The Queen’s Gambit – S01E02 – Exchanges – Transcript

Suddenly plunged into a confusing new life in suburbia, teenage Beth studies her high school classmates and hatches a plan to enter a chess tournament.

Air date: October 23, 2020

After her overdose, Beth is forbidden to play chess. Time passes and Beth is adopted as a teenager by suburban couple Alma and Allston Wheatley. Allston is emotionally distant and frequently leaves for “business trips”; it soon becomes clear that their marriage is not a happy one. At her new high school, Beth is bullied by the popular girls from the “Apple Pi Club” for her drab clothes, but she eventually stands up for herself. Beth discovers her adoptive mother is taking the same tranquilizer pills that she was given at the orphanage and secretly steals some for herself, allowing her to play mental chess again. She also steals a chess magazine and learns about the upcoming Kentucky State Championship. She writes to Mr. Shaibel, who sends her the money for the entrance fee. As she cruises through her games, she develops a crush on one of her opponents, an older boy named Townes. After the second day of the tournament, during which her periods start, Beth comes home to find that Allston has deserted them. Beth fears that she will be sent back to the orphanage, but Alma tells her they will lie so she can stay. During her final game of the tournament against Harry Beltik, the highest-ranked player, Beth becomes flustered and runs to the restroom, where she takes a tranquilizer pill, then wins the game. Upon learning of the prize money on offer in a tournament in Cincinnati, Alma hatches a plan for the two women to support themselves.



[wind whistling]

[Jolene] You should have seen yourself.

Up on that stool, floating around up there,

Deardorff just hollering at you.

It felt funny.


I bet it felt good.

[Beth sighs]

What you gonna do at night?

I’m gonna stay awake as long as I can, reading my book,

learning the Sicilian Defense.

There’s 57 pages about it in the book,

with 170 lines stemming from P to QB4.

I’m gonna memorize them and play through them all in my mind.

Poor mind.

-[girls laughing] -[woman] Ladies, don’t run!

No shoving!

[indistinct chattering and giggling]

[Beth] Mr. Shaibel?

They won’t let me play anymore.

I’m being punished.


can you help me?


I wish I could play more with you.

[somber music playing]

For crying out loud, what you still doing in bed?

You’re gonna miss breakfast.

[Jolene sniffles]

Morning, cracker.

[clears throat]

You don’t wanna miss another delicious breakfast, do you?

[Beth] Been dreaming about it.

[birds chirping]

Wonder who they’re here for.

[girls] Hi, Beth.

-Are you trying to piss her off? -I had to take a shower.

Go on in, then.

Hold up.

They seem like nice people.

I’m told, Elizabeth, that you turned 13 just last month.

Actually, I’m fift–

Yes, that’s right, I’m 13.

Such a wonderful age.

Elizabeth has performed well in all of her schoolwork.

She is at the top of her class in reading and arithmetic.

That’s very impressive.

Beth is also a very strong student in science and geography,

and has been kindly assisting Miss Lonsdale with chapel,

for several years now.

She is the model Methuen girl.

I can see that.

I will leave you three to get acquainted.

[door opens]

-[door closes] -[man clears throat]

They call you Elizabeth?

Or is it Betty?

You should go pack.

[car engine turns over]

I can’t find my book.

Which book we talking about? You read like a hundred of them.

Modern Chess Openings.

Hm. Beats the shit out of me.

I left it right here.

-You didn’t see it, did you? -Watch who you go accusing.

I got no use for no book like that.

Anyway, you don’t need no book.

Just say, “Yes, sir,” and “Yes, ma’am,” and you’ll do all right.

Tell them you’re grateful to be in a Christian home like theirs.

Maybe they’ll put a TV in your room.


[Jolene] Hm?

I’m sorry.

About what?

That you didn’t get adopted.


I make out just fine right here.

[pensive music playing]

Be a good girl, Elizabeth.

Off we go!


We’re so glad to have an older child.

[man sniffs, clears throat]

[uplifting music playing]

Shall we?

[door closes]

Home sweet home.

[woman] Those are Rosa Bonheur prints.

Not originals, of course.

Do you like animals?

I do, I love them.

Allston is allergic to most pet dander, though,

-so I’m not allowed to– -[Allston clears throat]

I bet you’d like to see your room.

This is the master bedroom, where Allston and I sleep.

Over here is the bathroom,

and this is you.

You have no idea how hard it is to find good maple furniture.

This is all mine?

Of course it’s all yours.

