Netflix's The Queen's Gambit, a mini-series based on Walter Tevis's 1983 novel of the same name, is about a woman chess player, Beth Harmon, who becomes world champion in 1968. Although it's fictional, the final episode makes a one-line reference to real-life first female grandmaster from the same year, Nona Gaprindashvili — and now the 80-year-old player is suing.
The line in question, spoken by the fictional chess tournament's commentator: "There's Nona Gaprindashvili, but she is the female world champion, and has never faced men." [See video below.] The camera then pans from Harmon to a woman in the audience who resembles real-life Gaprindashvili.
Gaprindashvili, the only woman chess player to enter the 1968 International Tournament in Gothenburg, Sweden, according to The Washington Post, beat seven out of nine male players and came in third place overall.
From the Washington Post:
That moment, shown in the final episode of the series, is now the subject of a defamation lawsuit that Gaprindashvili filed against Netflix on Thursday.
"The allegation that Gaprindashvili 'has never faced men' is manifestly false, as well as being grossly sexist and belittling," the lawsuit states. Alleging false light and defamation, the suit demands at least $5 million in damages.
"Netflix brazenly and deliberately lied about Gaprindashvili's 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 lawsuit adds.
Recounting the numerous times Gaprindashvili faced men — including the 1977 tournament that led to the Georgian becoming the first woman to achieve the title of grandmaster — the lawsuit compares the trajectories of the real-life Gaprindashvili and the fictional Harmon. The lawsuit also points out an irony: In attempting to create an inspiring story about a woman excelling in a male-dominated sport, Netflix "humiliated" Gaprindashvili, a trailblazer for women in chess whom some called the "real life Beth Harmon" after the show's release.
Netflix did not comment for the Washington Post article, but said to The New York Times, "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."