Netflix’s Queen’s Gambit Lawsuit Has Been Decided

It looks like there has finally been a decision when it comes the lawsuit around Netflix's series The Queen's Gambit.

By Charlene Badasie | Published

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Netflix has agreed to settle its legal dispute with Georgian chess champion Nona Gaprindashvili, who said she was defamed in an episode of The Queen’s Gambit. The 81-year-old argued that her accomplishments were disparaged when a chess announcer in the series stated that she had “never faced men.” In reality, the Grandmaster competed against 59 male chess players by 1968, the year in which the series was set. The streamer had initially tried to have the lawsuit dismissed, claiming the show’s creators had a broad license under the First Amendment.

But in January, a federal judge rejected the argument, stating that fictional works are not immune from lawsuits if they defame real people. While Netflix appealed the ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the case was dismissed earlier this week. “The parties are pleased that the matter has been resolved,” Gaprindashvili’s attorney Alexander Rufus-Isaacs said via Variety. Although the terms of The Queen’s Gambit settlement were not disclosed, a Netflix spokesperson said they are pleased that the matter is resolved.

The episode of The Queen’s Gambit at the center of the lawsuit sees, Beth Harmon (a fictional American who becomes an international chess champion) defeating a male competitor at a tournament in Moscow. After her victory, an announcer explains that she was underestimated by her opponent as the only unusual thing about her is her gender. The dialogue goes on to state that being a female chess champion is not unique in Russia. That’s when the series refers to Nona Gaprindashvili, with special emphasis on how she may be a world champion – but has never faced men.

In the suit, Gaprindashvili argued that the reference was grossly sexist and belittling. Netflix countered that the reference was intended to recognize the chess Grandmaster, not disparage her. The series employed two chess experts to get the details correct but failed miserably on the historical aspects of the professional game. Interestingly, the settlement also means the 9th Circuit will not get to weigh in on where the line should be drawn when real people are portrayed in fictional works.

Based on the 1983 novel of the same name by Walter Tevis, The Queen’s Gambit is written and directed by Scott Frank, and created the series with Allan Scott who owns the rights to the book. Set in the mid-1950s and proceeding into the 1960s, the story follows the life of chess prodigy Beth Harmon as she rises to the top of the chess world while struggling with drug and alcohol dependency. Following its release in 2020, the series became Netflix’s most-watched scripted miniseries after just four weeks, making it the streamer’s top program in 63 countries, according to Deadline.

The Queen’s Gambit also received critical acclaim, with praise for Anya Taylor-Joy’s performance as the lead character. The cinematography and production values also earned glowing reviews. The seven-episode run also attracted the attention of the chess community who gushed about its accurate depictions of high-level chess. Additionally, data via a Vanity Fair profile of the show, suggested that it increased public interest in the game. The sale of chess sets also increased to triple digits, according to Vice President of Marketing at Spin Master toy company Elizabeth LoVecchio (via NPR).