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Chess Star Sues Netflix Because Queen’s Gambit Erased Her Accolades

Kotaku logo Kotaku 18/9/2021 Zack Zwiezen
Anya Taylor-Joy sitting at a table © Image: Netflix

Female Soviet chess legend Nona Gaprindashvili is suing Netflix for $5 million after a scene in the hit show Queen’s Gambit falsely claimed she had never played against men. In fact, she claims to have played and beaten dozens of men. In the suit, Gaprindashvili called the incorrect dialogue “grossly sexist”.

The lawsuit was filed in LA district court on September 16 and is focused mostly on one scene in the Queen’s Gambit. The popular Netflix show is about a fictional American chess player named Beth Harmon who rises up the ranks to become a globally successful chess legend. In the finale of the series, during one scene, a commentator watching Harmon play directly references real-life chess star Gaprindashvili and her career.

“Elizabeth Harmon’s not at all an important player by their standards,” explained the announcer. “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.”

At this point, Queen’s Gambit is set in the year 1968. According to the lawsuit filed by Gaprindashvili, by this point in time, she had already played and defeated many men in chess, including 10 grandmasters.

Read More: Chess Is An Esport, According To Twitch Star And Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura

In the suit, the 80-year-old calls the line and the claim she had never played men “manifestly false”. She is suing Netflix for false light invasion of privacy and defamation.

The lawsuit continues, harshly criticizing Netflix for its choice to change history and claiming the company had “brazenly and deliberately lied” about her 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.”

Netflix said in a statement to the LA Times that the streamer had the “utmost respect” for the legendary chess player, but believes the lawsuit “has no merit” and “will vigorously defend the case.”

In an interview with the New York Times, Gaprindashvili found the whole situation ironic. “[Netflix] was trying to do this fictional character who was blazing the trail for other women, when in reality I had already blazed the trail and inspired generations.”

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