While The Queen's Gambit is sure to win an armful of Emmys for Netflix Sunday, the show is at the center of a new lawsuit filed by the real-life chess legend Nona Gaprindashvili. The series finale features a line from a commentator claiming that Anya Taylor-Joy's Beth Harmon's success in the chess world is remarkable because Gaprindashvili had not played men. The truth is far from that though, and the real Gaprindashvili, now 80, is seeking $5 million in damages from Netflix.
In the finale, Beth succeeds in a major tournament in Russia. "The only unusual thing about her, really, is her sex, and even that's not unique in Russia," an announcer says, as an inspired woman is shown watching Beth. "There's Nona Gaprindashvili, but she's the female world champion and has never faced men." In reality, Gaprindashvili, who lives in Tbilisi, Georgia, did compete against men The first woman to be named a grandmaster even made the New York Times in 1968 for beating seven men in a tournament.
On Thursday, Gaprindashvili filed a defamation lawsuit against Netflix in Los Angeles federal court. She claimed the line in the finale was a "devastating falsehood, undermining and degrading her accomplishments before an audience of many millions." She asked for the line to be removed in the 25-page complaint and is seeking $5 million in damages, reports Deadline.
"They were 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," Gaprindashvili told The New York Times. "That's the irony." She went on to call it an "insulting experience" to see her accomplishments ignored. "This is my entire life that has been crossed out, as though it is not important," she added.
In the lawsuit, Gaprindashvili accused Netflix of "brazenly and deliberately" Gaprindashvili lying about her achievements for the "cheap and cynical purpose of 'heightening the drama'" to make audiences believe that Beth did something the real Gaprindashvili did not do. Although the story is intended to inspire women, "Netflix humiliated the one real woman trail blazer who had actually faced and defeated men on the world stage in the same era," reads the lawsuit.
Netflix believes the lawsuit has no merit. "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," the streamer said in response.
The Queen's Gambit is based on the 1983 novel by Walter Tevis about an orphaned chess prodigy who struggles with drug dependency. The series was written and directed by Emmy-nominee Scott Frank. The show has been one of the biggest scripted series in Netflix's history and already won eight Emmys at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards last weekend. The Queen's Gambit was also nominated for Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series; Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie (Taylor-Joy); Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie (Thomas Brodie-Sangster); and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie (Moses Ingram).