After watching the critically acclaimed television show “The Queen’s Gambit”, Lexington High School senior Patzy Woodpusher has mastered the art of chess and is on her way to becoming the best high school chess player in the world.
The series she was influenced by, “The Queen’s Gambit,” follows the chess prodigy Elizabeth “Beth” Harmon, who struggles with drug abuse, alcohol addiction, and the trauma of a troubled childhood. She quickly rises to the top of the chess world and astonishes worldwide audiences with her chess mastery.
Her influence has not gone unnoticed. Following the release of “The Queen’s Gambit,” interest in chess has increased by 50 percent in high schools worldwide—many schools have even mandated students to participate in their schools’ chess clubs.
As a game of wits and intelligence, chess calls for players to strategize on the board and develop their critical thinking skills to win. Often, players must spend hours rehearsing different openings and preparing against the playstyles of their specific opponents.
“School principals have been moved by the intellectual skill involved in chess. They’re hoping that by learning to play chess like Harmon, students will improve their academic abilities,” Bobby Fisherman, the LHS principal, said.
It is not surprising that the influence of Beth Harmon has reached LHS. Woodpusher has been particularly astounded with Harmon’s feats.
“Beth Harmon’s story is one that every chess player should hear about. I’ve been trying to ask her for advice myself,” Woodpusher said.
Woodpusher is convinced that Harmon is real and has spent most of her chess tournament prize money trying to locate Harmon.
“To find Beth Harmon, I’ve got to think like Beth Harmon. Currently, I’ve been making my way downtown through Winchester, Kentucky [Harmon’s birthplace]. Everywhere I go, I hold up a chess piece and wave it around, just to see if she will notice,” Woodpusher said.
Woodpusher also employs Harmon’s tactics in her chess games. She cites them as a crucial component to her success.
“In the show, Beth projects a chessboard onto the ceiling and plays out the whole game in her head. I just had to use that technique in my games as well. So before each game, I go to the venue an hour before a round starts to paint a chessboard on the ceiling,” Woodpusher said.
So far, Woodpusher has only been disqualified, arrested, and tried twice for cosmetic vandalism.
Woodpusher’s big breakthrough came when she won against Anatoly Kasparovski , a senior at LHS and president of the chess club. Kasparovski, who had yet to record a loss in any chess tournament, was devastated following his match with Woodpusher.
“My parents named me after former world champions Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov, so I knew it was my destiny to be the greatest player in the world. Hopeless after my defeat, I sought advice from the person who caused my misery: Patzy Woodpusher herself,” Kasparovski said.
“Harmon is my mentor, not his. I was able to teach him some important details, but because he didn’t understand Harmon, he couldn’t fully understand the sophistication of my abilities and teaching methods,” Woodpusher said when asked about Kasparovski ’s request.
Nonetheless, Kasparovski thanks Woodpusher for her generous guidance.
“She gave me her Netflix account for a week so I could binge ‘The Queen’s Gambit’. The experience was exhilarating—it opened my eyes to a whole new world of chess. I cannot thank Patzy enough for her guidance,” Kasparovski said.
Kasparovski has established a plan of action for improving his and the chess club’s skills. The chess club will be hosting weekly screenings of “The Queen’s Gambit.” They will also be wearing Beth Harmon’s “victory dress,” which she wore in her final game, to their next tournament.
“I think it’s very chic, but we have changed the color of the dress. Gray doesn’t really match my skin tone,” Kasparovski said.
Since defeating Kasparovski, Woodpusher showed her abilities by winning the National High School Championship and the United States Junior Open Championship, two of America’s most prestigious chess tournaments. Many have been curious about Woodpusher’s goals and next steps.
“I have watched all seven episodes about a few hundred times over. To be honest with you, I don’t think there is any more to learn. All I want is to become the World Chess Champion, and honor Harmon’s name,” Woodpusher said.
This show has definitely equipped Patzy Woodpusher with the prowess to face any opponent, however experienced. She will soon be coming after Magnus Carlsen, the current World Chess Champion.
“I don’t have to worry about defeating him, since I don’t think he’s watched the show yet. Beth Harmon though — she’s a challenge I may never be ready for,” Woodpusher said.