First female chess grandmaster sues Netflix for misrepresentation in Queen’s Gambit | Chess
Netflix will face a $5 million libel lawsuit brought by a Georgian chess master who claims he was defamed in the hit series The Queen’s Gambit, after a judge refused to start the lawsuit on Thursday.
Nona Gaprindashvili, the first woman to be named a chess grandmaster, sued the streaming company in federal court in September. Gaprindashvili alleges that a line in The Queen’s Gambit, where a character erroneously states that she has “never faced men”, is “grossly sexist and derogatory”. Gaprindashvili had played against 59 male competitors in 1968, the year the show is set.
Damages are sought for what the suit claims was a “devastating lie, undermining and demeaning his achievements before an audience of millions.”
Netflix had previously requested the dismissal of the defamation lawsuit, arguing that the series is fiction and that the show’s creators should have an artistic license protected under the First Amendment.
Netflix further argued that the show used two chess experts to certify the series’ details, noting that the reference to Gaprindashvili was meant to “acknowledge her, not denigrate her,” according to the streamer’s attorneys.
But on thursday decision in California, first reported by VarietyU.S. District Judge Virginia A Phillips found Gaprindashvili’s argument reasonable, noting that works of fiction were not immune from defamation if real people were slandered.
“Netflix does not cite, and the Court is not aware of, any cases barring defamation suits for depictions of real people in otherwise fictional works,” Phillips wrote. “The fact that the series is a work of fiction does not absolve Netflix of liability for defamation if all elements of defamation are otherwise present.”
The Queen’s Gambit, who won 11 Emmy Awards in 2021, is based on the 1983 novel by Walter Tevis. The fictional limited series follows the character of Beth Harmon, an American played by Anya Taylor-Joy, as she rises through the ranks of competitive chess in the 1960s.
Gaprindashvili is now 80 years old and lives in Tbilisi, Georgia. “They were trying to do this fictional character who paved the way for other women, when in reality I had already paved the way and inspired generations,” Gaprindashvili said in a interview with the New York Times. “That’s the irony.”
The suit also noted that the film portrayed her as Russian, despite being Georgian.