Lady’s game on Netflix: how were the chess scenes shot?

Lady’s Game on Netflix features impressive chess games. How were they shot?

Available from October 23 on Netflix, The Lady’s Game (The Queen’s Gambit, in original version), which narrates the youth and meteoric rise of chess prodigy Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), captivated audiences and neophytes to the world of board games thanks to an incredible cast, intense staging and a brilliant scenario. The production of this mini-series was not an easy task, especially in preparing and shooting the chess scenes. All the teams involved had to familiarize themselves with the game of chess and learned a lot during the shoot.

Understand chess

The character of Beth becomes passionate about chess at the age of 8 thanks to Mr Shaibel (Bill Camp), the janitor of the orphanage in which she resides. He teaches her to play chess in the basement of the orphanage and the young girl plays games again during the night by visualizing a board and its shots on the checkerboards of the ceiling. These sequences are produced using very elaborate special effects according to Arissa Blasingame, the producer of visual effects. She confided to Variety that all chess games, including those imagined by Beth, were based on real moves: “Every time you see the chess sequences on the ceiling and everything that happens when Beth mentally moves them around, it’s all based on real moves. We really learned the basics of the game while filming.”.

Lady's game on netflix: how were the chess scenes shot?


Arissa Blasingame explains that they used LIDAR scanning, a process that captures precise 3D measurements of the rooms to add them to the ceiling. All of the pieces Beth visualizes are those in the orphanage she learned to play with because they are “an object of comfort to Beth”. The biggest obstacle for the teams was to manage the lighting according to the scenes.

For her part, Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays Beth, also had to prepare for this role. The actress explained to Entertainment Weekly that she knew nothing about chess but that she learned from the master Bruce Pandolfini, the same one who had re-read Walter Tevis’ novel from which The Lady’s Game is adapted. This preparation was important for Anya Taylor-Joy even if it was difficult: “It was important for me to understand the theory. I couldn’t come in with a clear conscience and not know what I was talking about. But the reality of the game caught up with me, I couldn’t remember those sequences without becoming crazy. I was learning the matches five minutes before, I saw it as a choreography of the fingers “.

Rest assured, Bruce Pandolfini thinks she did very well. The chess master confided to Vulture that she was “quite skilled in this area, she caught all kinds of nuances”, just like Isla Johnston, who played Beth in her younger years, whom he called “prodigy”. He also worked closely with the other actors before and during the shooting so that they could imitate the mannerisms of the professionals as well as possible on specific points: “the speed with which they react to certain situations, the good hesitations, how you write your strokes on the sheet, how you hit the stopwatch or how you look at your opponent after certain movements”.

All the parts that we see on the screen are therefore very real and worked so that they appear as natural as possible. Bruce Pandolfini created a Bible for the series which lists no less than 350 parts as he explained to IndieWire : “A lot of them were used offscreen just to set the mood. So there was a lot of work to be done, to make it feel like we were in a real chess setting. 350 games is most chess game seen in any movie or drama series. I worked on Finding Bobby Fischer and we got ‘only a hundred’. “

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