Guide to Kentucky connections in “The Queen’s Gambit”

By Rachel Nix, Building Kentucky

New Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit” is encouraging a new generation of chess enthusiasts – and putting eyes on Kentucky.

The show’s ties to the Commonwealth are plentiful. Its leading lady, Beth Harmon, makes waves at the Kentucky State chess championship and has trouble relating to others at her Lexington school – plus its author has a storied history in the state.

Is The Writer Of “The Queen’s Gambit” From Kentucky?

The show is based on a 1983 novel by late Kentucky author Walter Tevis. The fictional story was written by Tevis when he was living in Erlanger and teaching at the University of Kentucky’s campus in Covington (now Northern Kentucky University). His remarkable chess abilities and reckless lifestyle are said to have mirrored his lead character in “The Queen’s Gambit.”

While Tevis was born in San Francisco, he spent much of his life in Kentucky moving to the Bluegrass State at age 10. He went to Ashland Elementary, Morton Middle School and Henry Clay High School near Lexington. He is a graduate of the University of Kentucky with B.A. and M.A. degrees in English literature, studying with noted author A.B. Guthrie, Jr. He went on to teach at several regional institutions including Irvine High School outside Lexington and Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. He died in 1984 and is buried in Richmond, Kentucky.

Was “The Queen’s Gambit” Filmed In Kentucky?

While much of the series is said to take place in Lexington, Kentucky in or near Harmon’s home, none of the series was filmed here. Most episodes were filmed in Berlin, Germany with a few additional locations in Canada.

The orphanage where Beth grew up is a manor outside Berlin called Schloss Schulzendorf. Exteriors of Beth’s house and high school were in Cambridge, Ontario and High Park North, Toronto – nowhere close to the southern cities they represented.

What Kentucky Places And Things Are Mentioned In “The Queen’s Gambit?”

A school in Berlin served as the Henry Clay High School mentioned in the series. New Circle Road is mentioned as a critical location for Harmon’s story and a friend mentions attending Kentucky State University. Local newspaper the Herald-Leader is referenced multiple times. While none of the filming happened in Kentucky, many have applauded the representation of the state on the show and how it didn’t resort to stereotypes about Kentuckians.

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