The whole room?

The whole room.

All right.

I will let you unpack and get settled in.

Just give a holler if you need anything.

[lock clicks]

Home sweet home.

[uplifting music continues]


[woman] I don’t understand.

[Allston] I don’t know exactly what there is to understand.

-[woman] Why can’t they send someone else? -[Allston] It’s only for two weeks.

[woman] You’ve only been home for two days.

[Allston] Gives you some time to get to know your new companion.

I doubt there’s much to know.

Girl doesn’t seem to have a heck of a lot to say.

[woman] Do you have to take the car?

How am I supposed to get around without a car?

I don’t know, you could rent one.

And eat up half my commissions? You’re a terrible driver anyway.

It’s not that far into town.

Remember what the doctor said. Some exercise will do you good.

-[car door shuts] -[engine turns over]

[car drives away]

[melancholy music playing on piano]

[woman] It’s early, dear.

You don’t have to be up for another hour yet.

Must be all the excitement about your first day of school.

Where did Mr. Wheatley go?

Business trip.

Poor man has to travel quite a bit these days, but…

as he likes to remind me, it…

keeps the roof over our heads.

Please stop gawking, dear, you’re making me nervous.

You’re very good.

This was Grandmother June’s piano.

I’ve played since I was younger than you.

I’d always had it in my mind to one day play in an orchestra.

Probably still could.

Mmm. As luck would have it,

I’ve also always suffered from a terrible case of stage fright,

which does not bode well for an aspiring performer.

And then I got pregnant.

You have a child?

We did, yes.

Are you hungry?

We have a leftover casserole.

[Mrs. Wheatley] Beth, dear.

Are you sure you don’t want me to go with you?

[Beth] I’m okay.


[uplifting orchestral music playing]

[students chattering indistinctly]

[girl 1] You should have seen that coach.

Have you seen her hair and her shoes?

[girls laugh]

[girl 2] Don’t know.

[girls continue indistinctly]

[girl 2] So drab.

And brown laces with brown shoes? I mean… [scoffs]

[teacher] Quiet, please! Let’s start.

This week, we will begin to study the binomial theorem.

Does anyone know what a binomial is?


[student clears throat]

[teacher] Yes?

-A binomial is a mathematical– -Will you stand up, please?

A binomial is a mathematical expression containing two terms.

X plus Y is a binomial.

Very good.

Let’s turn to page 24.

[whispering] Great, another fucking brain.

[girl chuckles]

[indistinct chatter]

[girl] That’s a good idea. Oh, my god.


[tray slams]

[clears throat]

-Is there a school chess club? -What?

Is there a chess club here at the school?



I don’t think they have anything like that.

But a lot of the girls belong to social clubs.

Social clubs?

There’s the Apple Pi club,

and the Sub Debs,

-and Girls Around Town. -Apple pie? They bake pies?

No, Apple Pi. You know, like the Greek letter.


Are you in one of those?

You have to be invited…

to join.

You could try out for junior cheerleader.

[vacuum cleaner whirring loudly]

[Mrs. Wheatley yelps] Shit.

[footsteps ascend rapidly]

[door opens]

-[Allston sighs] -[door closes]

[Allston clears throat]

Hello, Mr. Wheatley.


Hi… Beth.

[Mrs. Wheatley] You’re home! I didn’t expect you for another week.

I’m only here for the night.

They, uh… they just gave me the whole Southwest, so…

-[kiss] -[Mrs. Wheatley] And a raise, I hope?

[Allston] Don’t start.

Yes, why don’t you freshen up, and I will start dinner?

I’ll take a beer.

If there’s any left.

Doesn’t she ever change clothes?

I don’t think he likes me very much.

Quite the opposite.

Adopting you was actually his idea.

He’s right, though. You could use some new clothes.

-[bus screeches to stop] -[doors squeak open]

[bus driver] Sorry.

[indistinct conversations]

[cheerful music playing over speakers]

[Mrs. Wheatley] Aha!

They have chess sets.

We can stop on the way back down.

[Mrs. Wheatley] Oh…

Let’s find you a blouse.

Well, don’t you look lovely?

[Beth] The shoes are a little big.

Room to grow, dear. Room to grow.

Let’s look for coats.

Mmm. Lovely.

Step over here so I can see the fabric in the light.

Yes, this will do nicely.

Aren’t we gonna look at the chess sets?

Another time, dear.

It’s getting late, and I’m getting hungry.

-But– -I’ll give you 40 cents a week allowance.

