'The Queen's Gambit' series spurs boom in sales of chess board sets, strategy books

  • Books
  • Monday, 30 Nov 2020

Hit miniseries "The Queen's Gambit" has led to a surge of interest in chess, with books and chess sets sales reporting unprecedented demand. Photo: Filepic

The centuries-old game of chess is suddenly cool - thanks to the TV hit The Queen's Gambit.

In the three weeks after The Queen's Gambit premiered, unit sales of chess sets jumped 87% in the United States and chess book sales rose an eye-popping 603%, according to research firm NPD Group. The spike comes after years of flat or negative growth in those categories, NPD said.

Netflix touted The Queen's Gambit, which centres on the fictional character Beth Harmon, a teen chess prodigy who takes on the best players in the world, as the streamer's most-watched scripted limited series to date in its first 28 days of release.

In the four weeks after its Oct 23 debut, 62 million member accounts worldwide watched at least two minutes of the show, according to Netflix (so it's unclear how many watched all or most of the seven-episode series).

Prior to the premiere of The Queen's Gambit, week-over-week chess set sales in the U.S. had been relatively flat for 13 weeks - and soared after the limited series hit Netflix, according to US Retail Tracking Service data from NPD.

There was a similar rise in sales of chess books, per NPD BookScan, which reported higher US print book unit sales for the following titles: Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess by Bobby Fischer; Chess Fundamentals by Jose Capablanca; Chess For Kids by Michael Basman; and The Complete Book Of Chess Strategy: Grandmaster Techniques From A To Z by Jeremy Silman.

In addition, search data from Google Trends shows that interest in chess among US users has nearly quadrupled since The Queen's Gambit debuted.

"The idea that a streaming television series can have an impact on product sales is not a new one, but we are finally able to view it through the data," said Juli Lennett, NPD Group toys industry adviser.

"The sales of chess books and chess sets, which had previously been flat or declining for years, turned sharply upward as the popular new series gained viewers."

The Queen's Gambit stars Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth, alongside Marielle Heller, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Moses Ingram, Harry Melling and Bill Camp. Set in the 1960s, The Queen's Gambit is based on Walter Tevis' 1983 novel of the same name. - Reuters

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