The Queen’s Gambit: Netflix hit with defamation lawsuit claiming sexism

Chess icon Nona Gaprindashvili is suing Netflix for The Queen's Gambit dialogue.

Before Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit inevitably scores a checkmate (or several) at the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards, the show is now facing an intimidating opponent: Nona Gaprindashvili. Reports indicate that Soviet chess icon Nona Gaprindashvili is suing Netflix for $5 million in a defamation lawsuit over a line of dialogue in the show.

The line that Gaprindashvili has taken umbrage with comes from the final episode of the series, titled “Endgame.” In the episode, a commentator compares Gaprindashvili’s real-life accomplishments to Anya Taylor-Joy’s Beth Harmon. “The only unusual thing about her, really, is her sex, and even that’s not unique in Russia,” the commentator says. “There’s Nona Gaprindashvili, but she’s the female world champion and has never faced men.”

According to Gaprindashvili, the above quote is a misrepresentation of her achievements. “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,” says the suit filed by Gaprindashvili.

“The allegation that Gaprindashvili ‘has never faced men’ is manifestly false, as well as being grossly sexist and belittling,” Gaprindashvili’s 25-page complaint adds. “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.”

But wait, there’s more! Hit ’em with the haymaker, Gaprindashvili!

“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,” argues Rufus-Isaacs Acland & Grantham LLP. “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 trail-blazer who had faced and defeated men on the world stage in the same era.”

“This arrogant refusal to take responsibility for its actions was shockingly tone-deaf, given the sexism and offensiveness of its lie.”

Your move, Netflix. What say you?

“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,” said a spokesperson on Thursday.

Really, Netflix? That’s all you’ve got? I think Gaprindashvili and her lawyers might be a few moves ahead of you on this one. You might want to brush up on your legal game if you’re thinking about rising to the challenge in court.

What do you think of this situation? Is Netflix in the wrong, or is Gaprindashvili overreaching? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Source: Deadline

About the Author

Born and raised in New York, then immigrated to Canada, Steve Seigh has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. He started with Ink & Pixel, a column celebrating the magic and evolution of animation, before launching the companion YouTube series Animation Movies Revisited. He's also the host of the Talking Comics Podcast, a personality-driven audio show focusing on comic books, film, music, and more. You'll rarely catch him without headphones on his head and pancakes on his breath.