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Who is Nona Gaprindashvili? First female chess Grandmaster sues Netflix for $5 million over The Queen's Gambit episode

Nona Gaprindashvili was the fifth women's world chess champion (Image via mattamato/Instagram)
Nona Gaprindashvili was the fifth women's world chess champion (Image via mattamato/Instagram)

Nona Gaprindashvili, the Georgian chess icon, has reportedly filed a $5-million lawsuit against Netflix for defamation in one episode of The Queen's Gambit.

The chess icon's defamation complaint, as reported by Deadline, states:

“The allegation that Gaprindashvili ‘has never faced men’ is manifestly false, as well as being grossly sexist and belittling.”

Netflix appealed to terminate the charges, pleading that The Queen's Gambit is a piece of fiction and the creators of the series should be allowed to have artistic liberty. It also argued that the content was safeguarded under the First Amendment, but the plea was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips.

As reported by Deadline, Judge Virginia A. Phillips wrote:

“The fact that the Series was a fictional work does not insulate Netflix from liability for defamation if all the elements of defamation are otherwise present.”

As reported, the chess icon has requested a jury trial and this could all end up there. But the streaming company had no comment on the ruling.


Nona Gaprindashvili is the first female Grandmaster in the chess world

Nona Gaprindashvili, now 80-years-old, is one of the greatest chess Grandmasters, and lives in Tbilisi, Georgia. In 1978, she became the first woman to be awarded the prestigious International Chess Federation title of Grandmaster.

She was the fifth women's World Chess Champion from 1962 to 1978. She won the Women's Soviet Championship five times collectively in the following years: 1964, 1973, 1981, 1983, and 1985.

By the year 1968, in which this particular episode of The Queen's Gambit is set, Gaprindashvili had competed against approximately 59 male chess players. The list entails at least the 10 Grandmasters of that era, including Dragolyub Velimirovich, Paul Keres, Svetozar Gligoric, Bojan Kurajica, Boris Spassky, Mikhail Tal, and some significant others.


The lawsuit was filed against a line in The Queen's Gambit which says Nona never faced any male player

The Netflix limited series premiered in October 2020 and was watched by almost 62 million households within the first month of its release.

In the final episode of the Netflix series, The Queen's Gambit, a commentator says, "The only unusual thing about her, really, is her s*x, and even that’s not unique in Russia." This line is spoken while Beth Harmon is playing in a challenging match against a male challenger in Moscow 1968. The commentator further continues by saying, "There’s Nona Gaprindashvili, but she’s the female world champion and has never faced men."

The Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis, the 1983 novel from which the series was heavily gleaned, nowhere states that she had never faced men. The book reads: "There was Nona Gaprindashvili, not up to the level of this tournament, but a player who had met all these Russian Grandmasters many times before."

The Georgia-born real-life chess icon objected to the line in the series' final episode, namely “End Game,” that placed her real-life achievements in comparison with Anya Taylor-Joy’s fictional portrayal of Beth Harmon in The Queen's Gambit.

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Edited by Abu Amjad Khan
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