KEY POINTS

  • Nona Gaprindashvili is suing Netflix for defamation over a line in "The Queen's Gambit"
  • The line claimed that Gaprindashvili was "the female world champion and has never faced men"
  • The chess grandmaster alleged that it was a "devastating falsehood" that undermined and degraded her accomplishments

Netflix is facing a $5 million lawsuit over an alleged "falsehood" in its hit miniseries, "The Queen's Gambit," but the streamer said the claim "has no merit."

Chess grandmaster Nona Gaprindashvili is suing the streaming giant for defamation over a line referencing her in the award-winning miniseries. Her lawsuit claimed that the line was a "devastating falsehood, undermining and degrading her accomplishments before an audience of many millions," Entertainment Weekly reported.

The line in question came in the final episode of "Queen's Gambit," in which the protagonist Beth (Anya Taylor-Joy) competes for the world chess title in Moscow. An announcer, commentating during one of Beth's matches, remarks, "The only unusual thing about her, really, is her sex. And even that's not unique in Russia. There's Nona Gaprindashvili, but she's the female world champion and has never faced men."

Gaprindashvili found the remark insulting, 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," alleged the complaint obtained by EW.

It continued, "Thus, 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 trail blazer who had actually faced and defeated men on the world stage in the same era."

"The Queen's Gambit" takes place in 1968, and at the time, Gaprindashvili had already faced men several times. "Chess: Miss Gaprindashvili Beats 7 Men in a Strong Tourney," read a headline from The New York Times from that year.

Gaprindashvili also placed fifth at the 1964-65 Hastings International Chess Congress in England where she beat at least four male competitors. She even played against 28 men at once in 1965.

Thus, the line in the series that she had never played against men didn't sit well with Gaprindashvili, who was the first woman to be awarded the title of grandmaster, in 1978, and is credited with inspiring other female chess players and helping to combat sexism in the game.

"The allegation that Gaprindashvili 'has never faced men' is manifestly false, as well as being grossly sexist and belittling," said the lawsuit, which alleged that she had competed against at least 59 male chess players" by 1968, "including at least 10 Grandmasters."

Gaprindashvili accused Netflix of false light invasion of privacy and defamation, arguing that "these facts were well known to Netflix." She is seeking at least $5 million in damages and wants the court to order the streamer to remove the offending line from the series.

Netflix responded to Gaprindashvili's allegations in a statement to EW. "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," a spokesperson for Netflix stated.

Anya Taylor-Joy -- seen here in 2019 -- starred in "The Queen's Gambit," which should be a major Emmys contender Anya Taylor-Joy -- seen here in 2019 -- starred in "The Queen's Gambit," which should be a major Emmys contender Photo: AFP / Angela Weiss