“The only unusual thing about her, really, is her sex, and even that’s not unique in Russia,” an announcer states while covering the final tournament match in Netflix’s award-winning show, “The Queen’s Gambit.” “There’s Nona Gaprindashvili, but she’s the female world champion and has never faced men.”
While “The Queen’s Gambit” — starring Anya Taylor-Joy — is fictional, The New York Times reported that “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,” The New York Times added, referencing a headline from 1968 which read, “Chess: Miss Gaprindashvili Beats 7 Men in a Strong Tourney.”
In response, Gaprindashvili filed a lawsuit against Netflix in Federal District Court in Los Angeles. The suit seeks millions of dollars in damages, citing a “devastating falsehood, undermining and degrading her accomplishments before an audience of many millions,” while also demanding that the “There’s Nona Gaprindashvili, but she’s the female world champion and has never faced men,” line should be cut.
“They were trying to do this fictional character who was blazing the trail for other women when in reality I had already blazed the trail and inspired generations,” Gaprindashvili said in a recent interview. “That’s the irony.”
“This was an insulting experience,” she added. “This is my entire life that has been crossed out, as though it is not important.”
According to the lawsuit, 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.”
“[In] a story that was supposed to inspire women by showing a young woman competing with men at the highest levels of world chess, Netflix humiliated the one real woman trailblazer who had actually faced and defeated men on the world stage in the same era,” the suit added.
In response, Netflix released a statement which read, “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.”
Gaprindashvili was born in 1941 in the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic and became the first woman to be awarded the FIDE title Grandmaster in 1978. She was also the fifth women’s world chess champion.
In 2015, she was awarded the Order of Excellence by President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili for “her outstanding contribution to the country and nation” and “representing Georgia at an international level.”
“I played against many great Grandmasters,” she said in 2020. “I had many notable matches against them, and I received many acknowledgment from them for those matches. So, it’s completely untrue. It’s not a big emotional factor to be honest, but it’s dishonoring to have misinformation spread about someone’s achievements.”
A previous version of this article misstated Gaprindashvili’s birth year. She was born in 1941, not 1961.
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