The Queen’s Gambit – S01E01 – Openings – Transcript

Sent to an orphanage at age 9, Beth develops an uncanny knack for chess and a growing dependence on the green tranquilizers given to the children.

Air date: October 23, 2020

Elizabeth “Beth” Harmon is orphaned when her mother dies in a car crash on New Circle Road. In a later flashback, it is revealed that her mother deliberately ran head on into a truck. She is taken to an orphanage, where the children are given tranquilizing pills to make them compliant. While cleaning erasers in the basement, Beth discovers the custodian, Mr. Shaibel, studying chess on his own. After repeated requests he reluctantly agrees to teach her the game; she has already worked out how the pieces move by observing him. She becomes obsessed and improves quickly, thanks to her spatial intelligence and abuse of mind-altering tranquilizers that allow her to focus and visualize chess games on the ceiling above her bed. When she is able to beat him regularly, Shaibel introduces her to the local high school chess club teacher, Mr. Ganz, whom she also beats. Ganz invites her to play a simultaneous exhibition against his entire club. She beats all of them easily, later commenting to Shaibel on their poor chess skills and how invigorating it is to win. After the state passes a law outlawing the use of tranquilizers on children, Beth begins to suffer from withdrawal. She is caught stealing a jar of the medication and passes out after overdosing by swallowing several mouthfuls of pills.



[knocking on door]

[man] Mademoiselle?

Mademoiselle Harmon, vous êtes là?

[knocking continues]


[water splashing]


-Mademoiselle? -[knocking]

I’m coming.


-[objects clattering] -[cries out] Shit!

[rapid knocking]


Je descends, tout de suite.


[door slams]

[footsteps running]

-[light switch clicks] -[panting]



[bell tolling in distance]

[distant traffic sounds]

[soft moan]

[sighs softly]



Je vous en prie.

[doors slide shut]

[coughs, sniffs]

[whispering] Ne regarde pas.

[elevator bell dings]

Thank you.

-[indistinct conversations] -[dishes clattering]



-[reporters clamoring in French] -[cameras flashing]

I’m sorry.

[clock ticking]


[gentle piano music playing]

[man 1] What are we supposed to do with her?

[man 2] They’re sending someone.

[man 1] There’s hardly a scratch on her.

It’s a goddamn miracle.

I doubt she’ll see it that way.

[somber music playing]

[matron] You understand, dear, your mother’s passed on?

You know what that means, don’t you?

“Passed on”?


I’m sure she’s gone on to a better place,

and, someday, you’ll get to see her again.

[woman] “Orphaned by yesterday’s collision on New Circle Road,

Elizabeth Harmon surveys a troubled future.”

“Elizabeth, nine years old, was left without family by the crash.”

“Her mother, Alice Harmon, was pronounced dead at the scene.”

[man] And the father?

Doesn’t say.

I would guess that, like most men who live around there,

he was yet another victim of a carefree life.

[sighs] Poor dear.

[car horn honks]

Let’s welcome her, shall we?

[woman] Welcome, Elizabeth.

Good luck to you, dear.

Here we are.

[indistinct conversations]

This is our chapel, the domain of Miss Lonsdale.

How do you do, Elizabeth?

I also teach etiquette to the young ladies.

Mr. Fergussen, this is Elizabeth Harmon.

[young woman, shouting] You’re all a bunch of fucking cocksuckers!


I got it.

Jolene, that mouth will be the death of you!

-[Jolene] Oh, fuck you, you cocksucker. -[Fergussen] You can’t yell like that.

In there is our classroom. You’ll meet your teachers on Monday.

[teacher] Two times six.

And this is our day room, where you will have all your meals,

and enjoy daily socialization.

[both, in unison] Good morning, Mrs. Deardorff.

Good morning, girls.

Home sweet home.

Come on, let’s get you settled.

We have 21 girls here, and they are all just as sweet as you.

And here is your special place.

[toilet flushes]

-Shoo! Go, go, go. -[girl] Okay.

You can put your clothes down here.

And your toothbrush can go right here.

And any other personal items, there.


Show her to me.

Come on, sit.

I know that, at this moment, all you’re feeling is loss.

But after grief brings you low, prayer and faith will lift you high.

High enough for you to see a new path for yourself.

I think, Elizabeth,

you’re going to find a much different life here.

A better one than you might have had.

And I’m sure that you and I are going to be good friends.

