“The Queen’s Gambit” is quite the risky proposition in itself. The seven-part Netflix limited series features an emerging star in Anya Taylor-Joy; the breakout best known for her work in horror hits like “The Witch” and “Split” is already a favorite of critics and youths alike. And yet if her captivating performance is already a given, the surrounding story’s allure is anything but. Scott Frank’s adaptation of Walter Tevis’ 1983 novel focuses on a subject typically deployed in film and television as a metaphor, usually by mature writers and aimed at a similarly senior audience. Chess, after all, is rarely described as a young person’s game.
Nor is it particularly compelling to watch. Small wooden pieces being slowly slid around a tabletop doesn’t easily lend itself to absorbing cinema, especially given the challenging nature of the game itself. “Pawn Sacrifice,” “Computer Chess,” and even the Pixar short “Geri’s Game” earned praise for their depictions, but none set the world on fire.