If they left the island, it’s as if they don’t exist.
By Javier Herrera
HAVANA TIMES – At the very least, the Cuban sports press should be called infamous and cowardly with respect to its actions with emigrant athletes, even those who have not ‘deserted’ from any official delegation. Now it was the turn of Grand Master Leinier Domínguez Pérez.
GM Leinier did not desert any delegation. Leinier simply decided one day to emigrate with his family to the United States. Before emigrating, he had not played in Cuba or with Cuban teams for two years. Becoming part of the US team was just the logical way to give continuity to his career, given that Cuban sports policy did not allow athletes based abroad to participate in national competitions or teams at that time. Being part of the powerful US squad is not something that was given to him, he earned it through training and playing masterfully.
Despite the fact that Leinier has never expressed any political criteria, let alone attacking the Havana regime, today Leinier moves chess in the prestigious FIDE World Chess Cup 2023, while the sports press in general maintains an ignominious silence. With a couple of honorable exceptions, INDER and the Cuban Chess Federation also participate in the conspiracy of silence.
As exceptions we can name the International Referee of Las Villas and sports statistician Osmani Pedraza León (Pinky), who from his blog ‘Pinky Deportes’ keeps track of the tournament and delights us with his excellent narratives and accurate comments on both chess and statistics.
The other great exception is the “supercubadatabase” website, which is managed by the also International Arbitrator and FIDE Rating Official, Melquiadez Amaury Quintana Mesoner, who, in addition to providing multiple chess services on this page, such as databases and relevant tournament information, follows up on Cuban chess players in whatever tournament they play in the world, regardless of whether they are residents of Cuba or not.
The Cuban State needs to be reminded, its press and even more so the sports press, that the Cuban people are a sports loving people, that they practice sports and that they admire and follow their athletes regardless of political considerations or race or any other type that are not merely sports. It is also good to remind them that information is a right and that the salary of sports journalists and commentators is paid with the sweat of the people who follow sports.
Dominguez is not the first nor the last Cuban athlete living abroad to be ostracized, summarily ignored and even erased from Cuban statistics, but it is the case that is currently taking place and it is shameful.
In the field of chess, Cuba occupies a high place in the world ranking. Cuba has a World Chess Champion who for many is the best of all time, Jose Raul Capablanca, who lived abroad for a large part of his career and died on March 8, 1942, in New York and that is why he is no longer national pride and little mentioned.
As a renowned chess player we can also name Maria Teresa Mora, Capablanca’s only student, absolute Cuban national champion for 15 years and possible inspiration for the much-liked series “Dama’s Gambit”. We can also boast of having been born in our lands the first non-white Grand Master (specifically black) Roman Hernández, back in 1977.
Cuba has three Junior World Champions and Leinier himself has been a rapid game World Champion and has remained among the top 20 players in the ranking for more than ten years, which makes him the best Cuban and Latin American chess player after Capablanca.
With such chess endorsement, it is a pity that the national press does not dedicate a note to the performance of the great Cuban, even though he now plays under another flag. Fans are forced to look for information on social networks and websites. Leinier continues to be Cuban, even the specialized foreign press speaks of “the Cuban Leinier Domínguez”, and for us he continues to be “The Idol of Güines”.
Just like today we accept Cuban baseball players who play in the major leagues and live in the United States, on the national team and in the National Baseball Series, and we even hold exhibition rounds for players to be scrutinized by professionals and sell their contracts, I think that we should allow chess players living abroad to participate in national tournaments and even be part of the National Team. They are not few and their quality is more than proven. At this moment names like the Grand Masters Yasser Quesada, Lázaro Bruzón, Neuris Delgado and many others come to mind that would make the list quite long.
Their presence on the Cuban sports newscasts would also be fair because, regardless of the government opinion or the political opinions of the athletes themselves, they are still Cuban and there are many fans who are interested and proud of their sporting performance.