[gentle piano music playing]

[scissors snipping]

[Deardorff] Hmm.

That should do nicely.


I think we’ll burn this one.

Get dressed.

We have one more stop.

Mr. Fergussen will take good care of you. I’ll see you at dinner.

The green ones are the best.

What are they?


-Magic vitamins. -[laughs]

I were you, I’d save the green ones up for the night time.

Otherwise, they turn off right when you need them to turn on.

If you know what I mean. [chuckles]

Hey, what’s your name, girl?

-Beth. -Jolene.

Your mama and daddy dead?

What’s the last thing they said to you before they died?

I ask everybody that. We get some really fun answers.

Close your eyes.

I don’t remember.

Someday, you might. If you do, you let me know.

[cup clatters]

[Fergussen] Green’s to even your disposition.

Orange and brown is for building a strong body. Take ’em both.

[pills clatter]


-[air whooshes] -[footsteps stumble]

[distant footsteps echoing]

[eerie echoing]

[keys jangling]

[indistinct chattering]

[Jolene snickers]

I thought I told you to wait and take those vitamins at bedtime.

What is this?


[Jolene] Far as we know.

We eat it every Friday.

You gotta eat every bite,

or they’ll tell Mrs. Deardorff about you, and you won’t get adopted.

[wind whistling]

[distant knocking on door]

[man] Alice, come on, open the door.

-It’s taken me a whole month to find you. -[Alice] Good reason.

Whatever this is, whatever you’re doing,

it’s nuts, even for you.

-I don’t expect you to understand– -What I understand

is you’re not taking care of yourself.

[Alice] So, we’ll take…

-[fire crackling] -[nocturnal chirping]

[loud clatter]

Isn’t it beautiful?

[wind whistling]

[man] Let me come in and talk to Lizzie. Make sure she’s okay.

[Alice] Oh, you think I’d hurt her?

She’s happy here. This is where she belongs.

You honestly believe our daughter belongs in a trailer

in the middle of nowhere?

Who says she’s ours?

-Don’t do that, Alice. -And she doesn’t like being called Lizzie.

[door slams]

[fire crackling]

[objects clattering]

[man] All right, Alice, you win.

I can’t fight with you anymore.

And I can’t keep chasing you around everywhere,

if all you do is run away again.

[Alice] I’m sorry, Paul.

[Paul] Once I drive away, I’m not coming back.

[somber music playing]

[car door opens]

-[car door slams shut] -[engine turns over]

[teacher clears throat]

Miss Harmon, finished already?

Why don’t you take the erasers down to the basement and clean them?

[Jolene] You’re all fucking cocksuckers, and you’re the biggest one of them all.

Never met anyone who liked the taste of soap as much as you do.

Where you going, Harmon?

[erasers banging]

[banging continues]

[gentle piano music playing]

[Deardorff] Good morning, girls.

[girls] Good morning, Mrs. Deardorff.

[Deardorff] Mary-Sue, aren’t you a lucky girl?

You really impressed the Spellmans.

[girl] I heard their house is so big.

Let’s get your suitcase and pack up. Nicely, like I taught you.

Yeah, the socks first, remember.

[Jolene] Hmm.

That is not fair. She got here after you.

Most of us are lifers.

-Been here a long time. -[Deardorff] Don’t forget your headband.

[Jolene] Nobody’s gonna come for us now. We’re too old.

[Deardorff] And don’t dawdle.

-[girl] I wish it was me. -Or too Black.

-[girl] Maybe someone will come through. -[Deardorff] Someday.

[piano playing hymn music]

♪ Bringing in the sheaves ♪

♪ Bringing in the sheaves ♪

♪ We shall come rejoicing Bringing in the sheaves ♪

♪ Bringing in the sheaves ♪

♪ Bringing in the sheaves ♪

[singing continues distantly]

What do you want, child? You should be in chapel.

What’s that game called?

You should be upstairs with the others.

I don’t wanna be with the others.

I wanna know what that is you’re playing.

It’s called chess.

Will you teach me?

I don’t play strangers.

-Sweet dreams, ladies. -[girl] Good night, Fergussen.

“Good night, good night!”

“Parting is such sweet sorrow,

so I shall say good night till it be morrow.”

[door shuts]

[pensive music playing]

[birds chirping]

You were right.

The vitamins work better at night.

How many you take?

I don’t know.

