A professional female chess player is accusing Netflix of defaming her in The Queen’s Gambit.
According to court documents obtained by Radar, Nona Gaprindashvili is suing Netflix for defamation and false light.
Gaprindashvili describes herself as a “pioneer of women’s chess and a much-loved icon in her native country of Georgia. Throughout her extraordinary career, she won many championships, beat some of the best male chess players in the world, and was the first woman in history to achieve the status of international chess grandmaster among men.”
The suit says in 1983, writer Walter Tevis wrote a novel entitled The Queen’s Gambit which told the story of a “fictional American woman named Elizabeth Harmon.”
Harmon is an orphan who rises from humble beginnings to become a great chess player despite prejudice against female players. Gaprindashvili says the novel final chapter is set at a chess tournament in Moscow where Harmon beats several top male players, including a Russian who was the world champion.
The main characters are fiction but the author referenced a few real chess players, including Gaprindashvili. In the book, she is only mentioned in passing. In the Netflix show, based on the novel, Gaprindashvili says they included her in the final episode where Harmon beats a fictional Russian Grandmaster called Viktor Laev.
On the show, Gaprindashvili says they included her as a character at the event. The commentator calling the match mentions Gaprindashvili being in the crowd. He said, “There’s Nona Gaprindashvili, but she’s the female world champion and has never faced men.” Gaprindashvili is furious the show made it seem she had never beat men by that time.
She says, “ By 1968, the year in which this episode is set, she 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 Dragolyub Velimirovich, Svetozar Gligoric, Paul Keres, Bojan Kurajica, Boris Spassky, Viswanathan Anand, and Mikhail Tal.”
She says Netflix and producers knew this because they hired two chess experts to advise on the show. Gaprindashvili says Netflix “Netflix brazenly and deliberately lied about Gaprindashvili’s achievements for the cheap and cynical purpose of “heightening the drama” by making it appear that its fictional hero had managed to do what no other woman, including Gaprindashvili, had done.”
“Thus, in a story that was supposed to inspire women by showing a young woman competing with men at the highest levels of world chess, Netflix humiliated the one real woman trailblazer who had actually faced and defeated men on the world stage in the same era.” To make matters worse, she claims they made her character Russian despite, “despite knowing that she was Georgian, and that Georgians had suffered under Russian domination when part of the Soviet Union, and had been bullied and invaded by Russia thereafter.”
She is suing Netflix for in excess of $5 million.