Nona Gaprindashvili, former chess champion, filed a lawsuit against Netflix for falsely representing her in public eye through the 2020 show The Queen’s Gambit, on Thursday. She has sought damages worth at least $5 million.
The series runs parallel to Gaprindashvili’s life and is based on Walter Tevis’ novel of the same name. It follows the life of fictional American chess prodigy Elizabeth Harmon, or Beth, and her journey to becoming a World champion along with tackling her issues with drugs and alcohol.
Anya Taylor-Joy who plays Beth in the show has won the Golden Globe award for her performance.
According to the lawsuit, that comes a few days ahead of the Emmys, the Georgian grand-master referred to a scene from the final episode, End Game, wherein a commentator is quoted saying, “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 claimed that the allegation that she “has never faced men” is “manifestly false,” apart from being sexist, and was added to heighten the drama in the otherwise fictional show. The lawsuit stated that by 1968, the year in which the last episode is set, Gaprindashvili had competed against at least 59 male chess players (28 of them simultaneously in one game), including at least ten Grandmasters of that time.
The complainant added that the error was made despite Netflix hiring renowned chess players and experts Gary Kasporav and Bruce Pandolfini to work as consultants on the show.
The Queen’s Gambit, that released on October 23, hit a viewership record of 62 million views within 28 days of its release, according to Netflix. After its premiere, the book featured on The New York Times best seller list, 37 years after its publication.
Considering the show’s popularity, Gaprindashvili said that the false representation harms her brand in that her “current participation in the chess world, and her ability to earn income from that participation, remains tied to her historical success and accomplishments” that were notably achieved “when chess was overwhelmingly a man’s world.”
The lawsuit added that after the show’s release, Gaprindashvili confronted Netflix and demanded a public statement. “Netflix could have responded in any number of inexpensive and morally honorable ways of making redress, but instead it responded with extraordinary hubris, dismissing Gaprindashvili’s assertion of defamation by claiming that the false statement was “innocuous”, the complaint stated.
In addition, Gaprindashvili further pointed out that the show got her nationality wrong. “Piling on additional insult to injury, Netflix described Gaprindashvili as Russian, despite knowing that she was Georgian, and that Georgians had suffered under Russian domination when part of the Soviet Union, and had been bullied and invaded by Russia thereafter.”
The Queen’s Gambit is nominated in 18 categories at the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards, that is scheduled to be held on Saturday. It won nine Emmys at the Creative Arts awards, on Sunday.