Despite efforts to make the chess scenes believable, there are still areas in which the series abbreviates. Most obvious is how quickly players move through the tournaments. As one tournament director told Beth before the competition in Cincinnati, each player had two hours to do 40 moves, which was and remains a standard time control for games like this. But in every match, Beth and her opponents make all of their moves after only taking a few seconds to think about them. At such a pace, they would finish their games in minutes, not hours. The speed is understandable for filmmaking because watching players sit at a board for hours, barely moving, is nothing short of remarkable. But it is also not accurate.
Competitors do not speak during some matches. Unlike a tie show – essentially agreeing to end a match in a draw – players don’t talk to each other during matches. Not only is she considered bad sportsmanship, she is also against the rules. But many times, as in Beth’s match against Harry in Episode 2, in which she rejoices near the end, and in her game against a young Russian prodigy in Mexico City in Episode 4, Beth and her opponents engage in a verbal exchange. Dialogue makes games more understandable and brings drama to life, but again, it’s just not true in life.
Although “The Queen’s Maneuver” is a fictional work and the characters that appear in it have never been there, there are passing references to the players who did so, among them world champions Jose Raul Capablanka, Alexander Alken, Mikhail Botvinnik and Boris Spassky.
There is also a strange moment when Harry Beth is compared to Paul Murphy, the American, who played that famous game at the 1858 Paris Opera and who is widely regarded as the greatest player of the nineteenth century. The comparison seems to be the wrong direction. Despite her self-destructive tendencies, she doesn’t look like Beth Murphy. It is more akin to the female version of another hero: Bobby Fisher.
This may not be accidental. Walter Teves, who wrote Novel 1983 On which the series is based, he was a passionate and knowledgeable amateur player. In making the protagonist a woman play a game long dominated by men – which still remains today, although no reason is known – Teves may have been hoping that someday there might be more real gender equality than commission.