Chess Pioneer Sues Netflix

by Frederic Friedel
9/18/2021 – Nona Gaprindashvili, a history-making chess champion, has sued the giant video portal Netflix over a line in the series ‘The Queen’s Gambit’, where it was claimed that the female world champion had never faced men. Nona and her attorneys called the statement grossly sexist and belittling. "By 1968, the year in which the episode is set, she had competed against at least 59 male chess players." The international news is full of the story.

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In the final episode of “The Queen’s Gambit,” the wildly popular Netflix series, an announcer delivers chess play-by-play and commentary while the show’s fictional heroine, portrayed by Anya Taylor-Joy, competes in a climactic tournament in Moscow.

“The only unusual thing about her, really, is her sex, and even that’s not unique in Russia,” the announcer intones, as a woman watching the match comes into focus. “There’s Nona Gaprindashvili, but she’s the female world champion and has never faced men.”

The series is fiction, but there is a real pioneering chess champion named Nona Gaprindashvili, the first woman to be named a grandmaster. Now 80 years old and living in Tbilisi, Georgia, she was pained to learn that the television show had erased her many successes against male opponents. (A 1968 headline in The New York Times, for instance, reads, “Chess: Miss Gaprindashvili Beats 7 Men in a Strong Tourney.”)

So on Thursday, Ms. Gaprindashvili filed a lawsuit against Netflix in Federal District Court in Los Angeles, seeking millions of dollars in damages for what the suit claims is a “devastating falsehood, undermining and degrading her accomplishments before an audience of many millions” and calling for the line about her not facing men to be removed.

Nona Gaprindashvili has indeed played against men countless times in her career.

Here for example is her tournament participation in Lone Pine 1977:

Final standings

In an interview with the European Chess Academy in 2019 Nona Gaprindashivili said:

When I was 60, I published a book with my best games. The book is divided into three sections: short games, games against men and games against women. There is only one game in the book that ends in a draw: my game against the legendary Serbian grandmaster Drasko Velimirovic. But it was spectacular and was voted the best game of the year by the Informator.

Here's a comparison of the careers Beth Harmon and Nona Gaprindashvili

Former Women's World Champions Maya Chiburdanize and Nona Gaprindashvili in 2019 at the FIDE Golden Golden Pawn awards in Monte Carlo | Photo Frederic Friedel

