Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Leinier Domínguez, a Worthy Heir to Jose Raúl Capablanca

Cuban Chess Grandmaster Leinier Domínguez
(click to enlarge)

By Adrián Mengana – Sports – The Havana Reporter
June 20, 2013

Havana. - With the victory of Leinier Domínguez at the 2013 Thessaloniki Grand Prix in Greece, Cuba’s chess players conquered the most important trophy of the 21stt century, adding a new distinction to their rich heritage.

Domínguez won six matches, five of them against players who had more than 2,700 ELO points; tied four; and lost only in the first round, against Gata Kamsky of the United States.

His wins and draws allowed Domínguez to add 30 ELO points, for a total of 2,757, a national and Latin American record, which is why he will hold 11th place in the next update of the world ranking.

Domínguez—winner of the 2008 world championship in fast chess in Almaty—beat Bulgarian Veselin Topalov (2,793 ELO), Italian Fabiano Caruana (2,774), Ukrainian Vassily Ivanchuk (2,755), Uzbek Rustam Kasimdzhanov (2, 699), and Russians Peter Svidler (2,769) and Alexander Morozevich (2,760).

Now the best player in Latin America, Domínguez is a worthy heir to his compatriot, José Raúl Capablanca, who was chess world champion from 1921 to 1927, and he is also the product of a chess competition project that has nothing to do with commercialization or professional sports. Argentine-Cuban revolutionary Commander Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, a huge fan of chess, was one of the proponents of that project, which was designed by a group of specialists in 1959 and supported by Cuba’s National Sports Institute, INDER.

A year after the creation of INDER in 1961, chess lovers received the pleasant news that an annual international tournament would be held: the Capablanca Memorial, named after Latin America’s doyen and one of the most prestigious players from this part of the world.

During those early years of the Cuban Revolution, solid steps were taken to make chess a mass sport, and in 1964, a book especially aimed at young people was published: Ajedrez Curso Moderno (Modern Chess Course).

Shortly after that, the “scientific game” got another boost when Havana organized the 17th World Chess Olympiad from Oct. 23 to Nov. 20, 1966, featuring more than 300 chess players representing 52 countries.

The competition turned Cuba into one giant, powerful chessboard. The halls where players were competing filled to bursting with spectators, and those who couldn’t get in followed the games through gigantic mural boards placed outside the Hotel Habana Libre, the Olympiad’s venue.

In 1968, Cuban Silvino García was unbeaten when he won the 3rd Pan-American Championship in Havana, and he took an important step toward his goal of becoming a Grand Master, which he reached in 1975, the first Cuban to do so.

He was followed by the late Guillermo García, in 1976; Amador Rodríguez (1977), Román Hernández (1978), Jesús Nogueiras (1979), Reinaldo Vera (1988)
and Walter Arencibia (1990), for a total of 23 male Grand Masters to date.

Among women players, the first Cuban to attain that title was Vivian Ramón in 1998, the first Latin American woman to do so. Subsequently, Maritza Arribas (1999), Suleinnis Piña (2002), Zirka Frómeta (2008), Yaniet Marrero (2008) and Oleiny Linares (2010) became Grand Masters.

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