WARNING: Potential spoiler ahead!
The question of Beth Harmon's money often seems to come up to those who enjoy Netflix's 2020 Limited Miniseries The Queen's Gambit. Surely, her net worth wasn't explicitly highlighted in the show, but it was a relatively important subplot that drove the story.
How much money did Beth Harmon have—how could she... buy the Wheatleys' house from Allston so casually, remodel it, splurge on clothes, and yet run out of money before she was set to go to Moscow?
Fortunately, the show set up enough premises at the beginning so we could simulate a calculation that renders her financial show-offs and troubles in a way that makes sense.
Profit: The Cincinnati Tournament
The tournament in Cincinnati was technically Beth's second tournament; the first being the Kentucky State Championship in which she won $100.
It was in this tournament in Cincinnati that we were delivered several premises in how Beth turned a profit from playing chess. In this tournament, the first prize was $500, and we were later told by Mrs. Alma Wheatley that the expenses after Beth won was $172.30, leaving over $300 as profit. Beth also offered 15% as commission to her adoptive mother, which she specified as $49.54.
So in summary, from this tournament, Beth netted $500.00 – $172.30 (food, hotel stays, transport) – $49.54 (commission) = $278.16.
Profit: Other Unspecified Tournaments
Now let's round that number down to $250 and assume that Beth would at least make that amount for every tournament she played in.
- If she played 20 of such tournaments, she would have banked $250 x 20 = $5,000 in net profit, after deducting all expenses and commissions.
Now, also recall that she mentioned to Mrs. Wheatley that there were tournaments offering thousands of dollars as prizes. Now let's entertain the idea that she played in another 20, more elusive tournaments with her netting triple the usual profit.
- $750 x 20 = $15,000 in net profit
This would have led her to make around $20,000 in the bank.
It's likely that she didn't even need to play in 40 tournaments to make that amount of money if there were tournaments offering two or three thousand dollars, let's say. But whatever the case, playing 40 tournaments over the course of 2 years all across the US doesn't seem to be that unreasonable—that averages to only 1 to 2 matches every month.
Expenses: Purchase of House
Now, the biggest financial flex Beth has shown in the series was when she purchased the Wheatleys' house from Allston for $7,000.
Expenses: Repaying Christian Crusade
The next flex she showed was when she ended up paying back the representatives from Christian Crusade, who invested a "good deal of money" in Beth, for sponsoring her trip to San Fransisco and her supposed upcoming trip to Russia. The amount Beth paid back was unspecified, but it's probably around $5,000, considering the fact that she needed an extra $3,000 on top of her $2,000 remaining savings to go to Moscow.
Expenses: House Remodeling, Clothes, and Bills
On top of remodeling the house she bought, Beth also splurged on multitudes of fashionable clothes and on her... unhealthy habits. Spending $4,000 on these including other typical living expenses doesn’t seem unreasonable.
Going to Moscow
At this point, Beth would have around $20,000 – $7,000 – $5,000 – $4,000 = $2,000 left, which was the amount she mentioned she had remaining when asking Benny for money.
She stated during her call with the US Government that she needed an extra $3,000, meaning she needed around $5,000 to go to Moscow. Too bad they couldn't give her the money she needed, but they ended up sending a federal agent who presumably got an all-expenses-paid, round-trip flight, including hotel stays...?
Well, aren't we glad that Jolene ended up helping her.
And yes, this show is a masterpiece.
- The 15% commission Mrs. Wheatley received seem to be calculated from the prize winnings after other expenses were deducted. In the Cincinnati tournament, Mrs. Wheatley received $49.54, which is around 15% of $327.40 after $172.30 was deducted from the prize money for hotel stays, food, and transport.
- Beth and Mrs. Wheatley seemed to spend around 3 nights in the Cincinnati tournament, based on the expenditures mentioned. The Gibson Hotel they stayed in was $22.00 a night and Greyhound tickets were $11.80 a piece. So $22.00 x 3 nights = $66.00, and $11.80 x 2 people x 2-way = $47.20, while the remaining $59.10 would likely account for food.
Does this answer your question about Beth's finances in The Queen's Gambit?
What did you think about the show? Leave your comments below :)