Elizabeth Harmon

Elizabeth Harmon

    The Queen's Gambit

Character Analysis

(Avoiding Spoilers)

Grew Up... fast in the 1950s. When Harmon was nine, she and her mother were hit by a car. The last thing Harmon remembers her mother saying before she died was “close your eyes.” She was sent to the Methuen Home, an all-girls orphanage. The orphanage was a depressing place where the girls were forced to take tranquilizers that the staff called “vitamins.” Thankfully Harmon found companionship in an older orphan, Jolene, who supported her. Harmon also spent much of her time with the orphanage custodian, Mr. Shaibel, who reluctantly taught her to play chess in the basement. 

Living… in Kentucky with her adopted family. At 15, Harmon was adopted by Mrs. and Mr. Wheatly. Her adopted parents fought constantly, and Mrs. Wheatly drowned her sorrows in alcohol. 

Profession… a chess prodigy. Harmon has competed in chess tournaments since 15 when she convinced Mr. Shaibel, who was struck by her natural talent, to pay the entry fee for her first tournament. She began earning modest winnings, which funded her entry into future tournaments. As Harmon rises in professional chess, she faces prejudice in the male-dominated community. But Harmon is able to brush aside most of those who doubt her. When asked in an interview how it feels to be the only woman in professional chess, she replies: “I would say it is much easier to play chess without the burden of an Adam’s apple.”

Relationship Status… it’s complicated. Harmon catches the eye of many but is too caught up in herself to commit to a long-term romance. 

Challenge… dealing with depression and an addiction to traquilizers and alcohol. Despite the success she has in chess tournaments, Harmon still finds happiness elusive. Harmon starts her day by swigging a bottle of hard alcohol for breakfast and continues to numb her pain throughout her days with wine and pills. Unfortunately, her addiction is starting to catch up with her, preventing her from achieving her potential in chess and life.

Personality… confident, determined, and hot-headed. Harmon is witty, intense, and self-reliant. She is a passionate chess player, though otherwise mysterious. As one tournament announcer expresses it: “The one thing we know about Elizabeth Harmon is that she loves to win.” 


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