Spain chessboard maker's sales soar after Netflix's Queen's Gambit success


Rechapados Ferrer, a small family-run business, is struggling to keep up with demand since its boards appeared in the award-winning Netflix miniseries, The Queen's Gambit Agence France-Presse March 11, 2021 19:33:47 IST At David Ferrer's factory, workers are busy cutting, trimming and stitching together fine sheets of wood to make chessboards to meet a surge in orders in the wake of the runaway success of the Netflix series, The Queen's Gambit.

"The Social Network." During one of the depositions, it is mentioned that the invention of Facebook made Mark Zuckerberg "the biggest thing on a campus that included nineteen Nobel Laureates, fifteen Pulitzer Prize winners, two future Olympians, and a movie star." One of the lawyers then asks, "Who was the movie star?" and the response is, "Does it matter?" This movie star was, in fact, Natalie Portman, who was enrolled at Harvard from

Rechapados Ferrer, a small family-run business, is struggling to keep up with demand since its boards appeared in the award-winning miniseries about an orphaned chess prodigy. "We have never experienced such a strong boom in demand for chessboards," says David Ferrer, 30, who runs Rechapados Ferrer in La Garriga, the industrial belt that surrounds Barcelona. The company usually makes around 20,000 chessboards annually, but has already received orders for more than 40,000 so far this year, thanks to both to the Netflix series and renewed interest in board games during the lockdown.

"Lara Croft: Tomb Raider." Filming the scenes where Lara drives her Land Rover through the jungle there had to be endless re-shoots due to snakes and other wildlife falling through the open top roof. Angelina Jolie herself was reported to be terrified.

"And there are still many months left until the end of the year," he told AFP.

Rechapados Ferrer, which has just 14 employees, was founded in the 1950s to supply veneer -- or slender pieces of wood -- for furniture, but a decade later it also expanded into making chessboards. "If my parents could only see this," smiles Joan Ferrer, David's father and the son of the firm's founder.

Although retired, he often visits the factory and can still remember how his parents made the first chessboards in "a small room, stitching and trimming the strips of wood".

"The Mummy." Brendan Fraser nearly died during a scene where his character is hanged. Rachel Weisz remembered, "He stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated."

- 'Demand is crazy' -

They initially only worked with a nearby maker of chess pieces, but eventually expanded to sell their products across Spain and then the world.

Today, 98 per cent of their chessboards are exported, some of which are used in tournaments, so they were not surprised when they learned their products had been used in The Queen's Gambit.

Miquel Berbel, who heads the company's chessboard division, spotted one of their sets in the final episode of the show. In the nail-biting finale, chess prodigy Beth Harmon goes to Moscow to take on Russian world champion Vasily Borgov in a match played on an elegant black-framed board with a decorative red-and-yellow border.

"Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them." Wand school was obligatory for several of the cast members. The actors and actresses would attend a boot camp, in order to be instructed how to move and use a wand properly.

"There are very particular boards that only we make and that board was 100 percent one of ours," said Berbel.Spain chessboard makers sales soar after Netflixs Queens Gambit successThe board was custom-made for the company's first international customer, a board games distributor in Berlin where the series was partially filmed.

When Ferrer heard about it, he was excited, but it wasn't the first time that their boards had featured in films or TV series.

"I was excited... but I didn't expect this sort of response at all," he said.

"A Clockwork Orange." During the filming of the Ludovico scene, star Malcolm McDowell scratched one of his corneas and was temporarily blinded. He suffered cracked ribs during filming of the humiliation stage show.

"Demand is crazy. We're getting a huge amount of emails and we can't answer them all."

-'Seek perfection' -

Orders began to increase early last year when the pandemic first hit and the lockdowns began, but they really took off after The Queen's Gambit premiered in October 2020, prompting the firm to hire three new workers.

"To meet demand, we ought to be doubling or tripling the workforce. And we don't want to go down that route because we don't know how long it's going to last," says Ferrer.

Making chessboards is a slow process. A worker first selects high-quality wood that is trimmed into long thin sheets of light and dark colours.

The Most Profitable Film of All Time Is Paranormal Activity. Thanks to its microscopic budget and major success at the box office, the 2007 film Paranormal Activity, scored a return on investment of 19,758 percent, absolutely blowing away the next most profitable film (2015 horror film The Gallows, with an ROI of 6,843 percent). It cost just $60,000 to make and another $400,000 or so to market, yet ultimately brought in more than $89 million.

With the help of a machine, another craftsman sews the sheets tightly together with a sticky thread, checking constantly to make sure there is not the slightest gap between them.

The board is then varnished before being packaged.

"We check the finishings a lot, we try to seek perfection," says Oscar Martinez, a 40-year-old craftsman.

Even if he wanted to, Ferrer says it would be hard to find more workers to help given the shortage of skilled craftsmen, whose training lasts "four or five years".

"We want to grow naturally. It is very skilled work and everything takes time," he says.

After watching Star Wars, James Cameron decided to quit his job as a truck driver to enter the film industry.

"Its real craftsmanship."