The chess community has a very low tolerance for dishonesty. If someone is found to be cheating, their reputation can be permanently damaged, or simply banned from playing competitive chess. But honesty in chess is a much broader topic than FairPlay and recently, some big names have entered the chess community without understanding the prerequisite integrity needed to participate in our time honored game.
Netflix’s Queen’s Gambit may have garnered critical acclaim, received a plethora of award show accolades and helped to spur a new “chess boom” but the lasting legacy of The Queen’s Gambit in the chess community may forever be tarnished. Nona Gaprindashvili is a Soviet and Georgian chess player, and the first woman to be awarded the FIDE title of Grandmaster. She is suing Netflix after the streaming juggernaut brushed off her complaints about The Queen’s Gambit dishonest characterization of her accomplishments in chess. By putting the false and unnecessary line, “There’s Nona Gaprindashvili, but she’s the female world champion and has never faced men” writers in the show attempted to prop up a fictional Beth Harmon’s accomplishments by subtracting from Nona’s real achievements. Not only did Nona play chess with men, she matched wits with some of the best male chess players of the era in prestigious tournaments such as Hastings 1964. The blame for this mischaracterization must fall on Netflix as they changed the line Walter Tevis penned in the The Queen’s Gambit which in the original book format reads, “There was Nona Gaprindashvili, not up to the level of this tournament, but a player who had met all these Russian Grandmasters many times before.” One would hope that a big corporation like Netflix could correct the issue leaving the legacy of The Queen’s Gambit untarnished. Don’t hold your breath however, because a Netflix responded to Nona Gaprindashvili’s lawsuit through a statement which reads,
“Netflix has 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.”
When it comes to FairPlay in chess, nobody is above the law. In 2021, Viswanathan Anand played celebrities in an online chess simul to raise money for Indian Covid relief. Billionaire Nikhil Kamath played unbelievably accurate chess and most chess enthusiasts believed he was cheating. The ire of the chess community grew louder after Kamath defeated Anand. India’s chess federation called out Nikhil Kamath’s behavior as being “really bad” and went on to state that the billionaire “violated the spirit of the game.” Kamath responded to the pr fiasco by stating, “In hindsight, it was quite silly as I didn’t realize all the confusion that can get caused due to this. Apologies.” Anand may be one of the greatest gentlemen of our game, but his millions of fans will never accept such a disingenuous apology.
So, if billionaires and one of the largest entertainment companies in the world get called onto the carpet for impropriety in chess, what does that mean for everyone else. Simply put, those entering the chess scene need to be especially careful as very few other activities are held in such high esteem as chess. Being dishonest simply a losing strategy in chess. In fact, I would go as far as stating that in chess, your long term success will be dependent on your honesty as much as your talent.