Queen's Gambit sends chess set sales soaring

The show follows an orphaned female chess prodigy, played by Anya Taylor-Joy (left), as she rises to become one of the world's best players.
The show follows an orphaned female chess prodigy, played by Anya Taylor-Joy (right), as she rises to become one of the world's best players. PHOTO: NETFLIX

LOS ANGELES • The Queen's Gambit, the buzzy, female-led drama set in the 1960s chess world, has become Netflix's most popular limited scripted series.

Some 62 million households watched the show in its first 28 days, Netflix said on Monday.

In the streaming giant's typical practice, it provided no direct context for the figure, and Netflix shows have no independent ratings figures.

Still, The Queen's Gambit is clearly among Netflix's more culturally resonant programmes in recent years.

The seven-episode series is ranked in the top 10 most-watched shows on Netflix in 92 countries, including first in 63, the company said.

The show follows an orphaned female chess prodigy, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, who struggles with drug addiction as she rises to become one of the world's best players.

Since its debut last month, searches for chess sets on eBay are up 250 per cent, and late writer Walter Tevis' 1983 novel that inspired the series has returned to bestseller lists, Netflix said in a blog post.

At Goliath Games, a toy company that sells several varieties of chess sets, set sales are up more than 1,000 per cent compared with this time last year, its director of marketing told National Public Radio.

Ms Kara Gibson, a spokesman for eBay, said it has recorded a 215 per cent increase in sales of chess sets and accessories since the debut of the show.

Of the different types of chess sets, wooden is the most popular and sells nine times more than plastic, electronic or glass on eBay, she added.

Vintage set sales have increased seven times, as have sales for equipment, including chess clocks and timers, which are up 45 times since last month.

Before The Queen's Gambit, said Ms Gibson, chess sets on eBay were already selling at 60 per cent more than last year, which the company attributed to people spending more time at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

The sales division of the United States Chess Federation reported an increase in sales of wooden sets, which can cost several thousand dollars, since the show began.

Mr David Llada, a spokesman for the International Chess Federation, said it was too soon to measure the full impact of The Queen's Gambit on chess, but said it was already comparable to the buzz usually generated around world championships, held every two years.

BLOOMBERG, NYTIMES

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2020, with the headline Queen's Gambit sends chess set sales soaring. Subscribe