Soviet-era Georgian chess champion Nona Gaprindashvili has launched a $5 million lawsuit against Netflix for defamation, accusing the streaming network of "brazenly and deliberately" lying about her in the fictional television series The Queen’s Gambit.
The final episode of the popular TV series that premiered in 2020 includes a line from an announcer who describes Gaprindashvili as “the female world champion" and as a player who "has never faced men.”
The lawsuit, filed in the Central District of California on September 16, says the dialogue in the episode is “false” and “sexist and belittling” and is directly tied to Gaprindashvili as her name is mentioned in the final scene and "the camera pans onto an actor sitting in the audience, watching the game, who is obviously meant to be Gaprindashvili."
"The allegation that Gaprindashvili 'has never faced men' is manifestly false, as well as being grossly sexist and belittling," the lawsuit states, noting that by 1968, the year in which the episode in question is set, she had competed against at least 59 male chess players, at least 10 of whom were grandmasters at the time.
"Netflix brazenly and deliberately lied about Gaprindashvili's achievements for the cheap and cynical purpose of 'heightening the drama'.... Netflix humiliated the one real woman trailblazer who had actually faced and defeated men on the world stage in the same era," it added.
Gaprindashvili, 80, played for the Soviet Union in the Women's Chess Olympiads from the early 1960s until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, winning 11 team gold medals and nine individual gold medals.
She also successfully competed in several men's tournaments. Her performance at the Lone Pine tournament in 1977 made her the first woman to perform at a high enough level to earn the title of International Grandmaster, which FIDE granted to her in 1978.
Forbes quoted Netflix as saying in a statement that the company has the “utmost respect for Ms. Gaprindashvili and her illustrious career.” However, they “believe this claim has no merit” and they will “vigorously defend the case."