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A Soviet-era chess master is suing Netflix over a “sexist” line featured in The Queen’s Gambit.
Deadline reports Nona Gaprindashvili, a pioneer in the world of women’s chess, filed a $5 million lawsuit against the streaming giant on Thursday, nearly a year after the limited series hit Netflix. The Emmy-nominated show tells the story of Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), an orphaned chess prodigy who breaks gender barriers in the mid-20th century. In the series’ finale, an unnamed commentator briefly mentions Gaprindashvili while Harmon competes in a Moscow chess tournament.
“The only unusual thing about [Harmon], really, is her sex, and even that’s not unique in Russia,” the announcer is heard saying. “There’s Nona Gaprindashvili, but she’s the female world champion and has never faced men.”
Gaprindashvili, who became the first woman to be named a chess grandmaster in 1978, says the throwaway line was not only inaccurate, it was also “belittling,” as it erased her history of competing—and winning—against men.
“Gaprindashvili is a pioneer of women’s chess and a much-loved icon in her native country of Georgia,” read the lawsuit obtained by Deadline. “Throughout her extraordinary career, she won many championships, beat some of the best male chess players in the world, and was the first woman in history to achieve the status of international chess grandmaster among men …
“The allegation that Gaprindashvili ‘has never faced men’ is manifestly false, as well as being grossly sexist and belittling. By 1968, the year in which this episode is set, she had competed against at least 59 male chess players (28 of them simultaneously in one game), including at least ten Grandmasters of that time, including Dragolyub Velimirovich, Svetozar Gligoric, Paul Keres, Bojan Kurajica, Boris Spassky, Viswanathan Anand and Mikhail Tal. The last three were also world champions during their careers.”
The complaint argues Netflix was aware of these facts, as it had hired chess experts and historians to serve as consultants. It goes on to say that the streamer “deliberately lied” about Gaprindashvili’s accomplishments “for the cheap and cynical purpose of ‘heightening the drama.’”
The now-80-year-old says the false information featured in The Queen’s Gambit has caused her humiliation, distress, and anguish. In addition to damages, Gaprindashvili is demanding the removal of the aforementioned line from the series.
Netflix released the following response to the complaint.
“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.”