The Queen's Gambit: A Review From A Girl Who Plays Chess

I was asking for some recommendations from my sister about what new shows to watch recently and she said in passing 'The Queen's Gambit', among others. She told me, it was a show about chess. I didn't give too much thought about it even though I have been actively playing casual online blitz chess myself in the last 3 years or so. 

I can't recall what I was doing before I finally started watching The Queen's Gambit. Oh yes. I did ask a friend whom I used to play chess with quite regularly last time if he had watched it and he said it was nice. 

I didn't get my expectations up and didn't know it was starting to get some great reviews when I started. The only thing I knew was that I recognised the name of the lead actress, Anya Taylor-Joy which was from Split - one of my favourite movies in recent memory - except the terrible ending (sorry M. Night Shyamalan).

I finished all seven episodes within 3 days earlier this month. It's definitely binge-worthy material. 

A few things I really loved about the series personally: 

1. The story

In a lot of ways, the story feels like it was a based on a real person's story but in fact, it's fictional. I guess this could be due to the fact that many events in the show are based on history. Everyone loves a good story where the protagonist succeeds against all odds — and here was Beth Harmon, rising above things within and outside of her control - like her life's circumstances and addiction.

There's one running theme that I could relate in some ways  about male dominating the chess. Well, to think about, I think it's a fact that males do dominant in every sporting activity. I'm not a competitive player and I don't have any kind of FIDE ratings but I joined the chess club in school for sukan (lol) and they are dominated by males students. Most peculiar, I found out that quite a number of female students also joined the chess club then because the sport (arguable depending on who you're speaking to)... well, doesn't requires much physical movements and you didn't have to go under the sun. This was despite them not knowing how to play and they did not have any intentions to learn how to play either. I digress. Still, even today when people find out that I can play chess, I'll get that "Oh, you play chess?" though not the condescending kind but of fascination. Lol. 

I know a lot of people see Beth Harmon with the lens that she's a strong female character who finally overcame her demons. But she didn't do it alone. She had a lot of support —  especially from her male counterparts — even if she doesn't realises it. 

2. The costumes

Now, I'm not a person who's crazy about fashion. I don't even pay attention to what people wear most times (and apparently people do pay a lot of attention to other people's outfit, from personal experience). But my, you could tell this must be one of those shows that has a great wardrobe. As I Googled to learn more about these costumes, I realised how much thought was put into each outfit.  The devil is in the details indeed. 

3. Anya Taylor-Joy

I feel like the first episode lays down good foundation for Beth Harmon's character development, but I suspect viewers who have no clue about what they're watching might just drop off because most parts of it were about the orphanage and what it's like (learning how to play chess in the basement with a janitor that doesn't talk much? not creepy? ok), as chess slowly takes the centre stage. And that would mean viewers won't be able to catch much of Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth. Sidenote: Shoutout to Isla Johnston as young Beth Harmon.

I like this description here about Anya Taylor-Joy's performance. She’s stoic-happy, or stoic-sad; stoic-spiteful; stoic-drunk; and stoic and wide-eyed. Lol, it's so true in so many ways. But it suits the character and I thought I really enjoyed how she brought the character to life. Little things that make such big impact, like the way she changes the way she walks according to Beth Harmon's age. Good stuff.

4. Chess

The series is fascinating - because I've learned more than one thing or two about the game. Like some of the chess moves: I don't know the names even if I know how to play it. 

Anyway, if you haven't watch this series yet, give it a try? Maybe you'll like it as much as I do.

Last but not last... My favourite line from the series: "It's an entire world of just 64 squares. I feel safe in it. I can control it, I can dominate it. And it's predictable." 

Where Do We Go From Here?

2020 must have been the toughest year for so many people.

Where do I even begin? When I first wrote this and kept this as a draft, I meant to say that this year, the family mourned for the loss of a member in the extended family. As rewrite this entry again, it's with deep regret that I say that another family member has passed away. He was only 32. 

When a life is loss, especially when you realise that there's a whole life ahead of that person... what do make of it? This random quote I stumbled upon sums up all that I'm feeling. "You were unsure which pain is worse -- the shock of what happened or the ache for what never will." 

There are just too many bad news. People battling cancer, news of suicides, friends battling depression... the list goes on. Such much... pain, disappointments, fear, uncertainty. 

Then there's this coronavirus in the background. All of us are directly feeling the effects of it. Coronavirus took the whole world by the storm and it no one was prepared for it. 

I can't begin to fathom how the "Covid-19 pandemic" Wikipedia page will be able to contain the wealth of information of this event that will certain go down as one of the most significant moments in history. 

The world became paralysed. Indeed, the current situation has set up the perfect stage for the corrupted people in power to continue to rule according to their whims and fancies, without being held accountable. 

We've heard and seen enough examples from ministers who continue to impose restrictions at the pretence of containing the spread of the disease but normal citizens are immediately slapped and punished as offenders, being made an example with harsh penalties. All the same time, politicians are let loose to do as they wish. They can get away with it, openly. No further action as they say. We're mad. But it's not just us. This situation is by no means, exclusive to Malaysia. Plenty of reports worldwide of politicians flouting the very own restrictions they impose on ordinary folks who are struggling. India, Nepal, are just some of the many.

