The Queen’s Gambit – the most talked about show on the internet for the past month. The show, adapted from the novel of the same name by Water Tevis in 1983, did not let the audience down. In fact, it is so good I’m sure everyone’s going to be into chess now. As I progress from one episode to the next, I find many quotes from The Queen’s Gambit that teach me about life and also reminded me of what I have learned from my past experiences.

All you need is just seven hours to finish this well-produced show with an excellent performance from the cast. If you don’t know what the storyline is, it’s about a child prodigy who discovered her talent in chess at a young age and rose amongst the male-dominated competition to be the best chess player while suffering from addiction. Check out the trailer!

If you’re wondering why the show or book is called The Queen’s Gambit, it is not because Beth is a queen – well, technically she is. The Queen’s Gambit is a chess opening with the objective of sacrificing a pawn in order to gain control of the board. It’s pretty much the most popular gambit for the player to have a better winning chance. 

real life lesson quotes from the queen's gambit
9 Real Life Lesson Quotes From The Queen’s Gambit

1. “Maybe is a loser’s word” – Benny Watts

Coming from someone who does say ‘maybe’ a lot, that didn’t hurt, Benny. Hate to agree with him but he’s right. It’s either yes, or no; do or don’t do. Being on the fence, being indecisive will reflect on your lack of confidence. This ambivalent word also shows that you cannot commit to something and have no intention of doing something.

I can relate this to my previous work experience. In the first few weeks of work, the owner of the company asked me something and even though I knew the answer, instead of giving it to him, I said ‘maybe’. That was because I lacked the confidence, I didn’t want to commit, and I didn’t want to show him my weakness. But that backfired because that was what it showed him! 

Thankfully, my manager reminded me that that’s exactly what happened. Since then, my answers were either ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘I’ll find out and let you know’.  

2. “Intuition can’t be found in books.” – Alma Wheatley

The definition of intuition: the power or faculty of attaining to direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference

Let’s just use simple English. Let me try again:

The definition of intuition: quick and ready insight

Whatever. Here is what I found on Google: the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.

Intuition is also referred to as ‘gut feeling’. Now, that’s simpler English.

No matter how hard you study, how many books you read, you can’t learn intuition. However, you can improve on it. 

Intuition is a thinking style and to a certain degree, it stems from experience. Hence, getting feedback from others and comparing the real-life outcomes of the decision made with intuition helps. 

‘Follow your gut’ isn’t always the right advice, sometimes you just need the experience and data to back up the decision you make. I’ve experienced both and sometimes it didn’t lead to the outcome I was hoping for, like what happened in my recent job interview. We can talk about that later 🙂

3. “Stop thinking about what might have happened in the past.” – Alma Wheatley

I’m sure you’ve come across a situation when things didn’t go your way and you spend time thinking about it, thinking about ‘what if I did this’ or ‘what if this didn’t happen’, allowing yourself to be stuck in the past when clearly, what’s happened has happened and the present can’t be changed. Sound familiar? Yea, it’s from my book review of Before the coffee gets cold. You should read it – both my review and the book, I highly recommend it!

It’s common for us to reminisce about the past, after all, they are memories we hold on to for life, whether good or bad. Or maybe it’s not and it’s just me who treasures these memories. But it’s like a trap, and once you get yourself stuck in it, it’s hard, or maybe even impossible to get out of it. So don’t torture yourself by thinking about the past and what might have happened, you just cannot change the present. That is a fact. 

This is one of my favorite quotes from The Queen’s Gambit, another reminder to just let go of the past.

4. “You’ve been the best at what you do for so long, you don’t even know what it’s like for the rest of us.” – Jolene

Unlike Beth who found her talent in chess playing at the age of 9, I am still scrambling to discover my talent. Jolene, you and I are totally on the same page.

I’ve learned to dance and played the piano when I was younger but I was no child prodigy. Naturally, I moved on and focused on my education (like most Asian kids). Even when I had to choose my university major, I had limited choices and settled with Economics, which I do not hate. After graduating, my mom, like other Asian parents, thinks it’s glamorous for her child to work for one of the Big 4 companies. I settled for KPMG but did not enjoy doing my Tax job – my coworkers were the best though, they’re such nice people. Then, I moved to an E-commerce company, enjoyed the work but was overworking myself. 

Instead of looking for ways to expand the creative side of me., I just took the weekends off to have brunch and catch up with my friends. At a younger age, I didn’t realize there were so many more choices out there – i) I wasn’t exposed to it and ii) I never thought about it (I didn’t have a laptop or computer when I was doing my A-Levels). 

Even after moving to NYC, I just wanted to find a stable job to watch Broadway shows and buy tickets to pop-up stores. I’m thankful to myself that I followed my gut and quit my job to try and find myself, what I may be talented at, flex that creative muscle. The pandemic happened and my plan to travel around obviously failed – I was counting on it to expose myself to a different culture, new experiences.

Pop up stores I visited:

So talent, come to me quick!

