GM Nona Gaprindashvili‘s defamation lawsuit against Netflix has been settled, with no further details provided by either party. The settlement came eight months after a judge dismissed the streaming and production company’s claim that because The Queen’s Gambit is a work of fiction, it would be immune from defamation suits.
According to The New York Times, lawyers for Gaprindashvili filed papers in federal court on Tuesday suggesting that they had settled the lawsuit while also filing a motion to voluntarily dismiss its appeal in the case. Lawyers of both parties are quoted saying they are “pleased the matter is resolved.”
Gaprindashvili (81) is the fifth women’s world chess champion and the first female player ever to gain the “general” grandmaster title. She sued Netflix in September of last year for “false light invasion of privacy” and defamation after a line in the hit series The Queen’s Gambit falsely stated that she “never faced men” at the chessboard. In reality, the Georgian chess legend faced many men in her career, including three world champions: GMs Mikhail Tal, Boris Spassky, and Viswanathan Anand.
Netflix wanted to have the suit dismissed, arguing that the series is a work of fiction. However, U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips disagreed and noted that Gaprindashvili had made a plausible argument that she was defamed in The Queen’s Gambit and made the point that works of fiction are not immune from defamation suits if they disparage real people.
Netflix also claimed that, even if believed, the line that says Gaprindashvili “never faced men” is not defamatory. The company argued that for reasonable viewers of the series this line would not carry an implication of Gaprindashvili’s inferiority, but merely showcase the structural barriers that impeded women’s advancement in elite chess in the 1960s. The judge disagreed here as well and said the average viewer could easily see the line as disparaging.
The Queen’s Gambit, based on the 1983 novel by Walter Tevis, was launched in October 2020 and was watched by over 62 million households in just the first month after its release. It won two Golden Globes and 11 Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series.