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Soviet chess champion sues Netflix over ‘sexist’ line

Soviet chess champion Nona Gaprindashvili is suing Netflix over a line in the hit series, The Queen’s Gambit, which claimed she “never played men”.

The chess player’s lawsuit is demanding $5 million in compensation from the mega-streaming site, and was filed on Thursday in the federal district court in Los Angeles.

Soviet chess champion Nona Gaprindashvili says the claim that she never played men in her career was not only sexist but degrading her accomplishments as a notorious world champion. (Netflix)

The Queen’s Gambit has been a highly celebrated series for Netflix, which is based on the 1983 novel by Walter Tevis.

It follows the fictional journey of female chess player Beth Harmon. Harmon is played by Anya Taylor-Joy, who travels to Moscow for a series of chess matches against Soviet champions.

Many of the American and International chess players referenced or depicted in the series are based on true players. While Gaprindashvili is not depicted, her name is mentioned.

The line Gaprindashvili holds issue with is from the series finale.

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A character says: “Elizabeth Harmon’s not at all an important player by their standards. 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 has blankly rejected the assertion, calling it “grossly sexist and belittling”.

27-year-old Grandmaster Mikhail Tal of Russia, former world champion and Nona Gaprindashvili, the 22-year-old Russian woman world champion.
Nona Gaprindashvili, then the 22-year-old Russian woman world champion faces 27-year-old Grandmaster Mikhail Tal of Russia in 1963. (Fairfax Media)

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Now 80, and living in Tbilisi, Georgia, Gaprindashvili assures that she did face men in her matches. According to the lawsuit, she faced 59 men — 28 in one match, as well as 10 grandmasters by the time the Netflix series was set in 1968.

In an interview with the New York Times Gaprindashvili voiced her discontent: “They were trying to do this fictional character who was blazing the trail for other women, when in reality I had already blazed the trail and inspired generations.

“That’s the irony,” she added.

Damages are being sought for what the suit is calling a “devastating falsehood, undermining and degrading her accomplishments before an audience of many millions”.

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The suit also raises the issue of Gaprindashvili being portrayed as Russian, when she is in fact, Georgian, born in Zugdidi, Georgia.

“This is my entire life that has been crossed out, as though it is not important,” Gaprindashvili dismayed in her interview with the New York Times.

In a further statement published by the Times, Netflix said it “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.”

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