Queen’s Gambit

The deep relationship between squash and chess is long-standing. For decades, they’ve sat adjacent in a thousand sentences: squash is physical chess, etc. One of the most cerebral and celebrated articles in Squash Magazine history was the March 2017 essay “Squash & Chess: The Ball, the Brain and a Little Zwischenzug” in which our correspondent John Dewis dilated on the intersections of the two sports.

Two weeks ago Netflix uploaded The Queen’s Gambit, a seven-part mini-series featuring a chess prodigy, Anya Taylor-Joy. In the last episode, Taylor-Joy, and a childhood friend, Moses Ingram, play squash together.

The scene starts off a bit choppily. As you hear a ball hitting a wall, the captioning reads “[racquetball thudding.]”) There are a few anomalies. The two women are playing with wooden racquets which looks right, but they’re on a softball court with a glass back-wall, a gray tin, a very squeezable black ball and an unpainted floor. This just isn’t squash in Kentucky in 1968. (The show was filmed in Ontario, so this is probably a club in Toronto?)

The women’s outfits look relatively authentic (although the non-white shorts would not have been permitted in that all-white clothing era). People magazine, in reviewing the show’s outfits, wrote that they were “obsessed with the headbands they rock while playing squash.”

During play, Taylor-Joy and Ingram rib each other—”I thought you said you can play?” “I said I’m learning.”—and Taylor-Joy laughingly shrieks after whiffing on a forehand. The scene concluded with the two women sitting on the floor, their backs against the front wall, talking. There is a long, lingering wide shot that slowly comes up from the T towards the two women. Brilliant.

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