Netflix was hit with a lawsuit on Thursday over the mention of chess champion Nona Gaprindashvili in the final episode of the Emmy-winning limited series “The Queens Gambit.”
Gaprindashvili was mentioned in passing in dialogue from the final episode, with a commentator referring to her as a “female world champion [who] has never faced men.” Gaprindashvili’s lawsuit calls the comment “manifestly false, as well as being grossly sexist and belittling.”
Gaprindashvili is suing Netflix for false light invasion of privacy and defamation. She is seeking $5 million plus punitive damages.
“The Queen’s Gambit,” based on Walter Tevis’ 1983 novel of the same name, tells the story of a fictional female chess prodigy through her career in the 1950s and ’60s. Though the majority of the major characters are fictional, the series makes mention of several real-life events and figures across its seven-episode run, including the comment about Gaprindashvili.
“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,” Gaprindashvili’s attorneys argue in the lawsuit.
The suit notes that Tevis’ book references her career correctly and that Netflix had multiple chess consultants working on the series who would have been aware of the error. Gaprindashvili also took issue with her being described as a Russian player when she is from Georgia, a country that “had suffered under Russian domination when part of the Soviet Union, and had been bullied and invaded by Russia thereafter.”
“Netflix had no need to use Gaprindashvili’s name and to disparage her achievements for dramatic purposes. It could have used a fictional character instead; or it could have referred to her by name, but not told the lie that she had never competed against men. Instead, Netflix deliberately eschewed these non-defamatory alternatives because it believed that the lie made for a more dramatic story,” the suit reads.
A spokesperson for Netflix responded to the lawsuit in a statement: “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.”
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.