Sometimes I skip a day, or a bunch of days,

then take two or three.

I like the way it feels.

I bet you do.

You just be careful you don’t get too used to that feeling.

[erasers banging]

I’m not a stranger.

I live here.

I already know some of it…

from watching.

Girls do not play chess.

That one moves up and down, or back and forth,

all the way, if there’s space to move in.

But that one can only go up.

That tall one can go any way it wants.

And this one?

On the diagonals.

One square diagonal, plus one square straight.

Let’s play a game.

I play White.

Now or never.

That’s called the Scholar’s Mate.

-How do you do it? -Not today.

-Show me. -Not today.

[chess pieces clatter softly]

[custodian] That’s called the Scholar’s Mate.

[Beth] How do you do it?

[pensive music playing]


[music intensifies]

[custodian] That’s called the Scholar’s Mate.

[girls] ♪ Nearer, my God, to thee ♪

♪ Nearer to thee ♪

♪ Nearer… ♪

You resign now.


That’s right, child. When you lose the queen that way…

you resign.

-No. -Yes, you have resigned the game.

-You didn’t tell me that in the rules. -It’s not a rule, it’s sportsmanship.

-I wanna finish. -No.

-You’ve got to finish. -No.

You lost.

-Please! -The game is over.

You cocksucker.

Get out.

[pensive music playing]

[door knob rattles]

[Beth] Check.



[hands bang on door]

[erasers banging]

[indistinct conversations]

[thunder rumbles]

[water streaming]

Morning, cracker.


What do you want?

I want to know what a cocksucker is.

Shit! [chuckles]

Okay. Um…

Do you know what a cock is?

I don’t think so.

It’s what boys have.

The picture in the back of the health book, it’s like a thumb.

Well, honey,

girls like to suck on that thumb.

Do you?

Haven’t tried one yet.

Isn’t that where they pee?

I expect it wipes clean.

[man] You should have green, leafy vegetables at least once a day,

legumes a few times a week,

and stay away from tobacco and any and all forms of alcohol.

I also like to inspect my stool at least, uh, three times a week.

It should appear firm but not hard, a clear sign of dehydration.

Now, which is why we should be drinking several glasses of water a day,

nature’s wonderful lubricant.

[girls reciting prayer in distance]

[door creaks open]

[door closes]

[erasers banging]

[pensive music playing]

You’re gloating.

I’m not.

-It was close. -I still beat you.

Could have beat me sooner.

-You should learn the Sicilian Defense. -What’s that?

When White moves to king four, Black does this.

-Then what? -Knight to KB3.

What’s KB3?

King’s bishop three, where I just put the knight.

The squares have names?

If you play well, they have names.

-Show me. -Not now. Let’s play again.

You’re mad.

I am not mad.

Just play.

[gentle piano music playing]

[custodian] There are other strategies you’ll need to learn, down the road.

-[pills clatter] -[custodian] The Levenfish Variation.

The Najdorf Variation.

[pills clatter]

[custodian] Show me.

[Beth] Levenfish.

[indistinct conversations]

[Beth] Najdorf.

Let’s play again.

[exasperated sigh] Elizabeth!

I’m sorry, Mrs. Deardorff.

-[girl in film] Mom, guess what? -[mom in film] I don’t know. What?

-Mom, I’ve started my first period. – Well, what do you know?

-That isn’t one you taught me. -So?

But is that one of those things,

like the Sicilian Defense?

[girl laughing] Stop!

Those things are called openings.

Is that one of them?


The Queen’s Gambit.

[pills clatter]

[thunder rumbling]

[indistinct chattering]

I’m playing White?

From now on, we take turns. It’s the way the game should be played.

Then, how come I couldn’t go first before?


[Beth] Check.


Is that whiskey?



And don’t tell.

I won’t.

Modern Chess Openings.

It’s the best book for you.

It will tell you all you wanna know.

You’ll need to learn chess notation before you can read it.

The names of the squares.

I’ll teach you now.

Am I good enough now?

How old are you?


Nine years old.

I’ll be ten in November.

To tell you the truth of it, child…

you’re astounding.

[warm orchestral music playing]

[man] “Nobody heard him,

the dead man,

but still he lay moaning.”

“I was much further out than you thought,

and not waving but drowning.”

“Poor chap,

he always loved larking, and now…

he’s dead.”

