Netflix's The Queen's Gambit Sparks $5 Million Defamation Lawsuit From Real-Life Chess Icon

Chess star Nona Gaprindashvili has taken issue with a reference to her within the show.

Netflix has been hit by a $5 million defamation lawsuit over the hit drama The Queen’s Gambit.

Soviet chess expert Nona Gaprindashvili has taken legal action over a line referencing her in the show, which broke records for the streaming giant upon its debut last year.

Nona has taken issue over a moment in the series finale in which a commentator is heard stating: “The only unusual thing about [Beth Harmon, Anya Taylor-Joy’s character], really, is her sex, and even that’s not unique in Russia.

“There’s Nona Gaprindashvili, but she’s the female world champion and has never faced men.”

Anya Taylor-Joy in The Queen's Gambit
Anya Taylor-Joy in The Queen's Gambit
Phil Bray/Netflix

According to Deadline, the defamation lawsuit says: “Gaprindashvili is 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 allegation that Gaprindashvili ‘has never faced men’ is manifestly false, as well as being grossly sexist and belittling,” the legal papers state.

“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. The last three were also world champions during their careers.”

Nona Gaprindashvili pictured in 1964
Nona Gaprindashvili pictured in 1964
Stanley Sherman via Getty Images

Gaprindashvili, now 80 years old, is seeking $5 million (£3.62 million) in damages.

A Netflix rep commented: “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.”

The Queen’s Gambit debuted last year, and became Netflix’s most-watched show ever, a record which was later broken when Bridgerton arrived at the end of 2020.

After winning two awards at the Golden Globes earlier in the year, the miniseries is in the running in six categories at the Emmys, which will take place over the weekend.

Among these nominations are Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series and nods for actors Anya Taylor-Joy, Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Moses Ingram and director Scott Frank.


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