It’s understandable that Benny’s humble apartment from Lady’s Gambit in New York isn’t at all what Beth expected, but there are several things that explain Benny’s living situation.
First, Benny is probably not making as much money as Beth from Lady’s Gambit, whether by choice or not. Benny wrote a book on chess, but the earnings from his book are probably negligible.
The game of professional chess is described as extremely prestigious in Queen’s Gambit, but, in reality, it was not a lucrative career (at least in the United States, as it is also described by Queen’s Gambit).
Benny also seemed less aggressive in pursuit of cash prize tournaments like Beth. He doesn’t care about prestige or money, he just wants to play chess, and he only plays when he wants to play Queen’s Gambit.
Then there’s the fact that you live in New York City, where the cost of living is higher than almost anywhere in America. But on top of all that, Benny is a chess player in Queen’s Gambit.
In the end, neither Benny, Beth, nor any of their friends seemed to care that Benny didn’t live in a luxury apartment. And despite starting out as rivals, Benny and Beth bond over chess as friends and then lovers in Queen’s Gambit.
They eventually go their separate ways in Lady’s Gambit when Beth sees that Benny is ultimately more unique in purpose than she thought. Beth wants to travel, fall in love, renovate her house and buy trendy clothes.
While Beth finds great satisfaction in playing chess, she occasionally uses it as a means to an end in Queen’s Gambit. Beth, for at least part of her life, plays chess for a living. Benny, on the other hand, lives to play chess.