Former Soviet chess champion Nona Gaprindashvili is suing Netflix for "undermining and degrading her accomplishments" in "The Queen's Gambit," according to reports.
At issue is a scene in the series' final episode during which the protagonist, Beth Harmon, is competing in Moscow for the world chess title, according to Entertainment Weekly. At one point the commentator watching Harmon play references Gaprindashvili and her career.
"Elizabeth Harmon’s not at all an important player by their standards," the announcer said. "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."
The scene takes place in 1968, and by that time Gaprindashvili had already faced men several times in chess and reportedly 10 grandmasters, according to her lawsuit. The line in the series that says she had not played against any men at the time was "manifestly false" and "grossly sexist and belittling," the complaint claims, accusing Netflix of false light invasion of privacy and defamation and stating that the streamer was well aware of the facts.
In response to the lawsuit, a Netflix spokesperson told EW that, while the streamer had "only the utmost respect for Ms. Gaprindashvili and her illustrious career," they believed her claim "has no merit and will vigorously defend the case."
Gaprindashvili's complaint, meanwhile, argues that Netflix "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."
The story was supposed to inspire women by showing a young woman competing with men at the highest levels of world chess, the lawsuit further states, but instead "Netflix humiliated the one real woman trail blazer who had actually faced and defeated men on the world stage in the same era."
In an interview with The New York Times, Gaprindashvili pointed out the irony of the situation.
"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," she said.
The lawsuit is seeking at least $5 million in damages as well as a court order to remove the line from "The Queen's Gambit."
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