orphanage, they're not necessarily out of line with the aesthetic of the show. After all, The Queen's Gambit displayed quite an appreciation for design, with fans aflutter over the delightfully 1960s interiors of Beth Harmon's home as well as her increasingly daring—and ever stylish—fashion choices throughout the series.

Of course, while it might be enjoying a renewed popularity at the moment—fueled, perhaps, by increased idle time at home—the game of chess dates back centuries and has long captivated players all over the world. It's believed to have derived from a 7th-century Indian game, then evolved as it spread across Asia and Europe in the following centuries. As a result, says Freund, "you can find a variety of vintage and contemporary chess paraphernalia from dealers all over the world."

And those dealers are seeing the effects of the show: Margaret Schwartz, the antique dealer behind Modern Antiquarian, confirms: "We sold an antique alabaster set because of this show!"

Photo credit: Jane Beiles
Photo credit: Jane Beiles

The trend is forward-facing, too: Valentin Goux, president of the French luxury furniture maker Rinck, reveals that he added a chess table to the brand's 2021 line after being inspired by the show.

As the weather turns colder and most Americans prepare for additional lockdowns and quarantines, it would seem there's never been a more perfect time to pick up an intellectually-invigorating game—and especially one that looks so good in your home. Those who don't necessarily have the budget for pawns of precious stone have a myriad of options on the market at all price ranges, from Jonathan Adler's neon acrylic set, to a playful combination game from the MoMA Design Store to a colorful version from Anthropologie (the go-to set for design duo Tilton Fenwick) and, of course, your classic wooden sets.

So light a fire, make a drink, and set up the chessboard—Beth Harmon would be proud.

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