Nona Gaprindashvili, a female Soviet chess champion, is suing Netflix for $5million over a line in The Queen’s Gambit.
In the show’s finale, a line compares the accomplishments of fictional chess player Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) to Gaprindashvili – stating she’s never played chess against men.
A character remarks: “Elizabeth Harmon’s not at all an important player by their standards. The only unusual thing about her, 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.”
Gaprindashvili has filed a defamation lawsuit (via Deadline) stating this is entirely false, and that she had competed against 59 male chess players, 28 of them simultaneously in one game, along with ten Grandmasters, by the year 1968 when the episode is set.
“The allegation that Gaprindashvili ‘has never faced men’ is manifestly false, as well as being grossly sexist and belittling,” the 25-page lawsuit reads.
Speaking about the lawsuit in an interview with The New York Times, Gaprindashvili, now aged 80, said: “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. That’s the irony.”
The lawsuit is seeking damages for what the suit claims is a “devastating falsehood, undermining and degrading her accomplishments before an audience of many millions”.
In response to the lawsuit, a Netflix spokesperson said: “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 is based on Walter Tevis’ 1983 novel of the same name, with the lawsuit claiming the text was “deliberately” altered by the streaming giant to heighten the drama.
This controversy comes ahead of the 2021 Emmy Awards this weekend, where The Queen’s Gambit is nominated for Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series, Outstanding Lead Actress for Anya Taylor-Joy, Outstanding Directing and many more.