The ‘Lady’s Gambit’ effect overwhelms a board company in Barcelona

The Netflix miniseries Gambito de Dama catapults a La Garriga factory near Barcelona to success

It has been a quick and unexpected move like those of Beth Harmon, the protagonist of the Miniseries of Lady’s Gambit. An overwhelming success that is overwhelming the Catalan company Rechapados Ferrer, the makers of 80% of the chess boards in the popular Netflix series.

Like the opponents of the chess goddess, David Ferrer, grandson of the founder of this family business from La Garriga, and his team did not see the winning move coming.

During the confinement, orders began to increase, “we thought it was because people spent a lot of time at home with board games until one of the employees saw the trailer for the series and recognized our boards,” says David Ferrer in front of this company founded by his grandfather in the fifties in a town located 30 kilometers from Barcelona.

“We thought that a chess series would not be very successful and it turns out that it has become the series of the year,” he confesses.

Rechapados Ferrer is still a family business with 14 workers who now run through the workshop between euphoric and exhausted trying to reorder the production of their boards to meet all the demand.

Their orders have gone from 20,000 units a year to 40,000 in just three months. “We cannot cope, we are overwhelmed. We have had to limit customer orders and we are reorganizing ourselves in order to be able to deliver all orders on time ”, acknowledges Ferrer.

Until now few had considered how to make a chess board. It is an artisan production. The “craftsmen” sew and manually cut thin strips of paper wood to shape the playing field into squares. Others glue and framing the boards. Then there are the quality checks and the packaging by hand. “Training someone to know how to do the whole process would take us about two years.”

The pandemic, Netflix and board games

In the 2008 crisis, the factory was about to close, but with the pandemic the situation is very different: veneers and boards are booming. The key to the boom, David analyzes, is that people were stuck at home watching Netflix series and playing board games. “In addition, with the confinement, people have started to fix their houses.” Its main business is the rejected, 55% so far, compared to 45% who invest in boards. This year they expect the percentages to be reversed thanks to the pull of the series.

Ferrer, third generation at the helm of the company, shows us the edged board they used for the grand finale of the Gambit de Dama series in Moscow. It corroborates that Netflix has not contacted them at any time. “This board, with very characteristic fillets, we sold to a German client.”

With a very established clientele for years, the factory does not sell directly to individuals, but the chess fever has reached so far that some go to La Garriga to see if they can achieve the precious trophy: boards “even if they are defective”.

It was David Ferrer’s grandfather who started the veneer business in the 1950s. A good customer asked him for a custom wooden board for some loose chips that he had bought. Thus they began to manufacture custom chess boards with such care and quality that they have become not only the boards of the popular series but also the official chess boards of the World Championship of this sport.