'The Queen's Gambit,' a show about chess, is breaking records for Netflix

Anya Taylor-Joy in 'The Queen's Gambit' © Netflix

“Do you see it now? Or should we finish this on the board?” Netflix asks rival HBO Max, normally the home for brooding, gorgeous limited series centered on niche nerddoms. On Monday, the world’s most popular streaming platform announced a record 62 million households watched The Queen’s Gambit in its first 28 days, making it the most popular limited scripted series in Netflix history. “Checkmate,” the streamer whispers of its 2021 Emmy prospects.

“Three years ago when Scott Frank (Godless) first approached us about adapting The Queen’s Gambit — Walter Tevis’s 1983 book about a young chess prodigy — we felt it was a compelling tale,” wrote Peter Friedlander, Netflix’s V.P. of Original Series, in a release about the show’s record-breaking success. “However, I don’t think any of us could have predicted that The Queen’s Gambit — and the extraordinary Anya Taylor-Joy — would become the global phenomena they are today.”

While it’s still a bit shocking that a chess drama emerged as a runaway hit, The Queen’s Gambit seems to also be driving lots of newfound interest in the sport. According to Netflix, Google searches for chess have doubled and queries of “how to play chess” have hit a nine-year high. There’s been a 250% increase in eBay searches for chess sets and new players on Chess.com have increased five fold. The pandemic has certainly partly contributed to the chess boom, but the glam of The Queen’s Gambit has only made the game more alluring.

“It’s a true testament to Scott’s skill as a writer and filmmaker that he was able to bring the drama and detail of the many chess matches to life on camera — generating rave reviews and a rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes,” Netflix’s Friedlander also noted in his announcement.

For what it's worth, this doesn't mean The Queen's Gambit is the most-viewed Netflix original of all time — just the most popular limited series. That honor goes to The Witcher, with 76 million views. The Queen's Gambit falls in fourth place with its 62 million, after Tiger King which drew 64 million households.