Meet Thailand’s own Beth Harmon

The Queen’s Gambit is a Netflix series that showcases the life of Beth Harmon, an orphan chess prodigy who is on a dedicated mission to become the world’s best. Following the footsteps of Beth, Thai youths seem to strive for the same path. A great showcase story is 16-year-old Sarocha “Pop” Chuemsakul

From the age of 8, Pop began playing chess at her school, where Kru Rungrote – her Mr. Shaibel – taught chess. The sport fascinated her, so she joined a local chess club at Pantip Plaza, according to Khaosod English.

International chess tournaments on the horizon

In the Queen’s Gambit series, Beth Harmon beat grandmaster Vasily Borgov, which was the holy grail in her chess quest. Our Thai Beth has similar dreams in the sense that she hopes to cross paths with more international players.

She was awarded the Women’s International Chess Federation in Switzerland (FIDE) Master ranking in 2018. On top of that, she’s been dominating the women’s national champ for four consecutive years since 2017.

Thailand's Beth HarmonYoung Jedi Sarocha at the Asian Chess Championships 2019 In Sri Lanka
Image credit: Chess Base

Her Kazakh counterpart, Nurgali Nazerke, who won first place at the 2019 Asian Youth Championships for the girls under 16 category, crossed paths with the young Jedi.

Thailand's Beth Harmon
Sarocha Chuemsakul wins the national Thai women’s chess championship in 2020.
Image credit:
Khaosod English

“Players from Kazakhstan know all the openings. The way they play, the way they think is very intense and aggressive. It’s very hard to fight that,” Pop remarked.

Thai women are rare on the chess scene

Thailand's Beth Harmon
A Makruk – Thai Chess – board
Image credit: Board Game Geek

The young champ witnessed more – and objectively better – male players. Pop said they have more confidence, while women play in a koi pen koi pai manner, which means ‘go with the flow’ in Thai idiom terms.

Makruk, the Thai counterpart of chess, is far more popular. Pop began to play makruk, where she had to get used to hearing comments like “It’s a sport for guys” or “It’s a sport for the eldery”. 

Feminism is about gender equality

Gender equality still lags behind globally. Our young heroine here proves that goals aren’t bound by labels – her passionate example will close that gap. We’ve stepped into the 21st century for 20 years. Equality needs to be more widespread. 

Read more about talented youth here: 

Featured image adapted from: Thanaphon Thanarotrung

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