Chess icon sues Netflix for show's "sexist and belittling" portrayal

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Georgian chess legend Nona Gaprindashvili has filed a $5 million defamation suit against Netflix, saying her depiction in the hit TV show "The Queen's Gambit" was "sexist and belittling." A copy of the lawsuit filed Thursday with a California court accuses Netflix of distorting Gaprindashvili's achievements in the fictional series.

It says the show falsely suggested that the former female world champion never played competitive chess with men, and states that Gaprindashvili, now 80, competed against dozens of top male players, beating 28 of them.

Nona Gaprindashvili, a Soviet-era chess grandmaster from Georgia, speaks during an interview in Tbilisi, Georgia May 10, 2019.  / Credit: IRAKLI GEDENIDZE / REUTERS
Nona Gaprindashvili, a Soviet-era chess grandmaster from Georgia, speaks during an interview in Tbilisi, Georgia May 10, 2019. / Credit: IRAKLI GEDENIDZE / REUTERS

"Netflix brazenly and deliberately lied about Gaprindashvili's achievements," the lawsuit says.

"The allegation that Gaprindashvili 'has never faced men' is manifestly false, as well as being grossly sexist and belittling," reads the lawsuit.

"Piling on additional insult to injury, Netflix described Gaprindashvili as Russian, despite knowing that she was Georgian."

Netflix said in a statement to CBS News that it 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."

Anya Taylor as Beth Harmon in The Queen's Gambit on Netflix. / Credit: CHARLIE GRAY/NETFLIX
Anya Taylor as Beth Harmon in The Queen's Gambit on Netflix. / Credit: CHARLIE GRAY/NETFLIX

Born in 1941 in Georgia's western town of Zugdidi, Gaprindashvili has played chess since she was 13.

She won the female World Championship at age 20 and defended her title successfully four times, before losing her crown to another Georgian, 17-year-old Maia Chiburdanidze, in 1978.

That same year she became the first woman to be awarded the title of grandmaster by the International Chess Federation (FIDE).

Netflix says "The Queen's Gambit" has become its "biggest limited scripted series ever" with 62 million households watching the miniseries in its first 28 days. The series follows the orphaned Beth Harmon (played by Anya Taylor), who becomes the best chess player in the world.

As of July 2021, the California-headquartered streaming service provider had 209 million subscribers.

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