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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