Netflix Sued for Defamation by Real Life Chess Player Portrayed in ‘The Queen’s Gambit’

A complaint filed in Los Angeles, California on Thursday asserts that Netflix Inc. has defamed Nona Gaprindashvili, said to be a world famous chess player, and the first woman in history to achieve the status of international chess grandmaster. The lawsuit concerns Netflix’s award-winning series, “The Queen’s Gambit,” and specifically, its depiction of Gaprindashvili.

The plaintiff, a citizen of the country of Georgia, contends that Netflix has cast doubt upon her professional standing “by falsely stating she had not competed against men, and thereby insinuating that she lacked the skills to successfully compete against men.” The lawsuit points to an episode in the novel-based fictional series where a chess tournament commentator remarks that Gaprindashvili “has never faced men.”

According to the lawsuit, this statement is false in addition to being “grossly sexist and belittling.” The filing states that by the year in which this episode is set, 1968, the plaintiff had competed against at least 59 male chess players, including at least ten grandmasters.

Allegedly, Netflix knew these facts, but nevertheless deliberately lied about the plaintiff’s success to heighten the drama by making it appear that the series’ fictional heroine had accomplished feats no other woman, including Gaprindashvili, had. In addition, the lawsuit asserts that doubly insulting is the fact that the series refers to the plaintiff as Russian, “despite knowing that she was Georgian, and that Georgians had suffered under Russian domination when part of the Soviet Union, and had been bullied and invaded by Russia thereafter.”

The plaintiff seeks relief from false light invasion of privacy and defamation per se. She asserts that Netflix acted with actual malice because the accused statements were said with knowledge of their falsity or reckless disregard for their truth or falsity. Gaprindashvili seeks at least $5,000,000 in damages, punitive damages, and injunctive relief requiring Netflix to remove the statement that she never played against men from the series.

The plaintiff is represented by Rufus-Isaacs Acland & Grantham LLP.