Insight

Netflix Sued Over Alleged Defamation in Mega Hit The Queen’s Gambit

Netflix is facing a lawsuit from a real chess Grandmaster whose name was referenced inaccurately in The Queen's Gambit.

Netflix Sued Over Mega Hit The Queen’s Gambit
JE

John Ettorre

September 29, 2021 09:00 AM

It was the kind of unexpected hit no one could have predicted. Tens of millions of people stuck at home in pandemic quarantine were suddenly riveted by the fictional story of a young female chess player.

But a real chess champion from the Republic of Georgia, Nona Gaprindashvili—the first female grandmaster ever—says the Netflix series, The Queen’s Gambit, used her real name to defame and belittle her.

In the series’ final episode, the fictional female chess player takes on a male opponent as a radio commentator narrates in the background. He goes on to say that Nona Gaprindashvili never played men.

The only problem is that in real life, contrary to the script, she had competed with men—scores of them, in fact.

According to a suit filed recently in a federal court in California on behalf of the now-80-year-old Nona, “the professional reputation and brand of Gaprindashvili was inextricably bound up with her courageous efforts to face and defeat estimable male opponents when chess was overwhelmingly a man’s world.” She is seeking $5 million in compensatory damages, plus punitive damages and a permanent injunction against Netflix.

Her lawyer, British-born, Los Angeles-based Alexander Rufus-Isaacs, argues that it was all so unnecessary. “The Queen’s Gambit is a fictional series,” he said in an interview. “Most of the characters in the series are fictional. And they could have easily used the name of some fictional female chess player instead of mentioning my client’s name. They could have achieved the same dramatic effect, and it would not have defamed her.”

This case seems to be part of a larger trend of prominent female public figures trying to reclaim control of their life story. The singer Taylor Swift has waged a public campaign to reclaim ownership of her music, which has been sold against her will. And the former American student Amanda Knox, once convicted of murder in Italy but later exonerated, has bitterly complained that the Hollywood movie Stillwater took inappropriate liberties with her life story.

Whatever the specifics of those cases, The Queen’s Gambit case seems a more straightforward invasion of the principal’s legal rights. Her lawyer, who has been filing and winning defamation cases in U.S. courts since 1998, seems more than a little confident. “The majority of my cases settle, and those settlements are confidential.”

Alexander Rufus-Isaacs is listed in Best Lawyers for 2022 in Copyright Law.

John Ettorre is an Emmy-award-winning writer, based in Cleveland. His work has appeared in more than 100 publications, including the New York Times and the Christian Science Monitor.

Related Articles

How A Claim Can Create A ‘Class’ of Its Own


by Justin Smulison

One civil claim can help a victim recover, prevent others from the same harm and even save lives. Tom Connick has experienced this directly, having been at the ground floor of injury claims that have led to high-value class action settlements.

Fire Consuming Paper Money

Why Do Rear-End Collisions Happen and Who’s to Blame?


by Matt Baggett

Rear-end collisions happen for many reasons, but the blame frequently falls on the rear driver. Learn about the causes of rear-end collisions.

Blue car crashing into black car

When to Hire a Car Accident Lawyer


by Nick Movagar

When you get injured in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you can pursue injury compensation. Learn when you should hire a car accident lawyer.

Wrecked car with broken windshield

What Are Zoning Laws Meant To Do?


by Bartek Szymanski

Zoning laws are important to the safety and protection of communities.

Hand holding pan writing on map

Same-Sex Couples and Marriage Visas: Everything You Need To Know


by Elizabeth Hagearty

All marriages are considered equal under U.S. law. Here’s what that means for LGBTQIA+ immigrants.

Pride flag, finger and visa document

Protecting High-level Executives With the Apex Doctrine


by Sara Collin

The Apex Doctrine, developed to shield high-level executives from inappropriate depositions, is a beneficial asset to lawyers and clients, at least in the states where it’s been adopted.

Apex Doctrine Protects Executives

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers: The Corporate Law and Commercial Litigation Issue


by Best Lawyers

The first edition of Best Lawyers: The Corporate Law and Commercial Litigation Issues features thought leadership articles from attorneys around the nation, as well as listings in more than 70 practice areas.

Corporate and Commercial Issue

Unwavering Dedication to Clients


by Best Lawyers

Trial attorneys Michael Lyons and Chris Simmons find motivation when the result means everything.

Trial Attorneys at Lyons & Simmons

Truck Safety Watchdogs


by Best Lawyers

Unqualified, Poorly Trained Truck Drivers and Unsafe Trucks Heighten Roadway Dangers

Truck Safety and Roadway Dangers

Measuring Success by Results


by John Fields

Recognized Best Lawyers®* recipient Joseph F. Brophy on how his Firm determines success.

Measuring Firm Success

Texas "Lawyer of the Year" 2022


by Best Lawyers

Charla Truett is honored as 2022 "Lawyer of the Year" in Texas for Immigration Law.

