By Em Steck
Cuba is known for cars, cigars, communism and…chess?
HAVANA – Though little-known to many in the world, chess is one of Cuba’s greatest prides. The game is considered to be a blend of sports, arts and science among players and is deeply embedded in Cuban history and culture. Among chess circles worldwide, Cuba is known for producing one of the greatest chess grandmasters of all time—José Raúl Capablanca, whose influence led generations of Cubans to study chess in school and become internationally-ranked chess players.
“Cubans like chess and we had a world champion—Capablanca—and any country that has a champion has to seek the steps of their champion,” says Ramòn Pastor Hernàndez Somè, a professor of chess here in Havana.
Even Fidel Castro, the country’s longtime leader, played chess and promoted it along with his nationwide literacy programs. Castro and his right-hand-man Che Guevara organized the Chess Olympiads in 1966 and the world’s largest simultaneous game of chess in 2002. Since 2002, chess lessons have aired weekly on national television. Continue reading