“It must have been too cold for him. His heart gave way, they said.”

“Oh, no, no, no,

it was too cold always.”

“Still, the dead one lay moaning.”

“I was much too far out all my life,

and not waving, but drowning.”

This is Mr. Ganz from the chess club.

-Chess club? -[custodian] We play at a club.

[Mr. Ganz] I’m also coach of the high school team.

Duncan High?

Would you like to play me a game?

[chess pieces clatter softly]

You play the color you choose.

This one.

Ah, the Réti Opening.

[chess pieces clattering softly]

That’s mate in three.

[Mr. Ganz] Well, you certainly know the game, young lady.

Do you have a team here?

The other girls, do they have a chess club?

So, where do you play?

Down here.

Mr. Shaibel said you play a few games every Sunday.

What do you do in between?

I play in my head.

In your head?

On the ceiling.

[Mr. Ganz] Oh…

before I forget…

I brought you…

a present.

Go ahead, open it.

[paper crinkles]

[Mr. Ganz chuckles]


Thank you very much.

Do you want another game?

[pensive music playing]

[Beth] Check.

[Beth sighs]



I’ve moved my queen to rook four.


The bishop blocks.

Queen takes king’s pawn.


Knight takes knight.

Mate in three.

First check is with the queen.

The king must take.

Then, the bishop checks on knight five…

and it’s mate next.

Sweet Jesus.

I have to go now.

Would you mind, Beth…

if I took your picture?

I’d love to tell the kids in chess club about you.

How about you stand next to Mr. Shaibel?


[film loading]

[Mr. Ganz] That’s it.

Say queen!


[teacher] Nine times four is?

-[doll thuds] -[lid crashes shut]

[film reeling]

[cheerful music plays on film]

[man on film] Hiya, Marge.

[Marge] Hi, I’m sorry I’m late, but I ran into Jean, here.

Oh, Jean, this is Ed Reardon. The Ed I was telling you about.

-Hello. -How do you do?

And this is Jack Connors.

-Jean Bassett, from over at Morrisville. -How do you do, Jean?

-[Jean] Hello. -Here, you can sit here.

-[Jean] Thank you. -Mm-hmm.

-Would you like something? Malt or soda? -Hey, Mrs. Deardorff wants to see you.

[narrator in film] A well-mannered group, I think.

You notice their good manners right away.

Mr. Ganz tells me that you are a gifted child.

He has an unusual request to make.

He would like you to be taken to the high school on…

-On Thursday. -On Thursday.

In the afternoon.

He maintains that you are a phenomenal chess player.

He would like you to perform for the chess club.

We have a dozen members, and I was suggesting to Mrs. Deardorff

that you come along and play all of them in a simultaneous.

In a what?

At the same time.

We like to give our girls a chance

for experience outside whenever we can, but…

I’m a bit wary of letting Elizabeth go off to the local high school.

Oh, well, I would chaperone.

I’d pick her up, take her to the school, then bring her back.

I was thinking a young lady might also accompany her.

Well, I assumed that you would come,

as my guest.

Oh. [laughs]

No, I…

[inhales] I couldn’t possibly abandon my duties here.

[Mr. Ganz] Well, what if Shirley Munson,

club treasurer and one of my best students,

she comes along?

What do you say, Elizabeth?

Do you want to play chess at the high school?

Yes, I’d like to.


It’s settled, then.

Mr. Ganz and, uh…

-Charlotte? -Shirley.

Shirley, yes.

They will pick you up, let’s say after lunch on Thursday?


I’ll see you then.

[Deardorff] Elizabeth.

I’m told that you’ve been playing chess with our custodian.

With Mr. Shaibel.

Yes, ma’am.

This is very irregular, Elizabeth.

Have you gone to the basement?

Yes, ma’am.

Well, we can’t have that.

As much as Methuen believes in excellence,

we can’t have you playing chess in the basement.

[phone ringing]


I believe that we have chess sets in the game closet.

I’ll have Fergussen look into that.

-[phone continues ringing] -That’ll be all, Elizabeth.

Mind your manners at the high school.

-[receiver picks up] -Helen Deardorff.

-There’s one missing. -[Fergussen] That’s it.


It’s my turn, Harmon.

Where are the green ones?

You don’t get them anymore.

There they are, right behind you.

I know where they are, Harmon, but I’m not gonna give you any.

New state law. No more tranquilizers for kids.