Texas "Lawyer of the Year" 2022

Dan Sciano Renaissance Lawyer


by Justin Smulison

Tinsman & Sciano recently celebrated 50 years as greater San Antonio’s leading trial law firm for civil litigation and personal injury. Daniel J.T. Sciano obtained judgments for his clients in both Federal and State courthouses in 2021. A trial lawyer with many talents and diverse knowledge of the law.

Tinsman & Sciano Celebrates 50

Destiny Fulfilled


by Sara Collin

Was Angela Reddock-Wright destined to become a lawyer? It sure seems that way. Yet her path was circuitous. This accomplished employment attorney, turned mediator, arbitrator and ADR specialist nonpareil discusses her career, the role of attorneys in society, the new world of post-pandemic work and why new Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson represents the future.

Interview with Lawyer Angela Reddock-Wright

NYC Pay Transparency Law Gets New Start Date


by Justin Smulison

This historic law regarding pay transparency in New York City originally scheduled to take effect last week was rescheduled to Fall 2022.

NYC Stand Resolute on Pay Transparency

Court-ordered Restitution for Corporate Crime Is ‘Likely Here to Stay’


by John Ettorre

Best Lawyers highlights the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act and how victims are now utilizing beyond cases of violent crime.

Push for Restitution in Corporate Crime

Will Recent Boeing Settlements Create Tailwinds In Corporate Law?


by Justin Smulison

Prominent litigation against Boeing is setting a precedent of accountability, professionalism and commitment among company boards as well as ushering ESG further into the courtroom to help monitor and prevent safety issues.

Recent Boeing Settlements and Corporate Law

Trending Articles

The Real Camille: An Interview with Johnny Depp’s Lawyer Camille Vasquez


by Rebecca Blackwell

Camille Vasquez, a young lawyer at Brown Rudnick, sat down with Best Lawyers CEO Phillip Greer to talk about her distinguished career, recently being named partner and what comes next for her.

Camille Vasquez in office

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers® in the United States


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers listed in the 28th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America® and in the 2nd Edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America for 2022.

2022 Best Lawyers Listings for United States

Famous Songs Unprotected by Copyright Could Mean Royalties for Some


by Michael B. Fein

A guide to navigating copyright claims on famous songs.

Can I Sing "Happy Birthday" in Public?

Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch – The Future of Legal Talent Looks Bright


by Justin Smulison

Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch is launching its second edition in the United States, and after talking with both a company leader and esteemed lawyers on the list, the importance of this prestigious list is evident.

Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America 2022

Why Cariola Díez Pérez-Cotapos Developed Its Own Legal Tech


by Best Lawyers

Juan Pablo Matus of Cariola Díez Pérez-Cotapos, 2019 "Law Firm of the Year" award for Corporate and M&A Law in Chile, discusses his firm's joint venture with Cognitiva in creating Lexnova, a legal AI system.

Cariola Díez Pérez-Cotapos Interview

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard: The Best Lawyers Honorees Behind the Litigation


by Gregory Sirico

Best Lawyers takes a look at the recognized legal talent representing Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in their ongoing defamation trial.

Lawyers for Johnny Depp and Amber Heard

Choosing a Title Company: What a Seller Should Expect


by Roy D. Oppenheim

When it comes to choosing a title company, how much power exactly does a seller have?

Choosing the Title Company As Seller

Announcing the 2022 "Best Law Firms" Rankings


by Best Lawyers

The 2022 “Best Law Firms” publication includes all “Law Firm of the Year” recipients, national and metro Tier 1 ranked firms and editorial from thought leaders in the legal industry.

The 2022 Best Law Firms Awards

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers in Canada™


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers listed in the 16th Edition of The Best Lawyers in Canada™ and 1st Edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in Canada.

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers in Canada™

Education by Trial: Cultivating Legal Expertise in the Courtroom


by Margo Pierce

The intricacies of complex lawsuits require extensive knowledge of the legal precedent. But they also demand a high level of skill in every discipline needed to succeed at trial, such as analyzing technical reports and deposing expert witnesses.

Cultivating Legal Expertise in the Courtroom

Announcing The Best Lawyers in France™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from France.

Blue, white and red strips

Caffeine Overload and DUI Tests


by Daniel Taylor

While it might come as a surprise, the over-consumption of caffeine could trigger a false positive on a breathalyzer test.

Can Caffeine Cause You to Fail DUI Test?

Wage and Overtime Laws for Truck Drivers


by Greg Mansell

For truck drivers nationwide, underpayment and overtime violations are just the beginning of a long list of problems. Below we explore the wages you are entitled to but may not be receiving.

Truck Driver Wage and Overtime Laws in the US

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in Australia


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms.

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in Australi

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Australia™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from Australia.

The Best Lawyers in Australia™ 2023

Announcing The Best Lawyers in The United Kingdom™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from the United Kingdom.

The Best Lawyers in The United Kingdom 2023