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Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.
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hansj hansj 9/25/2021 12:15
To the best of my knowledge Gaprindashvili has not claimed financial loss.
You can read the full text of her law suit here:
Revealingknighty Revealingknighty 9/23/2021 10:13
Turok rather - not Turk, typo.
Revealingknighty Revealingknighty 9/23/2021 10:12
@Turok yes agreed, it is impossible to show loss of earnings. I still agree with her stance though. It is strange that the scriptwriters planted the line in there. Only chessplayers would understand the reference, so it's designed to appeal to us as the audience, but that's all the more reason to get the reference right! I hope that nona isn't spending money on this suit, as I think you are probably right Turk, in terms of outcome.
turok turok 9/22/2021 04:45
@Revealingknighty Once again how did it hurt her reputation? Most people who watched that show were NON chess players and they had no clue if that was a bad statement in the first place. Like I said lets say I am a juror I need to know how she was harmed and how it hurt her financially. Look up slander it doesnt fit in this case
Revealingknighty Revealingknighty 9/21/2021 01:10
I agree with Ordinary Person. I think this is directly slanderous. There was a conscious decision to change the original passage in the book and portray Nona in this way. Nona may not be successful in her case, but I hope that she wins some sort of settlement. In my opinion she is quite right to challenge Netflix on this. I enjoyed the series, but I remember also being thrown by that line and even thinking at the time I watched it that it unfairly trivialized her contribution.
PEB216 PEB216 9/21/2021 05:25
So Nona Gaprindashvili thinks that she can sue a TV series, Queen's Gambit, for millions of dollars because they were mistaken about Gaprindshvili's record against male opponents. How pathetic!!!
Ajeeb007 Ajeeb007 9/21/2021 02:37
What damages? Just a money grab that shouldn't be allowed since the movie is obviously a fiction and not a historical documentary. No one cares who she played decades ago anyway. 99.9% of the movie's watchers wouldn't even recognize her name.
ulyssesganesh ulyssesganesh 9/20/2021 06:17
the only defence for netflix is ... probably it would have meant ... Nana didn't face men for the absolute world chess ch.,
turok turok 9/20/2021 09:45
@Ordinary Person she has to prove damages so please tell me how it has damaged her name or career-show how she has lost endorsements-most people who watched that do not even know her name was real either.
Ordinary Person Ordinary Person 9/19/2021 06:42
@turok It is slanderous, since her entire career proved how women can compete with men (first women GM among other achievements, breaking the glass ceiling for women)...Netflix very easily dismissed and belittled this fact. She is already well-known for this, she doesn't need any false mentions this way that smears her good name....
chessbibliophile chessbibliophile 9/19/2021 06:18
So much hype on this film. Instead players should wait for the Russian motion picture, чемпион мира (The World Champion) that would be released on 30th December, 2021.
Here is the official trailer:
No guesses on the protagonists. They are known.
robwilly robwilly 9/19/2021 04:55
All the commentator needed to do was qualify with the statement intending to say, never played against a man for the chess championship.
hansj hansj 9/19/2021 03:27
Of course Nona Gaprindashvili in all probability will lose this law suit.
Characters in fiction movies or novels are not witnesses in court and by law required to state the objective truth and nothing but the truth.
Imagine if they were!
s8977 s8977 9/19/2021 12:59
a film is a novel, fictional characters, fictional scenario etc. it is a stupid of nana
elmaestro1967 elmaestro1967 9/19/2021 07:40
Yes!!!!!!!!!!! Sue Netflix!!! I love it!!! Yes!!!! Netflix have to pay !!!!
turok turok 9/19/2021 06:39
@Mike Magnan how is this slanderous-what damage has it caused her-heck her name being mentioned got people to know who she was-
Peter B Peter B 9/19/2021 06:20
Since quote is set in 1967, why on earth is this article presenting results from 1977? Nona played many of the greats before 1967, show those games instead.
Masquer Masquer 9/19/2021 05:25
@Uommibatto , that's right - where was Garry Kasparov, one of the consultants??
dlemper dlemper 9/19/2021 12:56
Using her real name the writers made a false statement. She is entitled to damages.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 9/18/2021 10:16
Why wouldn't Netflix just correct the line, which is obviously slanderous against a living legend? The fact that she first asked for a correction and apology shows that she's not doing this for the money.
hansj hansj 9/18/2021 05:28
@Mike Magnan
Nona Gaprindashvili is not a fictional character.
Mike Magnan Mike Magnan 9/18/2021 05:11
It's sort of wrong to me. I mean...these are fictional characters. what?
hansj hansj 9/18/2021 04:27
Frederic Frederic 9/18/2021 01:55
I have known about Maya Chiburdanize and Nona Gaprindashvili and followed their careers during my entire adult life. I met them in 2019 in Monte Carlo personally for the first time. Both were thoroughly charming. Nona has a dry sense of humour, which I really appreciate. I am in touch with Maya, but Nona is not an email kind of person.
hansj hansj 9/18/2021 01:35
@Gonnawin, take a look at Hastings 1963/64, Reykjavik 1964, Hastings 1964/65, Beverwijk 1966, Gothenburg 1967.
Yes, Chessbase blundered by referring to Lone Pine 1977.
Gonnawin Gonnawin 9/18/2021 01:18
All 9 games in the article are from 1977. It would be interesting to see some of the games she played 1968 or earlier. More relevant since the Netflix Queen gambit serie is supposed to be from 1968. Difficult to win a lawsuit against a fictional Hollywood produced movie, that never claimed to be telling facts, but is 100% fictional. Loving the Queens gambit serie and looking forward to the continuation. Its most likely also going to be entertaining and unrealistic, just like most made up movies.
hansj hansj 9/18/2021 01:12
@Frankiez, yes the story is fiction. But this part is an outright lie about an actual, not fictitious, but living person:
“There’s Nona Gaprindashvili, but she’s the female world champion and has never faced men.”
Frankiez Frankiez 9/18/2021 12:14
Much ado about nothing. She has too much ego and thinks too highly of herself: the Netflix show is just a fictitious story.
Ordinary Person Ordinary Person 9/18/2021 12:08
@mc1483 absolutely wrong statement. A quick check on chessgames and you can find at least 30 games(check for yourself for the exact number, surely there's at least 10-15 more) played with men before 1968. And this is from a small sample of mostly international tournaments and championships within the Soviet, less than 164 games from before 1968.
Look for Reykjavik 1964, that's 13 games right there, Tal and household names playing and she holds her own.
hansj hansj 9/18/2021 11:59
Before 1968 Nona Gaprindashvili played in these international tournaments against male opponents:

Hastings 1963/64, where she won the B-group, challengers
Reykjavik 1964, competing against the likes of Tal, Gligoric and Olafsson
Hastings 1964/65, where she drew against the great Keres
Beverwijk 1966
Gothenburg 1967, with a draw against another world class male GM, Geller
Gerald C Gerald C 9/18/2021 11:33
5 millions dollars in damage ??? Nona is losing her head.
mc1483 mc1483 9/18/2021 11:31
Before 1968 she had played so few games against men that the Netflix line was substantially correct. The Lone Pine tournament, presented as "proof" she played against men, was held in 1977.
turok turok 9/18/2021 10:52
This is a JOKE she has nothing to get and if I was a juror I would give her zero at most 1 dollar. What a waste of time. This story is not a true story at all.
Zagliveri_chess Zagliveri_chess 9/18/2021 08:34
The netflix response to her polite, I would say classy, request for a correction was more insulting that the line in the film. If I were a juror I would award Nona twice the amount she asked for.
chessgod0 chessgod0 9/18/2021 06:12
They made a huge mistake when they used her real name as opposed to a fictional name like the other characters. And all she wanted was an apology and a correction...and they denied her that.

Good on her for taking action, I hope she gets every penny.
Uommibatto Uommibatto 9/18/2021 06:04
Oh, come on... I think this is ridiculous. Why this throwaway line was included in the show is indeed mystifying (and where were the chess consultants?), but $5M in damages?