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The Queen's Gambit: Chess 'has not been kind to women,' says world champion Magnus Carlsen

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By Katy Dartford
Magnus Carlsen, Norwegian chess grandmaster and the current World Chess Champion
Magnus Carlsen, Norwegian chess grandmaster and the current World Chess Champion   -   Copyright  Maria Emelianova/Maria Emelianova

The Queens Gambit, set in the competitive world of chess during the Cold War, may have been an unlikely contender for the world's new favourite television series.

But the central character, Beth Harmon, a young woman determined to make her mark on the male-dominated sport, captured the hearts of audiences.

Now, the popularity of the series is sparking a renewed interest in the game, with searches for the words "chess set" on eBay up by almost 300 per cent.

For Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen, the world's top-rated chess player and current world chess champion, Beth's experience in the show isn't so far removed from his own.

Like Harmon, Carlsen was a child prodigy, becoming a Grandmaster aged just 13.

"I was also playing against adults at a fairly young age and clearly they are not going to believe immediately that you have the strength," he told Euronews.

"But I very much recognise the culture in the sense that once people understand you can play well then the moves speak for you.

"I loved to see that in the series Beth immediately got the respect of all the seasoned chess players once they understood she could play, despite her age and lack of experience.

"That mirrors my experience as well."

The Grandmaster admits the sport "has not been that kind to women," and Beth could certainly be "a role model for women and girls who want to play chess."

"From my experience travelling around the world, I've seen that at a young age there isn't much of a difference between boys and girls. They are as fascinated and interested in chess as boys are, so hopefully, this will spark a bit of a revival," he said.

But did he actually like the show?

"I think it was very interesting both from a pure entertainment point of view," said Carlsen "and as a chess player, it made me proud that the chess was done very well and correctly in almost every way.

"So I loved it."