Beth’s adoptive mother, Alma, is a key player in The Queen’s Gambit – and these are some of her best lines.
Alma Wheatley, Beth’s adoptive mother from The Queen’s Gambit, didn’t really seem to care much about Beth or her obsession with chess until she realized there’s a lot of money in playing chess. Even though she wasn’t that invested in her new daughter from the start, she always showed Beth respect and treated her as an equal. When Beth was at her worst, she could be mean to Alma, but Alma never took offense.
As her manager, Alma traveled all around the States with Beth, and she was a delightful companion. But there was a dark side to Alma too. She was a lonely soul, and she soothed her sorrows with alcohol and tranquilizers. She died of hepatitis. Beth finding her lifeless in the hotel room is one of the saddest scenes in the show.
“Chess Is Not All There Is.”
To Beth, Benny Watts, and Harry Beltik, nothing in this world mattered more than chess. In “Middle Game”, Alma reminded Beth that chess is not all there is. To Alma, it seemed unfathomable that the young girl didn’t care to see Mexico City and its sights.
But then again, Alma struggled to find meaning in life as well. Beth thought that her mother’s infatuation with her childhood pen pal was ridiculous.
“Beth, I Was Thinking, Perhaps You Could Give Me Ten Percent, As An Agent’s Commission?”
Even though she wasn’t on board with Beth playing chess from the very first start, Alma was actually one of the most supportive people in Beth’s life. When she realized that her new daughter could help keep them afloat with playing chess, she offered herself to be her agent for a modest 10%.
Alma could have easily taken all the money for herself. After all, Beth just wanted to play chess and she was still a minor.
“I Might Have To Start Keeping A Scrapbook.”
When Beth and Alma spent Christmas on a plane, flying to yet another chess tournament, Alma was reading a news article about Beth. “They’re calling you a wunderkind”, she said. “I might have to start keeping a scrapbook.”
Alma wasn’t the only one who felt that way about Beth. Mr. Shaibel, too, kept clippings from newspapers about his chess student. Too bad Beth pretty much forgot about him until it was too late.
“The Moves They Applaud The Loudest Are The Ones You Make Rather Quickly.”
Alma was no chess genius, but she did learn what certain moves meant. She didn’t observe the game itself as much as she observed Beth and people’s reaction to her, and there was some value in that as well.
“The moves they applaud the loudest are the ones you make rather quickly,” Alma told Beth. She was right – Beth was known to be an intuitive player rather than trained like Borgov.
“My Experience Has Taught Me What You Know Isn’t Always What’s Important.”
After telling Beth that there is more to life than chess, the girl replied that chess is all that she knows. Alma reminded Beth that other things are important too, such as growing, living, treating yourself, and adventure.
Ever since she can remember, Beth has been in a survival mode. Alma encouraged her to look at her life from a different perspective. Beth didn’t really take her seriously at that point, dismissing it all as Alma being infatuated with Manuel.
“I Asked For A Pleasant Room, And I Believe They Gave Me One.”
Alma is one of the show’s most likable characters. She made witty remarks, such as this one that she said when they arrived in Cincinnati in “Double Pawns”.
Alma liked the finer things in life, but she wasn’t spoiled. She was excited about the notion of going to the spa on their travels, and Beth obliged and went along with her.
“Though I’m No Longer A Wife, Except By A Legal Fiction, I Believe I Can Learn To Be A Mother.”
Seeing Beth and Alma form a meaningful bond was one of the most beautiful scenes in The Queen’s Gambit. Alma didn’t have much to look forward to in her life. She didn’t get along with her husband, she found no joy in being a housewife, and she resorted to drinking to escape the dreary reality.
In “Exchanges”, her husband told her he wouldn’t be coming back from his business trip. Alma could have gone off the deep end right then, but she chose to step up her game and try to be a decent mother to Beth.
“My Tranquility Needs To Be Refurbished.”
My tranquility needs to be refurbished” sounds much more elegant than “I need another tranquilizer.” Alma was a lady, so she always minded her language.
Little did she know that her daughter, too, likes to have her tranquility refurbished. One of the saddest things about Beth is probably her addictive personality. Would Alma still take those green pills if she knew Beth was addicted to them since she was a little girl?
“I Don’t Know Why My Body Is So Intent On Sabotaging My Brain When My Brain Is Perfectly Capable Of Sabotaging Itself.”
Alma was a tragic soul. She had a daughter before adopting Beth, but she died, and her marriage left her feeling miserable. She was great at playing the piano, but she never lived up to her full potential and let others marvel at her talent.
“I don’t know why my body is so intent on sabotaging my brain when my brain is perfectly capable of sabotaging itself,” she once said. She didn’t know how to take proper care of her own health, which led to her premature death.
“Intuition Can’t Be Found In Books.”
Beth often disregarded Alma because she didn’t really know much about chess. She might have not known the rules of the game as well as other characters, but as she told Beth herself, she knew what it felt like to lose.
She also understood a very important thing about the way Beth played chess: “Intuition can’t be found in books.”
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