‘The Queen’s Gambit’ defamation lawsuit against Netflix gets hearing date

the queen's gambit

Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit has been an extraordinary success for the streaming service, with several awards won and widespread critical acclaim, but that may come at the cost of an impending legal battle with a hearing date set.

Anya Taylor-Jay plays the lead role of Beth Harmon, a young chess prodigy in The Queen’s Gambit. A period piece and coming-of-age drama about a fictitious person, its depiction of a real-life person however has not gone unnoticed. Chess legend Nona Gaprindashvili is aggrieved after a potentially defamatory reference to her in the series.

The five-time world chess champion Gaprindashvili is suing Netflix for defamation over a crucial detail in the narration during the series, which claimed Gaprindashvili had “never played against men”. This claim has been called “manifestly false” by the Georgian’s legal team. 

Nona Gaprindashvili

Nona Gaprindashvili, now 80 years old, is an icon in her local Georgia, and has the status of national hero – so this case is a very big deal on local shores. The writer for the Netflix miniseries, Scott Frank, is alleged by the Gaprindashvili legal team to have known that the statement that she had not played against men was false but continued with writing (and airing it) anyway. 

According to the legal team, Gaprindashvili had played against “at least 59 male chess players, including 28 at once, including 4 grandmasters”, by the time of the show’s setting in 1968.

The legal team believe Netflix were very aware of this detail, as it had been in the book of the same name that served as the inspiration for the series. Another major point of controversy is that the show calls Gaprindashvili Russian… and not Georgian. Georgia is of course a former Soviet state, before the fall of the U.S.S.R. in 1991. This seems like a glaring error and an understandable grievance.

The miniseries was at one point the most-watched series across 63 countries, with the accolades flowing in from all over including Emmy awards, Golden Globes, and Screen Actors Guild awards. Its legacy extending to a legal battle would certainly not have been expected when it first released in October 2020.

The hearing date has been set for January 24th, 2022 and will take place in United States District Court in the Central District of California, and the next move on Netflix’s part will be crucial.