The Queen’s Gambit Season 1 Episode 3 Recap – what happened in “Doubled Pawns”?

By Daniel Hart
Published: October 23, 2020 (Last updated: December 3, 2023)
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The Queen's Gambit Season 1 Recap
Anya Taylor-Joy in The Queen's Gambit - Image Courtesy of Netflix


Episode 3 shows naivety and weakness in Beth, which makes for an intriguing plot twist as the first two chapters allowed her to defeat players rather easily.

This recap of the Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit Season 1 Episode 3, “Doubled Pawns,” contains significant spoilers.

We recapped every episode — check out the archive.

The opening

Episode 3 opens up with a young Beth and her biological mother. Her mother swims in the lake and heads to a boat and waves at her. They seemed to have a fairly loving relationship.

It then moves to Cincinnati, 1963. Beth and her adopted mother have paid for a nice hotel room, ready for the chess tournament. When she registers, they already know she is a champion from Kentucky.

“Doubled Pawns” shows how Beth’s popularity has reached far and wide — this chapter shows how she and her mother try and take on the chess world.


When she attends the first round, the opponent says “Sh*t”. He already knew he was going to lose. When she returns to her hotel room, Beth replays the round to see if there are any weaknesses in her play. When she reviews the play, she realizes there aren’t any. For round two, her mother watches; Beth’s friends from high school talk to her about going to the US Open. They then talk about playing in a Russian tournament but state the Russians “eat Americans for breakfast”.

Episode 3 adds a tinge of irony to the story — how Beth sees no weaknesses; her arrogance shows later in the chapter.

Mother and daughter enjoy their tournament journeys

As the tournament ends, Beth and Mrs. Wheatley agree on a commission for the mother — Beth has won another tournament. While Beth continues her chess career, Mrs. Wheatley tells school she has a whole host of illnesses, so she doesn’t have to attend. Beth and her mother seem to be bonding over this chess regime — they continue traveling to different states and collecting prize money.

Beth’s rising popularity

Due to her rise in popularity, a journalist interviews Beth. The journalist asks her about being an orphan and how she learned to play chess — she also asks if she intimidated by playing against all men. Beth explains how a janitor taught her at an orphanage. Beth talks about how she can control and dominate in chess because it’s predictable, so it’s only her fault if she gets hurt. The journalist suggests she has a condition where she finds patterns in something — she states, “Genius and madness”. Mrs. Wheatley breaks up the questioning and sends her out.

Mrs. Wheatley reads out the interview in the magazine. Beth is annoyed that most of the article is about “being a girl”. She’s clearly feeling like her skills are being undermined. Afterward, at school, she’s invited to a party by one of the girls — her popularity is expanding her social life.

“Doubled Pawns” highlights the treatment in the media against talented women; how a successful chess player like Beth gets turned into a narrative about her personal life and being a woman.

The party that’s not for her

At the party she’s invited to, the girls ask Beth questions about the tournaments and the boys. This scene demonstrates how she isn’t “One of the girls”. She isn’t interested in these parties to gossip and listen to music. Beth quietly departs and heads home. When she gets home, she drinks and imagines chess plays in bed.

An old face

Episode 3 then moves to Las Vegas, 1966. When she reaches the hotel building for the tournament, Townes is there — she’s played him before in her first tournament, and he made her nervous. Townes tells Beth she could become a professional; Beth explains she’s learning Russian. Townes wants to cover her in the paper he writes for and asks if she’d like to play chess in his hotel room and also take photos for the story — she’s nervous again. The pair have a moment, but then Townes’ friend walks through and break up that moment.

“Doubled Pawns” hints slightly at a romance but what overrides it is Beth’s determination to dominate the chess world — ironically, her personal life may become dominant later in the series; something the character does not enjoy delving into is herself.

Beth breaks down the players

When she returns to her hotel room, Beth downs a beer in front of her mother while thinking of Townes. She asks her mother if she can have another beer. As the tournament progresses, Beth breaks down the players to her mother, including Benny Watts who is also a “child genius”. Beth claims she isn’t afraid of him. She tells her mother the one player she’s afraid of is the Russian, Borgov.

Benny saw a mistake

Beth speaks to Benny at the bar. He tells her she shouldn’t have “castled” in her game with Beltik a few years ago and that her problem is her Queen-Knight. This conversation irks her, and she sets it out on the board to see her mistake. When she returns to her hotel room, Beth tells her mother that Beltik could have beaten her and it’s weighing on her mind heavily that she made a mistake and Benny was able to analyze that just by reading about it in the paper.

The ending

When it comes to sports and games, commentators always suggest that there’s a mental side to everything — you could have all the plays in the world, but if you are played by the player, you can still lose. The ending of Episode 3 shows how Beth has every strategy “by the book”, but she needs to learn how to play mind games.

Benny and Beth play against each other at the tournament. It’s an intense period of play, almost like tennis when it’s a long rally. Beth tells her mother that she wanted to hammer his weaknesses, but he forced an exchange of Queens and caught her completely off guard. She lost the tournament, and it rocked her to her core. Beth had to resign — she wanted to scream. Beth is upset she couldn’t read his plays. Beth and her mother leave the tournament holding hands.

The Queen’s Gambit episode 3 shows naivety and weakness in Beth, which makes for an intriguing plot twist as the first two chapters allowed her to defeat players rather easily.

Chess Club Archives
  • Mrs. Wheatley gives Beth an alcoholic drink on the plane — her first-ever one.
  • Beth asks her mother if it’s the drinking that’s constantly making her ill.

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