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Netflix settles 'The Queen's Gambit' defamation suit

The protracted court battle that streaming giant Netflix was locked in for nearly a year over their hit series The Queen’s Gambit has ended. 

In mid-September 2021, the streaming service was sued by Nona Gaprindashvili, the first woman in history to be named as the grandmaster of world chess in 1978. Gaprindashvili was seeking $5 million in the defamation lawsuit, which was settled this Tuesday, per a report in Variety.

Details about the settlement are yet to be disclosed, although legal representatives from both sides confirmed an agreement. “The parties are pleased that the matter has been resolved,” attorney Alexander Rufus-Isaacs who represented Gaprindashvili, said. 

Adding to this sense of relief, a spokesperson for Netflix said in their small statement: “We are pleased the matter has been resolved”.

Fans of The Queen’s Gambit will remember that Gaprindashvili is briefly mentioned in the final episode of the show. The closing edition sees protagonist Beth Harmon defeating a male competitor in Moscow, with the commentator expressing that her opponent underestimated her. 

‘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,’ they said. 

This was, in fact, false. Gaprindashvili had faced 59 male competitors by 1968, the year the show was set. Her lawsuit stated that the announcer’s line in the series was “manifestly false, as well as being grossly sexist and belittling.”

Netflix filed to have the suit dismissed and claimed that the creators of The Queen’s Gambit had the licence to change it under the First Amendment. Unluckily for them, Judge Virginia A. Phillips disagreed, concluding that Gaprindashvili made a plausible argument saying she was defamed. 

“Netflix does not cite, and the Court is not aware, of any cases precluding defamation claims for the portrayal of real persons in otherwise fictional works,” the judge wrote.

“The fact that the Series was a fictional work does not insulate Netflix from liability for defamation if all the elements of defamation are otherwise present,” she continued.