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What to stream: These chess films are perfect for a post-'Queen's Gambit' savoring
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What to stream: These chess films are perfect for a post-'Queen's Gambit' savoring

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Queen of Katwe

Madina Nalwanga (left) and Lupita Nyong'o in "Queen of Katwe"

It seems everyone is watching the much-buzzed-about Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit” these days, and if you haven’t started it yet, here is another nudge to do so. Anya Taylor-Joy stars as Beth Harmon, an orphan who learns to play chess at the girls’ home where she lives after her mother’s suicide. The custodian who teaches her the game discovers she’s a prodigy, and Beth quickly rises through the ranks of competitive chess in the swinging ‘60s.

Created by Scott Frank, adapted from the novel by Walter Tevis (who also wrote the books “The Hustler,” “The Color of Money” and “The Man Who Fell to Earth”), “The Queen’s Gambit” is sumptuously designed and shot. It’s anchored by a stunning performance by Taylor-Joy, who is surrounded by a host of winning character actors such as Bill Camp, intriguing newcomers like Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, and even acclaimed director Marielle Heller in a fantastic supporting turn.

It’s the rare series that demands to be savored, not binged, and it’s a welcome reminder that chess has always been a delightfully cinematic game, what with the ticking clocks, swift maneuvers and risky strategizing. The game has long been a rich terrain for high-stakes storytelling, so if “The Queen’s Gambit” has you jonesing for more chess, here are a few films to scratch that itch.

Lupita Nyong’o, David Oyelowo and Madina Nalwanga star in Mira Nair’s inspiring film “Queen of Katwe,” in which a young girl from the slums of Uganda lifts her family out of desperate poverty with her chess skills, fostered by a local mentor. This 2016 film is based on the life of Phiona Mutesi, who has represented Uganda at four Women’s Chess Olympiads and is one of the first titled female players in Ugandan chess history. Stream it on Disney+ or rent it on iTunes or Amazon for $2.99.

Maori actor Cliff Curtis returned to his native New Zealand for another true-life chess tale for the 2014 film “The Dark Horse,” directed by James Napier Robertson. Curtis plays chess champ and coach Genesis Potini, a man struggling with his mental health and finding structure, stability and satisfaction in coaching a chess team for underprivileged youth in his community. Curtis is, as ever, fantastic in the role. The film is available to stream on the Roku Channel, or for a $2.99 rental on Amazon and YouTube.

The 2013 documentary “Algorithms” is a chess film unlike any other. Directed by Ian McDonald and Geetha J, the film explores the world of competitive blind chess in India. Yes, all the players are blind. Equipped with special peg boards, blind chess is a fascinating take on the sport, as the players have a completely singular experience of playing the game, using their other senses and imagination to strategize. This doc is a must-watch for any chess fan, but it’s appealing to all audiences. Stream it on PureFlix or rent it for $3.99 on iTunes.

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Robert Fancher, owner of Red Flag, gives a preview of the venue that's scheduled to open in 2021. A few small shows and movie nights already have been held in the space.

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