How Anya Taylor-Joy Pulled off Those Chess Scenes in “The Queen’s Gambit”

Learning by doing is a method that some people can accomplish since it allows them to learn as they go, but in some cases it’s a bit more difficult for some folks since it requires them to learn on the go, meaning that there’s no practice beforehand, the act itself IS the practice. This is kind of how Anya Taylor-Joy went after the chess scenes in Queen’s Gambit, like the rest of the role she took on as one might suspect, dipping heavily into the character in order to get the sense of who she was playing and what the motivations were. But when it came to the chess scenes some might think that she spent a great deal of time practicing each move, as some folks would likely do since building up muscle memory and memorizing where each piece needed to go would be something that might test the memory of a lot of people, but would still be invaluable when it came to giving the role some authenticity. That sounds like a lot of work, but the manner in which Anya accomplished this sounds like something that only a handful of people could have accomplished. She had this to say as per MovieWeb:

“I was just like, ‘Can you just show me the game that I’m going to play right now, and I’ll memorize it? I’ll execute it, and then I can throw it away, essentially, and learn the next one. That ended up becoming the way that we shot all of the games, but also, geekily, I loved it. I come from a dance background where that’s what you do with choreography. You show up to a class and a teacher does something and then expects you to know it the second that you’ve seen it. So it was the exact same thing, but for my fingers. And that was a much more healthy way of me going about it. And actually allowed me to get some sleep, which I appreciated.”

The method is still a good deal of memorization, but it’s memorization on the spot in comparison, an act of doing something that takes place at the moment and isn’t being stored for a while, which can lead to a great deal of error unless someone has figured out a way to keep that information from degrading. Chess is a game that some people manage to get instinctively, while others really have to work at it in order to know where to move, how to stay so many moves ahead, and how to keep ahead of one’s opponent in a manner that doesn’t reveal what they’re playing at. For the sake of one’s mental health when trying to play the game of chess for a movie, it’s usually best to come up with a way to make it look real even if it’s bound to be more memorization than anything. Some people know how to play chess, that’s an immutable fact, but some folks don’t get into it as much and are bound to need a few tricks that will make it look as though they know what they’re doing. In this case, Anya used a quick bout of memorization to make certain that the Netflix show went off without a hitch.

There might be some folks thinking that memorization is all the same, but the trick is that memorizing movements without playing the game is all well and good if this is how one learns, but some folks are used to doing something in order to learn it, meaning they’re kinesthetic learners that might need other stimulation that can help them build up the kind of memory they need through touch, sigh, and sometimes sound. It could still be highly confusing to some folks since the unfortunate truth is that a lot of people don’t really focus on how they learn and what methods are most useful, they focus instead on the results and duplicating them as much as possible. This is why real learning is hard to come by if the methods change since what works is usually what needs to be kept, but the fact that it needs to remain versatile is something that many people neglect as well. When finding which learning method works, one has to be able to apply it in a way that will prove to be successful repeatedly in different situations in order for it to be a success, and it would appear that Anya has done this as she described this experience being not unlike her time in dancing since having to learn the steps to a dance was not too different from learning how to play the game of chess and where each piece needed to go in order to make the series look authentic. Muscle memory is real after all, and when built up it can be kind of impressive to watch.

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