Dmitry Bykov on The Queen's Gambit: "Playing by the rules is the most reliable alternative to life"

It turned out that the most talked about TV series now is The Queen's Gambit, which has also become the greatest chess project of recent times. How shall we explain chess fever that swept the world after the release of the series? And, of course, what chess combinations are applicable to our life?

In the Direct Speech lecture, writer Dmitry Bykov spoke about chess in books and the sensational Netflix series the Queen's Gambit. We find out why Beth Harmon defeats the Soviet grandmaster Borgov. Here are excerpts from his lecture:
“… There are two areas in which I don't understand anything: chess and TV series. Although as a child, I played chess pretty well. I had chess skills. I was advised to join a chess circle, but chess did not excite me at all. It is comforting to remember that Vladimir Nabokov was not a serious tournament player either. Vasily Aksenov played quite well, but he wrote his most famous chess story "Victory" while watching the game of writers Boris Balter and Anatoly Gladilin.

The author of the novel "The Queen's Gambit" Walter Tevis also wasn’t a professional chess players. He was a competent, high quality amateur like a good Soviet master of chess. He was fascinated by the psychology of the game.

Yes, the game of chess is a defence against life and an alternative to it. First, everyone is worth what he’s worth.  Gender, race or nationality do not matter. Secondly, there are conventions. For example, you can't hit your opponent with a chessboard (or at least it won't lead to your victory).
Chess is a classic case of pure intelligence, which is not aimed at domination, at solving strategic (in the narrow sense) tasks or politics. It is intelligence that has its own goal. In this sense, chess is an activity that dramatically increases self-esteem.
The Queen's Gambit is a political novel. The novel about the American champion is a classic book of the 1980s describing the finale of the intellectual confrontation between Russia and America and the winning strategies of these chess superpowers. This is the final novel about mutual fundamental rethinking.
The Queen's Gambit, firstly, is devoted to the search for American identity, and secondly, to the ideological, cultural and intellectual confrontation between Russia and America.
Tevis describes a chess battle very well. When Beth plays with Luchenko, she understands the current combination and where it leads. Borgov's play is irrational. This is the irrationality of the Russian soul - Beth understood this immediately. Borgov's biography is not important same as the pressure to which he is subjected in the Soviet Union. Everything is fundamentally different with him; he is an alien with a set of different chess strategies and plans. Beth Harmon doesn't understand what he wants. He does not crave prosperity, happiness, money, or victory. Borg is indifferent to defeat. When Beth wins, he hugs her.
The last phrase of the novel. Beth, barely selecting Russian words, says: "Let's play chess." This is interpreted as follows: we will try to talk and understand each other, because we both have the only chance to return to our own identity. By the way, the fact that Borgov took his defeat so easy is also encouraging.
So how did Beth win? In the novel, she is depicted as an extremely unpleasant girl who does not fit into any environment. On the last night before finishing the match, four American friends call her, and she replies in an unusual raspy voice: "Benny, I'm so glad to hear you." The wave of warm support that came to her made it possible to remember that she was human. And this humanity helped her win.
Beth defeated the Borgov not with his weapon, which is very important. She defeated him because of what lies at the heart of American society - solidarity. And Russia, which is smart because of its fear, militarism and opposition to power, succumbed. America defeated Russia with its simple cowboy smile. This is why the book is so precious. This is a reminder of who we were and that America is Beth Harmon, not Donald Trump."