- The Queen's Gambit -Ranking Beth's Love Interests In 'The Queen's Gambit,' From College Stoners to Leather-Clad U.S. Champions
The only thing Beth Harmon's got on the brain in Netflix's monster hit The Queen's Gambit is winning her next match — not finding it. But that doesn't mean that there aren't a few chaps she meets along the way who would be more than happy to play a round of speed chess with the wunderkind. And when ranking Beth's love interests in The Queen's Gambit, you realize that these dudes go for broke when trying to catch Beth's eye throughout the limited series.
Whether they're making their appeals for her affection by way of blunts or spending their tuition money on fixing their crooked teeth (w0w), it's time we take a look at the men of The Queen's Gambit and see how they shaped up. Who was the least compatible for Beth in the series? And who was the perfect match?
Check out the scorecard below to see where each guy fell and who won the top spot.
Warning: Many spoilers ahead for The Queen's Gambit Season 1.
5. Russian Class Bro
This dude is so irrelevant that we don't even learn his name when he invites Beth over after their Russian class. (*He is listed as Tim in the credits, for the record).
He may be Beth's entrée to her first time partying with college students, but that unfortunately includes listening to this kid drone on while he's waxing poetic about why he wants to learn Russian — so he can read Dostoevsky in the original. Gag me. He also reeks of misogyny when he inquires if Beth is the U.S. women's champion. Bro, pick up a copy of Chess Review. Not to mention, he finds the game too "cerebral" to play. Very much not at her level.
5th place: Yeah so this pontificating college bro, "Tim," gives such an unsatisfactory performance that he's relegated to the bottom of the barrel. But hey, he served his purpose for a night of careless fun. Moving on.
4. Harry Beltik
Ah, Dudley Dursley. Oh, I'm sorry, former Kentucky State Champion Harry Beltik, who Beth beats as a teen. When he first meets Beth, he's too cocky for his own good, showing up late to their match so he could grab an "extra cup of coffee" and embarrassingly bearing his teeth as he yawns. But the caffeine was no booster after all, as Beth pummels him in the end and he respectfully resigns.
But he's grown up a bit when they meet again five years later, as he takes Beth under his wing to train her after Mexico City and comfort her in the wake of the loss of her mother. They play and study together, and he supports during a difficult time.
He ends up moving in with her and even confesses he spent his tuition money on getting his teeth fixed, all for her. Beth isn't emotionally available for this kind of love bombing though (she's still hung up on a certain Townesman anyhow, but we'll get to that later), let alone him telling her he was waiting for her homecoming all this time.
But he knows he isn't as good of a chess player as she is and his insecurities eat him up inside, compelling him to leave after realizing he has taught her all he knows. The kicker? He tells her: "You're too sharp for me."
4th place: The truth is, Harry actually serves as more of a friend figure to Beth. He fears she'll burn out and worries for her throughout the show, even after their relationship ends, when he sees her leaning too much on her vices of drinking and pills. A caring friend, but no sexual chemistry, really.
3. D.L. Townes
Listen, if you didn't also shriek from the sexual tension when Townes uttered the double entendre asking Beth if she wanted to start his clock for their match, then I don't know if you should continue reading this.
Beth had a crush on him from the second she met him, and it's easy to see why. He's witty, handsome, calls her by her last name for a nickname, and respects the hell out of her talent as a chess player. And when they reconnect at the U.S. Open in Las Vegas, Beth couldn't be more excited.
He asks to do a piece on her, as he writes for the Lexington Herald Leader now and is covering the competition, and she feels like this is finally their chance... until she meets his very special friend, Roger.
She leaves the tournament heartbroken, and even confides to her friend Cleo in Paris that she is still in love with him years later. But we learn by the end of the series that Townes was heartbroken as well, and he shows up in Russia to be there for her and so they could reconcile. He displays real vulnerability and provides a kind of love for Beth that may not be able to be romantic but is formidable all the same.
3rd place: So even if they can't be together in the way Beth might have initially hoped for, he offers her an emotional connection and friendship that is a great love all on its own. Plus, Beth clearly had the hots for him, which pulls rank above Harry and Dostoevsky Dude.
2. Benny Watts
"That fucking pirate," as Beth refers to the chess prodigy, who carries a knife around with him for protection. He's a leather-clad cowboy with a wardrobe after my own heart.
Sure, he's confident like no other and Cleo may mock that he loves nothing more than himself and chess, but that's because he has the skills to back it up. He is the first person to really challenge Beth to improve and study her moves, as he can read her mistakes in matches and teach her how to fix them.
From U.S. Co-champions to Beth finally winning against him in Ohio, these two are so like-minded that they talk through chess games back and forth and practice Russian together. They know what the end goal is and are equally as determined, and once Benny realizes Beth is the star on the trajectory to get there, he does everything he can to help her see that through (coming to stay with him and train in New York, included). Game recognizes game, in other words. And rather than feel defeated by her prowess, he lets her shine, which draws her to him... and his hair.
2nd place: Of all the boys she's loved before, Benny's got her best interests at heart and has the potential to be a real match for her. Plus, they have the most sexual chemistry to boot. After Harry and College Bro Going Nowhere, she finally knows "what that's supposed to feel like" after being with Benny. Even if running through chess moves for her next game is his version of cuddling.
But what else could Beth's truest and most enduring love be other than chess? Mr. Shaibel enabled her to discover the most fruitful pursuit of her life when he invited her to play with him in the basement at nine-years-old, and she has a knack for it that all her suitors know makes them come second in her eyes. And that's the only way she (and they) would have it.
Chess is it for this girl, and her passion for the game makes her World Champion. As she says herself to the reporter penning her Life magazine cover story, "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."
1st place: More than any single romantic prospect, the game has ultimately made her fall in love with and have faith in herself, which is all you could ever ask for from someone or something, in this case, that you love.