Skip to main content

Just about everyone agrees that the Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit boosted the popularity of chess massively, especially among female players.

But series producers now regret taking liberties with the facts surrounding one real-life female grandmaster.

In the final episode of the award-winning series, a commentator compares the fictional Beth Harmon to the world’s first female grandmaster, Nona Gaprindashvili. But then he says Gaprindashvili never faced men in competition.

That’s not true, and Gaprindashvili sued for defamation, saying the comment was grossly sexist and belittling. She asked for $5 million in damages, and Netflix was suddenly on the defensive when it came to championing women’s achievements in chess.

Gaprindashvili held the women’s world championship title for 16 straight years, from 1962 to 1978. She competed against and defeated dozens of strong male players along the way.

The streaming service gamely tried to defend itself, arguing that the U.S. first amendment protects artistic licence to include the line in a fictional series. But Gaprindashvili is accustomed to winning, and last fall the two sides came to an undisclosed out-of-court settlement.

A New York production company now has plans to turn the Queen’s Gambit into a musical. It’s a safe bet there will be no references to anyone named Nona.

Nona Gaprindashvili v. Alexander Blagidze, Georgia, 1963

Handout

How does White demolish her male opponent?

White played 14.Rxf7. If Black takes the Rook, he gets mated soon after 15.Qxh5+. Black tried 14. … Qe5 but then 15.Rf5! was decisive because exf5 leads again to 16.Qxh5+.