It's just a matter of self-interest for these people. They don't even pretend to have regards for any humanitarian concern. 

I digress.

Here we are. All struggling in one way or another. So-called leaders of the world continued to rule according to their whims and fancies. We're in the midst of a terrible storm.

It's bleak. I don't have any other words to go on. Our hope as believers is that we find comfort in Jesus and remember that we could too, experience the impossible - like Peter walking on water - by setting our eyes on Him.

Exploring Geneva: City Tour, Parc des Bastions, Carouge

Good morning, Geneva.

This post is the last instalment of the Switzerland travel series. Spent the night at Hotel Cornavin and this was the view from the breakfast area.

Breakfast area was packed and it was kind of unusual, as compared to the other hotels that we'd been to during the trip. There were quite a few Indonesians among the crowd.

In Geneva, not only we took the water taxi (boat) but also took a ride on the bus. Making use of every public transport available. Plus it's free anyway if you have the Geneva Transport Card.

Geneva is the birthplace of the Frankenstein story but apparently locals don't even know about this statue's existence

Just less than three minutes walk from the Monumento al Monstruo de Frankenstein, there's this huge site known as Plainpalais skate park for the public to practise skateboarding, roller skating, and BMX riding.

Huge Starbucks Coffee outlet occupying the end lot.

Spotted the University of Geneva, founded by renowned theologian, pastor and reformer, John Calvin.

This morning in Geneva was far better than the day before since the sun was out and the sky was bright. It was quite gloomy the day earlier. Also with the withering trees, it gave off a sense of autumn rather than winter. 

The above are photos of parts of the Reformation Wall, a monument which honours the major figures of the Reformation. The monument stretches for 100 metres long and overlooks the Parc des Bastions.

The whole area is known as Parc des Bastions (Bastions Park), the site of Geneva's first botanical garden. It's located next to Place de Neuve (New Place).  The giant chess sets and the skating rink are free to use.

The Grand Théâtre of Geneve, one Europe’s premier opera houses, was undergoing renovations when I was there in November 2017. I came to know that it eventually underwent a three-year renovation for restoration works and finally reopened in February 2019.

Paid a visit to the Carouge in Geneva, known as the "Greenwich Village of Geneva", a hotspot with Mediterranean charm. This place is like a village in the city and there are many craftsmen and designers. The Carouge Market is also quite popular here.

We also stopped by at the Eglise Sainte-Croix (Holy Cross Church) in Carouge. There seems to be little information about this church but someone said that the chime of the church is the second largest in Switzerland. The interior is really quite pretty.

Eglise Sainte-Croix (Holy Cross Church) in Carouge

Next in our itinerary, we stopped by for a chocolate tasting session at Mr & Mrs Renou Patisserie Chocolaterie. Back in 2017, the store was newly opened and one of the founders was recognised as France's best chocolate confectioner few years earlier.

If I recalled correctly, that hole is the remnant of what happened after a cannon ball was blasted onto the building.

We got a glimpse of Victoria Hall, a concert hall located in downtown Geneva. Only had a look at the outside since we were just passing by.

After all the sightseeing, we headed to Katrepices for lunch. It's a restaurant that specialises fusion of Swiss, French, and Mediterranean dishes.

I'd always chosen to go for sparkling water during the whole trip. Rather than still water. Haha.

Overall, out of the different restaurants and places we had visited in Switzerland, I felt that I like the food in Geneva the best. Suits my palette (everyone has their own preferences of course).

Bidding goodbye to Hotel Cornavin.

So actually, we had some time to spare before our flight. If I remembered correctly, we were planning to squeeze some time to head to Lucerne (or was it Bern? or Lausanne?) but there were some issues with the rail system on that day and the trains were delayed. What are the odds? So in the end we just headed back to Zurich early.

As compared to the time when we arrived in Zurich, this time the Zurich Main Station was much more lively since the Christmas market was up and running. The place was crowded too.

Killed some time here and finally took the flight back via Swiss Airlines back to Singapore, then to Kuala Lumpur.

In-flight meals were decent. We all asked for aisle seats and managed to get them, thanks to the organising tour leader. But, even better - the flight was actually rather empty so we all ended up having the whole row of seats to ourselves. Which meant, with the little people on the flight, most ended up occupying three seats for themselves (cause...laid down to sleep).

Thus came the end of the trip.

Overall, I had such a great experience. It was a really relaxing trip, laid back most times. We didn't have to rush and just kept to our own pace most times, except that we needed to be punctual and still follow the planned schedule.

Of course, I think what made the trip even better was the hospitality by Swiss Tourism - all the guides were friendly and everything just went smoothly. Truly, it was a once in a lifetime privilege, and I'm forever thankful for the opportunity. Happy that I finally got to finish write down about this trip.

Maybe the next posts would be about my Italy trip in 2018. We'll see.