Chess champion sues Netflix over Queen’s Gambit scene

A scene from “The Queen’s Gambit” alleges that grandmaster Nona Gaprindashvili never played against men, though she often played and beat them.

Images of fictional chess player Beth Harmon and real chess player Nona Gaprindashvili playing games

Former World Women’s Chess Champion Nona Gaprindashvili sues Netflix over ‘humiliating’ scene in their limited series The Queen’s Bet. The controversial moment occurs in the seventh and final episode of the series when a chess commentator mentions Gaprindashvili by name and claims that she has never played against male opponents. In real life, Gaprindashvili played and won many matches against men.

The Queen’s Bet is the (fictional) story of chess prodigy Beth Harmon, who fights her way to the top of the international chess scene while battling drug and alcohol addiction. Netflix data shows the series was watched by over 62 million viewers and sparked an unprecedented upsurge in the popularity of chess. It was also an awards season hit that won 11 Emmys, including the Outstanding Limited Series award.


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Gaprindashvili’s lawsuit alleges defamation, calling the line saying she “never faced men” a “devastating lie” and claiming the show damaged her reputation. During an hour-long video interview, she recalled how she was a pioneer for women in chess long before Beth Harmon existed. The lawsuit argues that Netflix “deliberately lied” to The Queen’s Bet62 million viewers to make it seem like at the time the show takes place, no female player had accomplished what Harmon had.

Beth Harmon writes the final blow in her final match against Vasily Borgov in

The Queen’s Bet is based on a book by Walter Tevis which was published in 1983. The book also mentions Nona Gaprindashvili during the final section where Harmon plays at the Moscow Invitational Tournament. However, this does not include the erroneous claim about Gaprindashvili’s choice of opponents. Instead, it says she had “met these great Russian masters many times before.”

Netflix released a statement in response, saying that while they have “the utmost respect” for Gaprindashvili’s accomplishments, his lawsuit was without merit. Gaprindashvili, in turn, argues that the series “barred” her entire career, the one she spent “fighting to be accepted.” She wants the line in question removed and is seeking $5 million in damages.

The Queen’s Bet should be allowed to take the same creative liberties as any other work of fiction. After all, the Netflix show has never claimed to be historically accurate. Still, it doesn’t make sense that such an obvious lie about a real, living person should appear in the script in the first place. Gaprindashvili is an important figure in chess (she was even the first player to win the Grandmaster title), and it’s understandable that she doesn’t want one line in the series to define her legacy.

The Queen’s Bet is currently streaming on Netflix.

MORE: The Queen’s Gambit is very, very popular

Source: The New York Times

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