In entertainment histories of the COVID-19 pandemic, Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit is likely to be noted as one of our streaming saviors. Released in October 2020, the miniseries proved to be one of the smartest, most satisfying, and binge-worthy series of the year. The series was also praised for its message of female empowerment and, unfortunately, a new lawsuit may expose an ugly inconsistency in that message.
Deadline reports the lawsuit comes from Nona Gaprindashvili, a chess grandmaster from the nation of Georgia. Gaprindashvili is suing Netflix for defamation to the tune of $5 million. The chess prodigy doesn’t appear in The Queen’s Gambit nor do any actors play her, but she is mentioned in the finale End Game, and it’s this mention that’s understandably offended Gaprindashvili.
While the Netflix series lead Anya Taylor-Joy’s character Beth Harmon faces an opponent in a game of chess, a commentator says that “the only unusual thing” about Harmon is the fact that she’s a woman. They say that woman chess players aren’t particularly rare in Russia, and bring up the example of Nona Gaprindashvili who, according to the commentator, “has never faced men.”
According to the lawsuit filed by Gaprindashvili’s lawyers, the Netflix miniseries took way too much creative license in the picture they paint of the grandmaster. The suit points out that Gaprindashvili faced and defeated some of the best chess players in the world — including men — and was the first woman in history to earn the status of international chess grandmaster.
Not only, in fact, did Gaprindashvili defeat male players unlike the contention of the Netflix miniseries but according to the lawsuit, by 1968, the year in which End Game is set, the grandmaster had competed against a total of 59 male chess players — and 28 of those players faced Gaprindashvili at the same time in a single game. Ten of her male opponents were grandmasters and three — Boris Spassky, Viswanathan Anand and Mikhail Tal — had at different times won the title of world champion.
The suit accuses Netflix of humiliating Gaprindashvili, adding that The Queen’s Gambit was a story meant “to inspire women” with a fictional woman competing with male chess masters, and in the process “humiliated the one real woman trail blazer who had actually faced and defeated men on the world stage in the same era.”
Arguably, the alleged defamation Gaprindashvili is suing over may not be the only way that — in a cruel irony — The Queen’s Gambit is unintentionally casting a shadow over the game of chess. In the wake of the Netflix series’ success, online chess sites were bursting with new members. Unfortunately, in late 2020 those sites began reporting that along with all the new members came an incredible surge in cheating through the use of bots and other programs.
Considering the series is based on a 1983 novel of the same name, Taylor-Joy has said there were no plans for a Season 2 of the Netflix miniseries. But with The Queen’s Gambit‘s obvious popularity, it seems like a follow-up could be a possibility. There’s no firm word on it yet, but Taylor-Joy certainly hasn’t denied discussions have happened.