The Queen’s Gambit, Purling London & women in chess

 Queen's Gambit Netflix
The official poster for the hugely successful Netflix series ‘Queen’s Gambit

The hugely popular Netflix series ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ has inspired many people, especially women to start to learn chess or to revisit this game, which they used to love and enjoy in their youth. It has also opened a dialogue about women in chess as players, professionals and role models.

Right from the very beginnings of Purling London, we’ve been supporting women in chess as well as choosing many female artists to create our Art Chess sets. Olivia Pilling was one of the first Purling London artists. Her array of multi-toned, jewel-like, impressionistic Art Chess sets remain amongst are most popular to date.

Hand painted chess set by Olivia Pilling in play
Art Chess by Olivia Pilling

Daniela Raytchev’s thought-provoking Art Chess have always tackled issues such as feminism, climate change and addictions have been seen in galleries such as the Saatchi, London and World Chess Hall of Fame, St. Louis.  Nette Robinson is a chess player and artist, who, like Raytchev, has created Art Chess with a social or political message.  She has also designed sets, which celebrate the beauty and complexity of the game of chess. 

Daniela Raytchev was one of our artists who was invited to be part of an exhibition at the World Chess Hall of Fame, which specifically focussed on women artists’ take on the game of chess. Other artists selected included Sophie Matisse, who has since created three Art Chess sets for us.

women playing game of chess at a Purling Games pop up London
Guests playing chess at London Purling Games Pop-up

Jennifer Shahade is an excellent role model for women in chess. We are also honoured to know and to have collaborated with other chess pioneers including, from across the globe including, Georgian/American International Master Nazí Paikidze, Hungarian International Master and commentator Anna Rudolf, Russian chess player and personality Galiya Karjakina, former Women’s Chess World Champion Grandmaster Alexandra Kosteniuk and Indian International Master and commentator Tania Sachdev.

Anna Rudolf with Purling London Bold Chess
Anna Rudolf with Purling London Bold Chess
Purling Games pop up London
Guests playing chess at London Purling Games Pop-up

Queen's Gambit Women in chess Nazí Paikidze with Purling London Bold Chess
Nazí Paikidze with Purling London Bold Chess
(photograph credit: Nazí Paikidze)
Artist Michelle Hold working on a bespoke Art Chess set
Michelle Hold working on an Art Chess set
Olivia Pilling
Olivia Pilling signing her Art Chess sets

Over the years we have held many games pop ups in clubs and venues across London, where over 50% of our guests were women.

playing chess at a Purling Games pop up London
Guests playing chess at a Purling Games Pop-up
Queen's Gambit Women in Chess Beth Harmon's game from the Queen's Gambit
A position from one of Beth Harmon’s games in ‘The Queen’s Gambit’
Daniela Raytchev witih art curator Shannon Bailey at World Chess Hall of Fame
Daniela Raytchev with art curator Shannon Bailey at World Chess Hall of Fame
blue and orange painted chess pieces
Art Chess by Michelle Hold in progress
Nette Robinson painting bespoke chess pieces for Judit Polgar specially for the Global Chess Festival in Budapest
Nette Robinson painting bespoke chess queen for Judit Polgar
women in chess queen's gambitArt Chess by Sophie Matisse Alice in Wonderland
Art Chess by Sophie Matisse ‘Alice in Wonderland
Sophie Matisse working on chess sets in her studio
Art Chess by Sophie Matisse working on her Art Chess sets
Kate Brinkworth in her studio photo credit Bartholomew Hawkins
Kate Brinkworth painting a Bespoke Art Chess set
(photograph credit: Bartholomew Hawkins)
Queen's Gambit women in chess Tania Sachdev with Purling London Bold Chess
Tania Sachdev with Purling London Bold Chess
(photograph credit: Tania Sachdev)
women in chess Galiya Karjakina with Purling London Bold Chess
Galiya Karjakina with Purling London Bold Chess
(photograph credit: Galiya Karjakina)

The character of Beth, an American and a chess prodigy, is loosely based on the American and chess legend Bobby Fischer. The famous World Championship match between Fischer and the Russian World Champion Boris Spassky in 1972, was seen as symbolic of the Cold War being played out on the board. In the story Beth Harmon feels that same sense of passionate drive to defeat the Russian champion – a mighty master from a country which was dominating the chess world.

The Art Chess set used for the photographs, inspired by this recent Netflix series is one which appropriately, is both Russian and Western. The chess board was specially created by British artist Nette Robinson to display a set of rare, 1930s Soviet chess pieces, called ‘The Reds and the Whites’ which were part of the Important Russian Art Sale at Christie’s, London. The red pieces were depicted as the Communists and were pitched against the white Western Capitalists. After the successful sale of the antique chess pieces, Nette Robinson painted pieces in her own style, in order to complement the Russian-style board.

Nette Robinson Chess board for Christies Important Russian Art Sale
Nette Robinson with her specially designed Art Chess board for ‘the Reds and the Whites’ antique Soviet chess pieces at Christies Important Russian Art Sale

It seemed appropriate that Nette Robinson posed for our ‘Queen’s Gambit’ inspired photo. As well as an artist she is a chess player and chess teacher in a primary school. And like the character Beth, she also took up learning the Russian language, due to her journey into chess!

inspired by the Queen's Gambit Beth Harmon
Inspired by ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ Netflix series
Queen's Gambit Women in Chess Beth Harmon's game
A position from one of Beth Harmon’s games in ‘The Queen’s Gambit’

We believe chess as a universal game, which can be enjoyed and engaged with by women, men, young and older alike. Even if you have no ambitions as Beth Harmon does, chess is still a great game to learn and play. As Beth rightly says;

‘Chess doesn’t have to be competitive, it can also be beautiful.’

So, if you haven’t already, why not discover chess for yourself?

women in chess Alexandra Kosteniuk
Alexandra Kosteniuk with Purling London Bold Chess
Nette Robinson live painting at Harrods
Nette Robinson painting in store at Harrods

Women artists who have created Art Chess for Purling:
Olivia Pilling
Sophie Matisse
Nette Robinson
Michelle Hold
Daniela Raytchev
Kate Brinkworth
Crystal Fischetti
Virginia Griffith-Jones
Tahnee
Joanna Scislowicz


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