Netflix has been sued by trailblazing chess champ Nona Gaprindashvili over a single line in the popular series “The Queen’s Gambit” that she says defamed her by inaccurately diminishing her impressive career.
While fictional chess champ Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) plays in the Moscow invitational in the final climactic episode of the series, an announcer refers to Gaprindashvili by name, noting that she’s the “female world champion and has never faced men.”
Gaprindashvili, 80, who lives in Tbilisi, Georgia, was the first woman in the world to be named a grandmaster. By 1968, the year in which the episode is set, Gaprindashvili had “competed against at least 59 male chess players (28 of them simultaneously in one game), including at least ten grandmasters of that time,” including Boris Spassky, states the defamation suit filed Thursday in federal district court in Los Angeles. “The last three were also world champions during their careers ... she beat some of the best male chess players in the world.”
The court action is seeking millions of dollars in damages for what it calls a “devastating falsehood, undermining and degrading her accomplishments before an audience of many millions” — and calls for the line about Gaprindashvili not facing men to be removed.
When Gaprindashvili contacted Netflix to ask for a public correction and apology, it refused to do so, according to the suit. It called the line diminishing Gaprindashvili’s career — in a series largely about sexism in the chess world — “innocuous,” the lawsuit stated. The suit calls the response “shockingly tone deaf,” as well as offensive and sexist.
“They were trying to do this fictional character who was blazing the trail for other women, when in reality I had already blazed the trail and inspired generations,” Gaprindashvili said in a recent video viewed by The New York Times. “That’s the irony. ... This was an insulting experience.”
Netflix had to be aware of Gaprindashvili’s accomplishments because it hired “two of the world’s leading chess authorities” as consultants, the lawsuit noted. The book the series was based on also acknowledged that Gaprindashvili faced male grandmasters.
Netflix told the Times in statement: “Netflix has only the utmost respect for Ms. Gaprindashvili and her illustrious career, but we believe this claim has no merit and will vigorously defend the case.”