In 2020, the scripted series that Netflix subscribers turned to the most, with a whopping 62 million views in its first month, was The Queen’s Gambit, according to the streaming service. The tight seven-episode mini-series created by Scott Frank and Allan Scott is an adaptation of a 1983 novel by Walter Tevis and stars the enigmatic and wide-eyed Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon, an orphaned chess prodigy struggling with abandonment, addiction and other demons as she works her way up the ranks. Remarkably, the show bears no opening title sequence — just a simple title stamp during the beginning of each episode.
But in chess, opening moves are everything. It’s a beguiling bit of direction, allowing viewers to focus on Beth — and perhaps enjoy an uninterrupted binge experience — while saving some dazzle for last.
When the title sequence does arrive — a surprising closer capping off the show’s seventh and final episode — it’s a demonstration of skill, a celebration of Beth’s journey and a visual delight. The checkerboard abstractions are the brainchild of title designer Saskia Marka. The hypnotizing patterns used as the basis for the graphics were created by physicist-turned-animator David Whyte using the coding language Processing. Watching the swagger of shapes in black and white transform, shift and dance, one can’t help but hear the warm echo of Beth’s last word: Let’s play.