How Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit Ceiling Chess Games Are A Lot More Complex Than You Might Think
The Queen’s Gambit is one of the best gifts of 2020. Like the intense chess tournaments showcased within, the drama continued to engross its viewers until we found ourselves sitting across from the final checkmate seven episodes later. For almost a month now, the Netflix show has continued to dominate conversations and has even recently sparked a surge in chess set sales, which not ever streaming series can boast about. One of the most lasting and iconic images from the season is the chess board on the ceiling that Anya Taylor-Joy’s Beth Harmon references throughout The Queen’s Gambit.
CinemaBlend spoke to The Queen’s Gambit’s VFX Producer and Head Production at Chicken Bone FX Arissa Blasingame, who discussed the process behind adding the ceiling chessboard elements to the hit series. As she explained:
The Queen’s Gambit is not what one might imagine would be your typical visual effects-heavy project, since that's a distinction usually set aside for action and sci-fi projects. But as you can see above in Chicken Bone FX’s visual effects reel for The Queen’s Gambit (opens in new tab), a whole lot of work went into bringing the ‘60s-set show to life. In terms of the ceiling chess games that Beth imagines, each time they come up, that means the VFX team had to recreate actual chess games using both the footage of Beth playing with other chess champs, as well as looking back to real grand masters to plan out winning moves. Arissa Blasingame continued, telling me:
It’s quite amazing when you think about it. Not only is The Queen’s Gambit a show about chess, the filmmakers really had to walk the walk and create multiple scenarios of how a genius chess player might think when trying to orchestrate moves before a tournament. After having this interview, I definitely want to go back for a rewatch of the series now specifically so I can track the game she’s playing with the VFX sequences.
Along with the ceiling chess games being an integral part of Beth’s strategy, Arissa Blasingame also told me how the design of the pieces itself ties into the character.
A ton of thought went into the VFX chess pieces in The Queen’s Gambit, which Arissa Blasingame explained as “otherworldly,” while still keeping everything grounded in coming out of the shadows of the orphanage room in the first episode of the series. The series adaptation, based on a book of the same name by Walter Tevis, has long been in the works, previously as a movie that might have starred Ellen Page and been directed by Heath Ledger but The Dark Knight actor tragically passed before that could happen.
Check out CinemaBlend’s explanation of the ending of The Queen’s Gambit and what Anya Taylor-Joy’s thoughts are on Season 2 possibly happening. In the meantime, head to our Fall TV 2020 premiere schedule to see what new and returning shows are on the way.
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