Georgian chess legend Nona Gaprindashvili's lawsuit against Netflix gets hearing date

Nona Gaprindashvili's lawyer team has called the passage in the series about her having never faced men in her matches "manifestly false". Photo via BLB lawyer firm., 07 Dec 2021 - 18:52, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian chess legend Nona Gaprindashvili's defamation lawsuit against Netflix for a reference to her in the popular TV series The Queen's Gambit has received a date for hearing, with the United States District Court in the Central District of California set to hold the session on January 24.

The latest development in the motion, eagerly followed by many in Georgia due to the status of Gaprindashvili in the chess history of the country, comes with updates from the five-time world champion's lawyer team.

Maia Mtsariashvili, part of Gaprindashvili's legal team in Georgia, said this week the team - represented in the US hearings by attorneys Alexander Rufus-Isaacs and Rodney A. Smolla - had questioned Scott Frank, director and screenwriters for the series, in the run-up to the hearings.

Mtsariashvili said the legal representatives had managed to "create a clear picture" through the questioning, which she called "very interesting and significant". She claimed the interview had caused Frank to "become very flustered" in his answers to questions around his decisions on the controversial reference in the series that has served as the basis for the lawsuit.

At this stage, we are required to clearly demonstrate to the court that Netflix - and their screenplay author Scott Frank - knew the truth, but deliberately changed [these facts] about Nona being the real hero [with] achievements, the fact that playing against men was the principal line that ran in her career

- Lawyer Maia Mtsariashvili

Frank "answered most questions by replying with 'I do not know', [or] 'I do not remember'", Mtsariashvili said in her update to the case, adding the legal team was now using the interview to submit their latest papers to the court earlier this month.

The lawsuit focuses around a narrator's description of Gaprindashvili in one of the episodes of The Queen's Gambit, where she is mentioned as having "never faced men" in her chess matches - a statement called "manifestly false" by the legal team of the legendary player.

The papers for the suit note "By 1968, the year in which this episode is set, she had competed against at least 59 male chess players (28 of them simultaneously in one game), including at least ten Grandmasters of that time".

The lawsuit goes on to allege Netflix had been aware of these facts from Gaprindashvili's legendary career, not least from the novel the series is based on. The line from the episode is called "grossly sexist and belittling". The team of lawyers has also alleged "additional insult to injury" in the series through its reference to the Georgian champion as Russian.

In September, Netflix refused to remove the disputed reference from the series, informing Gaprindashvili's representatives the company would not apologise for the selection of the description either.

A spokesperson for Netflix was quoted saying the company had "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."