Claims of Defamation Filed Against Netflix over Portrayal in The Queen’s Gambit

Elizabeth DiNardo, Esq. | Associate Counsel


On September 16, 2021, streaming giant Netflix was served with defamation and invasion of privacy claims by 1960’s chess prodigy, Nona Gaprindashvili, who alleges that she was portrayed in a belittling and grossly sexist manner by Netflix in its popular series, The Queen’s Gambit.

In the complaint filed in the U.S District Court for the Central District of California, the plaintiff describes her career as a pioneer of women’s chess and how she became a beloved symbol of female empowerment in her native country of Georgia. The plaintiff goes on to allege that the story of the fictional chess prodigy Beth Harmon, who is the heroine of both the Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit and the 1983 novel that the show is based on, plainly draws on her own real-life achievements in the 1960s wherein she frequently broke gender barriers in the world of international chess. During her illustrious chess career, the plaintiff defeated some of the top male chess players in the world and was the first woman in history to achieve the status of international chess grandmaster amongst her male counterparts.

However, despite the plaintiff’s well-known career she is described—explicitly, by name—in the final episode of The Queen’s Gambit as a Russian player who had never played a chess match against a man. The plaintiff claims that “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.” The plaintiff argues that Netflix had no need to refer to her by name and to disparage her achievements simply for dramatic purposes. She further alleges that any claims from the defendant that it was unaware of the plaintiff’s career achievements are false, as Netflix had hired two of the world’s leading chess authorities to work as consultants for the show.

The suit brings causes of action for false light invasion of privacy and defamation per se.

The case is: Nona Gaprindashvili v. Netflix, Inc., Case No.: 2:21-cv-07408, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

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