Save up and buy yourself a chess set.

Saving is a good lesson for a girl to learn.

[students chatting indistinctly]

[girls titter]


[girls laugh tauntingly]

-[thud] -[girls giggle]

[girl] So bad!

[items clatter in locker]

[clears throat]

-Do you have any books on chess? -[librarian] Chess?

Mm. I don’t know for sure.

If we have anything, it’ll be on the last row.

Thank you.

There might be an old biography on José Capablanca.

-Who? -José Capablanca.

He was a Grandmaster. It was quite a long time ago now.

What’s a Grandmaster?

A genius player.

[kissing, heavy breathing]

[girl breathing heavily]

[girl] Okay, yeah.

I see you, Harmon.

It’s those shoes.

Did you get them at Ben Snyder’s or something?

I wouldn’t be caught dead in Ben Snyder’s.

[boy chuckles]

[door closes]

-[Mrs. Wheatley] How was school? -Fun.

Where are you going?

I’m gonna replay some of the matches in this book.

-But you don’t have a board. -In my head.

Good mental exercise.

Well, some physical exercise could do you good.

Will you run over to Bradley’s for me,

and pick up three packs of Chesterfields?

Yes, ma’am.

I’ll write you a note.

You look a bit youthful for smoking, yourself. [chuckles]

[rain pattering]

[bell dings]

[door closes]

[sports announcer speaking indistinctly on radio]

[Beth clears throat]

[pensive music playing]

[Bradley] Young lady!

You have to buy the magazine or put it back.

-Can’t I just– -You wanna read? Read the sign.

[Bradley] No, it’s all the same oil, it’s just three different sizes.

If you don’t use a lot, you wanna buy that one,

because it does go bad, but this is the best value for the money.

If you can’t decide, get the middle one. It’s not rocket science.

[uplifting orchestral music playing]

[utensils clattering]

[Mrs. Wheatley] Thank you, dear.

Well, that’s the last of the instant coffee.

I’d go shopping, but I just don’t know where all the money goes.

I’ve bought little more than trifles this month,

and yet I have seven dollars left where I should have at least 20.

Seven dollars?

-Is that enough? -To last till the end of October?

I think not.

It’ll scarcely buy chicken necks and porridge.

-Doesn’t Methuen send you a check? -For 80 dollars.

And only for the first year.

As if the expense of keeping you doesn’t exhaust it.

I’m afraid you’ll have to go without an allowance

until Allston returns.

Which is when?

Who can say?

It seems he’s been unavoidably detained out West.

Maybe I could get a job.

A job?

I could work in a store, or wash dishes somewhere.

Wash dishes?

I’d like to make some money.

Oh, to buy clothes with, I suspect.

To enter chess tournaments.

There’s one here.

But it’s five dollars for the entrance fee.

The only girls of your age who work are colored.

[Beth] Dear Mr. Shaibel,

there’s a chess tournament here with a first prize of 100 dollars,

and a second prize of 50 dollars.

There are other prizes, too.

[thoughtful music playing]

It costs five dollars to enter, and I don’t have that.

If you’ll send me the money,

I will pay you back ten dollars if I win any prize at all.

[Alma coughing]

[Alma] Beth, is that you?

[chuckles] I seem to have caught a cold.

Another one?

Mm. I have a proclivity for viruses, or…

they for me. [chuckles]

Uh… here.

I need you to fill this prescription for me.

And while you’re there…

buy yourself a Coke. [chuckles]

[TV playing indistinctly]

-Thanks. -[chuckles]

[sports announcer speaks indistinctly over radio]

Be just a minute.

[pills clattering]

[Bradley] Here you go.

[Mrs. Wheatley] My tranquility medicine. [chuckles]

Dr. Talbott has decided I need more tranquility. Much more.

-Will you get me a glass of water, dear? -Yes, ma’am.

Why do they only fill these bottles half full?

[pensive music playing]


[fabric ripping]


[music intensifies]

-[thud] -Excuse you, Harmon.

Fuck you, Margaret.

[Mrs. Wheatley] Beth,

this came for you.

Thank you.


[footsteps receding]

Tell Alma to go easy.

She’s only got three refills left.

For a trip the White House again calls non-political…

-[Alma] You’re home late. -…political-looking escort

of 17 Democratic congressmen, and Mrs. Kennedy…

-I was out walking. -…who was featured at the arrival…

Okay. Good night.

Good night.

