Walter Tevis was an American novelist and short-story writer. Tevis was born in 1928 in San Francisco.

At the age of 17, he served in the Pacific Theater as a Navy carpenter’s mate on board the USS Hamilton. Post-discharge, he completed his B.A. and M.A. in English literature from the University of Kentucky. During his early days, Tevis wrote for the Kentucky Highway Department. He also taught in schools and later became a professor of English literature and creative writing at Ohio University.

Tevis has authored over two dozen short stories in various magazines such as Colliers, The American Magazine, Esquire, and Galaxy Science Fiction. He has written six novels: The Hustler, The Color of Money, The Man Who Fell to EarthThe Queen’s GambitMockingbird, and The Steps of the Sun.

His literary works have been translated into many languages and adapted for movies and TV series.

Tevis battled alcoholism during his life but eventually overcame his addiction. He died at the age of 56, in 1984, due to lung cancer.


The Queen’s Gambit is a coming-of-age story of Beth Harmon, an orphaned chess prodigy.

Beth lost her mother to an accident when she was eight, after which she was sent to an orphanage, Methuen. Beth befriends an older girl, Jolene. It is at the orphanage that she starts learning chess from the janitor, Mr. Shaibel. Mr. Shaibel soon realizes that Beth is a prodigy and introduces her to a local high school teacher who runs a chess club.

While at the orphanage, Beth gets addicted to sedatives. Soon after, government regulations prohibit orphanages from administering sedatives to children. Beth is eventually caught stealing sedatives, and her privileges of playing chess are withdrawn as a punishment.

At the age of thirteen, Beth is adopted by the Wheatley’s. However, shortly after her adoption, Mr. Wheatley abandons the family.

An excerpt from The Queen's Gambit

Initially, Beth begins participating in chess tournaments without the knowledge of her adoptive mother. But Mrs. Wheatley soon gets wind of it and starts supporting Beth. The duo become traveling companions.

An unfortunate incident and a lost game see Beth plunge into alcohol addiction. Her ability to play chess is affected. The rest of the story marks her struggle to overcome her alcoholism and getting back to her A game.


The Queen’s Gambit is a story of grit, determination, feminism, team play, and the power of motivation.

The book also depicts the adoption of an older child in positive light. Mrs. Wheatley and Beth come together to form an amazing team. Considering the story was set in the 50s and 60s, the feat this mother-daughter pulls off is inspiring.

For his part, Tevis’ writing is so lucid that one doesn’t have to be a chess expert to understand the story. Even though most of the book is about chess and the moves it involves, the author has beautifully married the game to the emotion that runs through the protagonist’s veins.

Another highlight of The Queen’s Gambit is that the entire narrative is about how Beth sees and feels things. Tevis’ unique style of narration does not leave room for the in-depth development of any other character. Their personae are always based on how Beth perceives them.

The plot is perfectly balanced and despite its somewhat predictable ending, the book is the page-turner it promised to be.


The Queen’s Gambit is a beautiful story of perseverance. One can hardly find any faults with it.


Mrs. Wheatley seemed to have a good many colds. “I have a proclivity for viruses,” she would say. “Or they for me.”

After a moment a simple thought came to her: I’m not playing Benny Watts; I’m playing chess.


Ameya Score:

Ameya highly recommends The Queen’s Gambit to readers of all age groups. It is the heart-warming story of a young girl who overcomes both external obstacles as well as her own limitations.

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