Well, Beth is alone now. Considering she spends all of her time thinking about chess, that may or may not be a bad thing.
OK, as awesome as Beth’s chess-playing abilities are, it is very much a bad thing that this is all she does. Unless the idea is she has some form of autism–which wouldn’t surprise me if that were the case if the show was set closer to the present day–we’re here with a girl who doesn’t seem to have a life outside the game she loves. True, she is perhaps the finest player in the United States if not the world, but the series itself is starting to push back a bit on whether or not there’s more out there for someone like her.
And it’s not as if we haven’t seen Beth pining for a boy or anything along those lines. It’s more like she perhaps doesn’t know how to do anything besides chess. Her few encounters with women her age don’t really show her connecting to any of them outside of her one friend from the orphanage. Heck, the one classmate she meets in this episode seems to sliding towards alcoholic misery, so maybe it’s everyone and not just Beth.
Then again, it might just be the women. How many female characters on this show have an addiction problem?
Regardless, the whole “Beth only thinks about chess” thing comes up again from a less-than-likely place: former opponent Harry Beltik, a fellow who is obviously smitten with her, and even after they sleep together, she doesn’t seem to really notice.
His anecdote about a gifted player who more or less won it all and then disappeared sounds a lot like her…and that was the point. She seemed to miss it, but that may be more due to the fact Beth just stares intently at everything while not reacting all that much.
Granted, Harry is a decent trainer, and she does go on to meet Benny again at the national championship, and while he can easily win at speed chess, she does defeat him handily enough for the national title, and as such, he is another former opponent who will train her for her future match with the Soviets.
But he says he won’t sleep with her.
Still, the series at this point really is leaning in on the “life beyond chess” idea. I am curious whether or not the conclusion will give Beth some kind of, well, anything. She doesn’t need to settle down with Harry or anything, but just maybe realize whatever it is she may be feeling like she’s missing and that she’s using chess to fill a gap in her life. There’s been a hint she plays angry, so why is she angry? If she was less angry, could she find room for other things?
I guess I have two more episodes left to find out.