…turning on the smile that hasn’t been…

[Beth] Oh, um…

I’m gonna be late again tomorrow. I have something after school.

Have you joined a club?

I’m playing in that chess tournament I told you about.

I won’t argue that broadening one’s social life

is important for a girl your age.

I just wonder whether a dance class or a girls’ club

wouldn’t be better for making friendships.

I hear Fairfield has pretty good ones.

When you were my age, how did you broaden your social life?

The tournament goes until Sunday.

[pensive music playing]

-Do you have a clock? -No.

We have a clock-sharing system. If your opponent doesn’t have one,

come back, and we’ll loan you one.

Play starts in 20 minutes.

What’s your rating?

I don’t have a rating.

-Have you played in a tournament before? -No.

-Are you sure you wanna do this? -I’m sure.

We don’t have a women’s section.

-I’ll put you in beginners. -I’m not a beginner.

[man] Doesn’t matter.

If you’re an unrated player,

you go in beginners with the people under 1600.

-What’s the prize for beginners? -Twenty.

-What about the other section? -First prize in the Open is 100.

Is it against any rule for me to be in the Open?

-Not exactly. -Put me in the Open.

There are three guys in there with ratings over 1800.

And Beltik may show up.

They will eat you alive.


-[exciting music playing] -[indistinct conversations]

[music slows pensively]

Are the matches played at random?

Oh, not at all.


Uh, they arrange it by ratings on the first round.

After that, winners play winners, and losers, losers.

Good luck.

You, too.

[man] Hi.


-Annette Packer. -Beth Harmon.

-I don’t understand about chess clocks. -Oh.


The clock faced nearest you measures your playing time.

Each player has 90 minutes.

After you move, you press that button on top,

and it stops your clock and starts your opponent’s.

And you see that little red flag over the number 12 on each clock?

Yours will fall down when the 90 minutes is up,

and if it does that…

you’ve lost.

And, um…

For recording your moves.

Right. [chuckles]

-You can start your clocks now. -You can start my clock now.

Why do they put the girls together?

They’re not supposed to…

but, if you win, they move you up.

-[button clicks] -[clock ticking]

-[Annette] Oh, it’s touch move. -[Beth] What’s that?

Don’t touch a piece unless you’re going to move it.

If you touch it, you have to move it somewhere.


Don’t you push your button now?


What I do with this?

Is your match over?

Yes, I won.

That was fast.

What do I do with this?

Circle your name and drop it in the basket.

[gentle orchestral music playing]

[chess clock ticking]

-[Beth] Who are they? -[man whispering] Beltik and Cullen.

-Beltik’s the State Champion. -[in normal voice] Which is which?

-[whispering] Beltik’s the younger one. -Is he a Grandmaster?

He’s working on it.

Takes time.

You have to play Grandmasters to become one.

-[in normal voice] How much time? -Do you mind?


Hell, no.



[pensive music playing]

That’s check.

I know what it is.

[man clears throat]


You got me.

I resign.

[water running]

Dinner break.

Next round is at six o’clock. Then, three more tomorrow.

Final round is Sunday, 11 a.m.

[man] Harmon?

Keep it up, kid.

[man 1 on TV] I think he knew you killed his brother.

-You’re in trouble… -Yours is in the oven.

[man 2] Someone’s always crowding me.

How did you do at your thing?

I won four games.

That’s nice, good for you.

Yes, Harmon?

You said there were three people here with a rating higher than 1800.

-That’s right. -I thought I’d be playing one of them.

Them’s the breaks, Harmon.

Consider yourself lucky.

I want to play the best.

You have to get a rating before that happens.

How do I get a rating?

You play 30 games in USCF tournaments, then wait four months.

-That’s how you get a rating. -That’s too long.

I want to play Beltik.

If you win your next three games, and if Beltik does the same.

I will win them.

No, Harmon, you won’t. You have to play Sizemore or Goldman first.

You can’t beat either of them.

Sizemore and Goldman? Shit.

Townes, the guy you’re playing now, is underrated.

He plays first board for the university team,

and last month he came in fifth in Las Vegas.


What’s in Las Vegas?

The US Open.

[pensive music playing]

Looks like we’ve been stalking each other.

You want to start my clock?

[chuckles softly]


-[button clicks] -[clock ticking]

-[chess pieces clattering] -[chess clock button clicking]

Jesus Christ, Harmon, you’re humiliating my rook.

He won’t have to suffer much longer.


How old are you?

Never mind.

-Don’t answer that, it’ll just depress me. -I’m 36.


