Is this the point where I say how amazing it is that this show managed to make chess interesting in so many different ways? Because this is only the third episode, and I have four more to go and don’t really want to repeat myself too much.
It is true, however. This is the show that makes chess interesting, but it’s not so much the games (which are good and tense) as it is the central character of Beth. She may think almost exclusively of chess (or maybe her general addiction problems), and if she’s been this good, what happens when she actually loses a match?
See, Alma is on the chess train now. Alma doesn’t get chess, but she’s trying to be a good mother, even if that means calling her adopted daughter out sick from school and supervising interviews with the sorts of magazines that suggest to me Alma ain’t foolin’ anybody with those sick calls.
Beth, meanwhile, is now a known quantity in the world of competitive chess. Opponents curse their luck when she sits down across from them, and all she thinks about is how to improve her game. Even when she is back home in Kentucky and finally gets invited out to hang with the girls her age…well, she has nothing in common with them and sneaks out while likewise sneaking out a bottle of gin because Alma introduced her to booze on top of everything else.
Yeah, Beth is winning a lot of tournaments across the country, but there is the elusive U.S. Open. She had previously encountered another talented player, Benny Watts, reigning champ, at Cincinnati. He didn’t play there, but when the two met up in Vegas, he casually mentioned a flaw in her game, one where she should have lost the Kentucky championship last episode but didn’t, and it strikes me that when she finally goes sit down to play Benny, he got into her head because the match ends with a concession…from Beth.
Yes, she’ll be co-champion, but this is a loss, and she doesn’t seem to take it very well. Alma doesn’t quite understand the game, but she does understand losing.
Besides, Beth was also distracted by Townes and his roommate. She seems to be having questions about boys, and that may be something outside the world of chess, so it seems unlikely that she will ever figure that stuff out.
Still, this is probably some of the best TV I have seen in ages.