-Go figure. -Harmon.

“Go thou further off.”

“Bid me farewell, and let me hear thee going.”

-What? -Beat it.

[Beth sighs]

[uneasy music playing]

[Beth] Did Fergussen give you any green pills?

Extra ones?

No, honey, I wish he would.

But they got the state after them

for what they’ve been doing with those pills.

They’re still there.

In the big jar.

That a fact?

I ain’t noticed.

You’re having withdrawal symptoms?

I don’t know.

What are those?

Withdrawal, like…

I don’t know, you getting edgy?

Yeah, you are.

You look around,

there’s gonna be some jumpy orphans around here the next few days.

[uneasy music continues]

[Fergussen] Harmon.

You all right?

-Do you play the King’s Gambit? -No.

It’s my favorite.

Did you know chess is older than checkers?

-No. -By, like, 400 years.


Can I talk to Beth?

-Just for a second, wish her luck. -Sure, go ahead.

[kisses] Good luck.

[gentle piano music playing]

[bell ringing]

[students clamoring]

Take your seats and be quiet, please.

Charles Levy will take board number one since he’s our top player.

The rest of you can sit where you want to. There will be no talking during play.

Do I start now?

With board number one.

And then I go on to the next one?

That’s right.

They can’t respond until you’ve opened at every board.

[thrilling music playing]

[Beth] What surprised me was how bad they played.

They left backward pawns all over the place,

and their pieces were wide open for forks.

[indistinct whispering]

[Beth] A few of them tried stupid mating attacks.

But I took care of them.

This boy, Charles Levy,

he was supposed to be the best.

I had his pieces tied up in 15 moves.

I mated him in six more, with a knight-rook combination.

[chess pieces clacking]

Mr. Ganz told me I beat them all in an hour and 20 minutes.

It felt good.

I’ve never won anything before.

[Mr. Shaibel] You should get back.

You can have the rest.

-[Beth] Jolene. -Hey.

Do you have any more vitamins?

Don’t be rude.

This is Samantha. She just got here.

Haven’t you got even just one?

How’d the exhibit go? You do okay?

-Fine, but I need– -I don’t want to hear about it.


Hello, Samantha.

[suspenseful music playing]

-[door opens] -[light switch clicks]

[door closes]

[footsteps descending]

Jesus. Renounce him, so all can hear.

[man in movie] I cannot renounce him, sire. Nor can you.

He is my king and yours as well.

He is the son of God.

[emperor] And that is your answer?

[man] Yes, sire.

[emperor] Tribune Gallio,

we decree that you be taken immediately to the palace archery field

and put to death for high treason.

[ominous music playing in movie]

[man] No, Diana. No, there’s no reason for it.

[Diana] Sire, Marcellus is my chosen husband.

I ask to go with him.


Hurry up.

[emperor] Stand back! You’re not on trial!

There’s no evidence against you!

[Diana] Then if it please you, sire, I’ll provide evidence.

[emperor] A traitor! And a conspirator against the state!

[Diana] No, not Marcellus!

[emperor] That’s why he hasn’t come to you.

[dialog in movie continues indistinctly]

[lock clicks]

[emperor] Stop it!

[Diana] But in you, noble blood has turned to poison.

You corrupt Rome with your spite and malice.

-[emperor] Stop! Stop it! -[Diana] You should be Caesar!

[movie continues indistinctly]

[emperor] Stop it!

[Diana] As for me, I have found another king.


[Diana] I want to go with my husband…

into his kingdom.

Then by the gods you shall!

Go, both of you!

Into your kingdom!

[suspenseful music playing in movie]

[eerie choral music playing in movie]

[emperor] They’re going into a better kingdom.

They’re going into a better kingdom!

They’re gonna meet their king!

They’re going to meet their king!

[choral chanting in movie]

♪ Hallelujah ♪

-♪ Hallelujah ♪  -♪ Hallelujah, hallelujah ♪

[choir singing fanfare] ♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah, hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah, hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah, hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah, hallelujah ♪

[singing continues in background]

[Deardorff] All right, girls.

Let’s all have some cocoa and discuss what we’ve learned.

♪ Hallelujah, hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah, hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah… ♪

-[Deardorff] Elizabeth! -Mama?


♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelu… ♪

[glass smashing under choral fanfare]

[choral fanfare continues]

[gentle piano music playing]


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