Chess legend sues Netflix for $5MN over ‘sexist’ claim that she never faced men and ‘insult’ of being called Russian, not Georgian
A chess star is suing Netflix for being “grossly sexist” by including a line in a hit series claiming that she “never played men”, launching a $5 million lawsuit that also takes issue with being depicted as Russian.
Nona Gaprindashvili, the fifth women’s world chess champion, has filed a lawsuit against the platform over a reference to her in top show ‘The Queen’s Gambit’, featuring a fictional prodigy who goes on to beat Russia’s finest players in Moscow during the 1960s.
Now 80, Gaprindashvili has taken exception to a part in the final part of the series that describes the “only unusual thing about her” being her gender.
“And even that’s not unique in Russia,” the segment of the episode continues. “There’s Nona Gaprindashvili, but she’s the female world champion and has never faced men.”
In her suit, Gaprindashvili is said to have described that as “manifestly false, as well as being grossly sexist and belittling.”
The 11-time Olympiad gold medalist for the Soviet Union and Georgia says that she had faced at least 59 male chess players by 1968, when the episode takes place.
The complaint continues: “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.”
Gaprindashvili’s representatives also say that the description of the Georgian as Russian is a case of “piling on additional insult to injury” and makes a number of claims about the relationship between the two countries.
Gaprindashvili has won immediate support from high-profile figures in chess and sport in Russia.
Nona Gaprindashvili during a simultaneous exhibition in Moscow in October 1962 (TASS Archive). pic.twitter.com/6169kTu9OL
— Olimpiu G. Urcan (@olimpiuurcan) September 17, 2021
“There are facts: Gaprindashvili played successfully with men,” Sergey Smagin, the Vice President of the Moscow Chess Federation, told Gazeta, adding that he wished for her to win the case “with all my heart”.
“Is it correct that she went to court? Why not? In the United States, this is a normal practice – people are judged there for lesser offenses.
“Surely she consulted and the lawyers told her that she has a good chance of winning the case. The series is popular and has received a bunch of awards – a lot of money revolves around it.
“It is difficult for us to predict the outcome of the case but, since such a serious person as Gaprindashvili took it up, it means she was told that she had great chances.
“Another thing they can say is that cinema is an art form where, for the purposes of the plot, they can lie and allow the distortion of facts. I don’t know the legal side here. It will be interesting to watch.”
Russian politician and Olympic speed skating champion Svetlana Zhurova acknowledged that accusations of sexism will inevitably “attract attention”.
“This is no longer a question of sexism, but a question of propaganda,” she added to the outlet.
“This series is fictional. In this case, the accuracy need not be 100 percent confirmed. If it were a documentary then, perhaps, there would be a chance to protest the facts presented in it.
“I believe that the facts indicated even in feature films must be co-ordinated in advance. Therefore, if nothing was agreed with Gaprindashvili, then the Americans acted very wrongly with her.”
While Gaprindashvili would have “practically no prospects” of making the claim in Russia, the possibility of the suit succeeding in the USA is a possibility that sports lawyer Valery Fedoreev said he could “not exclude”.
“In my opinion, the outcome of the case will depend on the quality of the evidence collected in the case,” said the attorney.
“Gaprindashvili’s lawyers will need to prove not only that the information about her in the Netflix series does not correspond to reality, but also that, by these actions, Netflix has caused significant damage to her reputation.”
A Netflix spokesperson told 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.”