Thank you.

You really are something, you know that?

Shall we turn in our sheets?

Um… you go ahead.

I’m gonna study the board a little longer.


[groans softly]

[whispering] Damn it!

[cries out] Damn!

[bathroom door opens]

[Annette] I just wanted to tell you that I’ve never seen anything like…


Do– Do you have something?

It’s my first time.


Do you know how to use it?

I think so.

I’ll wait, just in case.

[bathroom stall locks]

[Annette] You’re, uh…

You’re moving right on up, aren’t you?

So far.

Sizemore’s pretty tough, though.

[Beth] Uh-huh.

[lock slides open]

[water running]

Thank you.

I didn’t…

I just thought…

Thought I was sick.

My first time, I threw up.

Well, I still do sometimes.

Actually, every time.

Well, I have to get back.

Oh, sure.

Hey, Beth.

Beat him, will you?

I’ll try.

[Sizemore clears throat] Ready?

-[chess piece clatters] -[chess clock ticking]

[pensive music playing]

[door closes]

[gentle music playing on piano]

I’ve started menstruating.

Bit late in the day for you, isn’t it?

I’ll need pads…


Just go up to my room, to the top drawer of my chiffonier,

and take what you require.

Oh, and, dear…

be a good girl and get that little bottle of green pills by my bedside.

My tranquility needs to be refurbished.

[muffled busy signal through phone]

Thank you.

Is something wrong?


[sarcastic chuckle]

I’m not Aristotle, but yes,

I think something could be construed as wrong.

I’ve received a message from Mr. Wheatley.

What did he say?

It seems Mr. Wheatley…

has been indefinitely detained in the Southwest.

Somewhere between Denver and Butte.

Though, Aristotle was a moral philosopher, and I’m just a housewife.

Or I was a housewife.

Can they send me back if you no longer have a husband?

You put it concretely.

They won’t if we lie about it.

That’s easy enough.

You’re a good soul, Beth. [sniffles]

Why don’t you heat up the chicken dinners in the freezer, okay?

Set the oven at 400.

I don’t know how to put these on.

Though I’m no longer a wife,

except by a legal fiction…

I believe I can learn to be a mother.

I’ll show you how…

if you promise to never go near Denver.

[clock ticking]

[young Beth] Mama?

[Alice] Close your eyes.

[chess clock ticking]

[door opens]

[door closes]

[man] Sorry.

Extra cup of coffee.


Harry Beltik. What’s your name?

Beth Harmon.


[Beltik yawns]

-[chess pieces clatter] -[chess clock button clicks]

[Beth] Be right back.

Come on, you ugly piece of trash.

You can beat that…


[sniffs, sighs]

[uneasy music playing]

[tense music playing]

-Son of a bitch. -I think that’s it.

-No, I can get out of this. -I don’t think so.

Maybe, if you’d gotten here on time.

It doesn’t work.

-I don’t have to use the queen. -Move.

-I’ll just cover it with the bishop and– -Move.

[Beth] Do you see it now?

Or should we finish this on the board?

Son of a bitch.

[onlookers applauding]

[Alma] “The world of Kentucky chess was astonished this weekend

by the playing of a local girl who triumphed over hardened players

to win the Kentucky State Championship.”

“Elizabeth Harmon, a student at Fairfield High,

showed a mastery of the game unequaled by any female,

according to Harry Beltik,

whom Miss Harmon defeated for the state crown.”

And 100 dollars.

You won this.

I wanna open a bank account.

But you have to go with me, because I need a parent or a guardian.

I just didn’t have the faintest idea that people made money playing chess.

There’s tournaments with bigger prizes than that.

How much bigger?

Thousands of dollars.


So, can we go to the bank today after school?


[uplifting music playing]


[Alma] Beth, will you come down here, please?

What’s wrong?

I’ve been leafing through this chess magazine.

It’s very interesting.

It says here that there is a tournament in Cincinnati,

and the first prize is 500 dollars.

The Greyhound bus only requires two hours for the trip.

I took the liberty of calling.

What about school?

I could write a medical excuse claiming mono.



It’s quite the thing in your age group, according to the Ladies Home Journal.

Where would we stay?

At the Gibson Hotel, in a double room for 22 dollars a night.

The Greyhound tickets would be $11.80 apiece,

plus the cost of food.

I’ve calculated all of it.

Even if you only won second or third prize,

there would still be a profit.

I’ll win.

I have every confidence.

[closing theme music playing]


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