A federal judge in Los Angeles has ruled that Netflix must face trial in a lawsuit brought by a Georgian chess master who alleges she was defamed in an episode of the series “The Queen’s Gambit,” according to court documents obtained Friday.
Nona Gaprindashvili filed suit in September, alleging that a line in the series in which a character said that she had “never faced men” in her career was “grossly sexist and belittling.”
Gaprindashvili noted in the suit filed in Los Angeles federal court that she had faced dozens of male competitors by 1968, the year in which “The Queen’s Gambit” was set.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips denied a defense motion to dismiss the case. A scheduling conference is set for Feb. 7.
Attorneys for Netflix had argued that the suit should be dismissed because the series is a work of fiction covered by the First Amendment. However, the judge determined that works of fiction are not immune from defamation suits if they disparage real people.
“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,” Phillips wrote in her 25-page ruling.
Based on the 1983 novel of the same name by Walter Tevis, “The Queen’s Gambit” is the story of orphaned chess prodigy Beth Harmon who struggles to become the greatest chess player in the world during the Cold War era.
It became Netflix’s most-watched scripted miniseries, and won 11 Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series, becoming the first show on a streaming service to win the category.
The title of the series refers to a chess opening of the same name.
Gaprindashvili, 80, is a Soviet and Georgian chess player, and the first woman to be awarded the International Chess Federation title Grandmaster, which occurred in 1978. She was the fifth women’s world chess champion.