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Anecdotally, “The Queen’s Gambit” inspired more than a few Christmas gifts — a quick Twitter search reveals that chess sets were certainly one of the most popular gifts of 2020. But there’s some real, hard data out there that chess sets have been metaphorically flying off the shelves thanks to Netflix’s limited series about a fictional 1960s chess prodigy.
For example, all three chess sets IndieWire recommended in a story about where to buy gifts inspired by the Scott Frank drama (which, according to Netflix, is the streaming service’s most-watched scripted limited series ever) are sold out on Amazon. And stories in The New York Times and NPR, among other outlets, have cited experts with clear statistics proving that the series has inspired a chess boom.
Mary Higbe, director of marketing at Goliath Games, told NPR that while October chess sales were up 178% compared to the year before, the late October release of “The Queen’s Gambit” has led to a 1,048% increase over 2019. That’s not a typo — the company, which sells six different chess sets, has seen its sales increase by a factor of more than 1,000.
Research firm NPD Group reported that chess set sales increased 87% in the three weeks after the show’s release, while chess book sales jumped 603% in the same period.
“The idea that a streaming television series can have an impact on product sales is not a new one, but we are finally able to view it through the data,” NPD Group toys industry adviser Juli Lennett told Variety in November. “The sales of chess books and chess sets, which had previously been flat or declining for years, turned sharply upward as the popular new series gained viewers.”
But “The Queen’s Gambit’s” popularity doesn’t extend to chess sets and chess books — the choice of a redheaded model for Anthropologie’s latest retro collection seems less than coincidental, particularly because she’s playing chess in at least one of the photos. You can buy the Lacey Waistless Jumpsuit for $188, if you want to recreate the look at home.
Modcloth is another great resource for Beth Harmon-approved retro fashion, if you’re still dreaming of the geometric plaids the fictional champion wears throughout the series, which is based on a 1983 novel by Walter Tevis.
If you didn’t get a chess set for Christmas, there are a few sets in stock as of press time to help you start out 2021 with a new hobby. And the books and clothes IndieWire recommended in this post are still in stock. Below, we’ve listed a few selections of our favorite chess merch in case you want to make a New Year’s resolution to learn how to play.