5. “Someday, you’re gonna be all alone. So you need to figure out how to take care of yourself.” – Alice Harmon

Right now, you have a group of friends that you know you can fall back on if you need support. That’s what you think. Try moving to a different country with a time difference of 12 hours (or 13 hours when daylight savings ends). What do they call it… Oh yes, out of sight, out of mind. I know this sounds pessimistic. If you want to be more optimistic, you can think of it as absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Reality is harsh. At the end of the day, you’ll be on your own. You’ll have to figure out how to take care of yourself. Either find a way to make new friends or choose to be a hermit. You will have to be strong for yourself and not fall into a depression. And like what Alma Wheatley said, “stop thinking about what might have happened in the past.” 

Put yourself first. Take care of yourself. Love yourself.

6. “It’s not a rule, it’s sportsmanship.” – William Shaibel

Sure, sportsmanship is used in the context of sports. However, I read the meaning of sportsmanship a little deeper – treat each other with respect. And Mr. Shaibel is right, you don’t need a rule for that.

Sometimes, when I play games, knowing that I’m going to lose, my heart races really quick and I just want to walk away from it. However, I always remind myself that even if I really do lose the game, I need to lose it as gracefully as I can. Accept it with a smile instead of losing my temper. Shake hands, congratulate the other player, whatever it is, just don’t throw a tantrum. 

I definitely give it to Mr. Shaibel for teaching Beth about sportsmanship, although we do see her just leaving the table all angry and heated up when she loses. In fact, her opponents who lose to her demonstrated good sportsmanship when she wins the game and shakes her hand. 

But again, Beth is all about winning. 

7. “The One Thing We Know About Elizabeth Harmon Is That She Loves To Win.” – Commentator

Oh winning. Don’t you love the feeling of winning? Being able to prove that you’re the best, you’ll have more confidence in yourself, you’ll also work harder to keep being the best at what you do because your pride and ego will not let you be second best. Beth has always been set on winning chess games since she was young. Being second best was not enough. 

Beth totally worked her ass off to reach her goal of winning every game. She analyzes her games, studies her moves, reads countless books. She puts in a lot of effort. Plus, it was the 1950s-1960s, they don’t have social media and countless Netflix shows or movies to distract her. I don’t have to set ‘winning’ as my goal but I got to make sure I work hard to achieve my goal, just like Beth did. Minus the ‘vitamin’ and alcohol addiction. 

When it comes to games, I love winning too. My situation is a little different from Beth’s though, I don’t go around different cities competing with other players, I only play Sudoku on my phone, with… a robot. However, I must admit I love the feeling of winning the game. So Beth, I totally get you. 

8. “The strongest person is the person who isn’t scared to be alone” – Alice Harmon

Alice just gives the best advice. I wish we got to know her more and better. I also believe that towards the end of the show, getting glimpses of Alice giving young Beth advice made her stronger and able to get over her addiction to “vitamins” and accept herself.

We shouldn’t confuse ourselves with ‘being alone’ and ‘loneliness’. Physical aloneness is the objective is the physical separation from others, it is the objective form of being alone. A great example is living alone. I lived alone for several months and I enjoyed it, though physical aloneness can be a risk factor of feeling loneliness which may lead to depression.

Living alone has taught me to be a grown-up, it gave me all the me-time I’ve always wanted, I am in control of everything in my apartment. Funny story here, one time, I left a bag of food on the floor of my living room and I think a mouse crawled into it. I didn’t get to see Jerry in the bag but it was 12 am and I couldn’t scream or my neighbors would throw tomatoes at my door and my unit would be shunned for life. Completely exaggerating here, just in case you didn’t get my poor humor.

Moving on…

I was living alone at that time and couldn’t be afraid to get rid of the bag, I didn’t want to wake up to Jerry sleeping next to me or going around my apartment so I took the bag out of my apartment and got rid of it. One lesson here, guys, do not leave food on the floor. I definitely forgot about that bag of food when I got it and just left it at a corner.

Do not judge me. I am the strongest person, according to Alice Harmon.

The last of the many quotes from The Queen’s Gambit is a beautiful one:

9. “Chess isn’t always competitive. Chess can also be… beautiful. It was the board I noticed first. It’s an entire world of just 64 squares. I feel safe in it. I can control it. I can dominate it. And it’s predictable, so if I get hurt, I only have myself to blame.” – Elizabeth Harmon

So I love this because I got to see the real Elizabeth Harmon and why she loves chess. I definitely can’t relate… much… because I don’t love chess as much as she does. I don’t even remember the last time I played chess, probably when I was 11 or 12.

I absolutely love the show not because its storyline was good (the book author did a fantastic job) but the performances of the cast were amazing. Every look,  gaze, and detail was articulated well. They were taught to play like professionals, the outfits are amazing. I’m totally in the 1950s, 1960s fashion, totally fangirling here. It deserves to be talked about and it certainly deserves positive reviews.

However, I do feel that Beth’s transition was a little rushed, it all happened in the last episode. After pushing away all her friends, they decided to come together to help her with her last game. Jolen suddenly turns up because of Mr. Shaibel’s funeral. I have not read the book but it seems like Beth took the initiative to mend her broken relationships in the book and that sounds more realistic. Or maybe people do just turn up in your life, always wanting to help. Maybe that’s what true friendship is, I don’t know. What do you think?

Do share quotes from The Queen’s Gambit that you like! And If you like the show, together with Mr. Ganz,

quotes from the queen's gambit

“Say queen!”

Tags: ,