top of page

Learning chess with The Queen's Gambit

Many of us have loved chess for years, and it’s incredible to see a focused and technical chess series become one of the hottest shows in this weird 2020. I think almost everyone experimented with some new hobbies during that extra time at home, and maybe chess was one of them.

Join us today and find out a few fun chess expressions, and some great English vocabulary you can pick up from watching The Queen’s Gambit.

If you’re interested in learning English online or in person at our English academy in Valencia, get in touch now.

Let's Play

The series is fantastic for teaching you all about the vocabulary around chess and the moves. Like many things, the international language of chess is English, although the history of the game is varied and remarkable.

You’ll hear all the names of the pieces repeatedly, with rooks moving in straight lines, bishops in diagonals and the powerful queen moving wherever she feels like.

If you want to hear all about knights moving to e5 and pawns advancing to a3, this show will give you a lot of practice with numbers and chess pieces.

Learning English is all about internalising and becoming closely familiar with the vocab, so a series is a great way to do it.

Their pieces were wide open for forks

The show is not only great for an English academy to teach their students vocab, but also you’ll pick up some chess tactics too.

‘Wide open’ means that something is unprotected, or easy to reach; a ‘fork’ is where you use your knight (who can hop over pieces and move in the most unpredictable pattern), to check the king at the same time as threaten another piece.

Because the king must move, the knight is then free to take the other (normally higher value) piece.

It's Foolish To Run The Risk Of Going Mad For Vanity's Sake

The show is all about the main character trying to control her unbalanced personality, which is ironically the source of her obsessive skill.

To ‘run the risk’ means to risk something bad happening, normally because you think there’s a reward at the end. The main character, Elizabeth Harmon, constantly runs the risk of going too far, being too obsessed and pushing all her friends and family away. But in the end, I think you’ll like how it all turns out!

The moves they applaud the loudest are the ones you make rather quickly

This simple little modifier, ‘rather’, is a typically and powerfully English mannerism. One of the hardest things for English leaners to understand, whether socially learning or in an English academy in Valencia, is the speech pattern.

English is often an understated language, with emphasis and urgency given in very small amounts, to very great effect.

The word ‘rather’ may sound like it’s not very strong, but in the context of the sentence, and the wider context of chess, ‘rather quickly’ actually is meant as ‘quicker than anyone else and quicker than normal’.

Understanding the gentle emphasis used in English is key for student who want to learn English more deeply.

I think there’s more to life than chess

The show doesn’t only reveal the inside world of international-level chess, it also gives you plenty of fun vocab, unusual social situations and a wide variety of accents. Hearing Russian commentators, US players and everything in between is great for an English learner to strengthen their abilities.


If you’re thinking of studying abroad, working in and English-speaking country or simply want to improve your English, then get in touch with RKA Valencia. We’re the English academy in Valencia that is teaching the next generation of English speakers.

228 views0 comments


bottom of page