Cuba’s Oleiny Linares making strides!

Cuba Cuba Cuba

Cuba is a country of complex history and culture. With a mixture of tradition stemming from Taino Arawak roots, Spanish colonialism and African lineage, the country of more than 11 million has a sense of pride that appears infectious. That same pride is taken in many areas such as scholarship, music, sport and art. One of the art forms that is highly revered in Cuba is chess. With a rich tradition stemming from the world championship of José Raúl Capablanca, chess has become fully integrated as a national pastime.


WGM Oleiny Linares Nápoles

If one goes to Cuba and visits the Capablanca Chess Club, one will find enthusiastic players engaging in blitz sessions and intense analysis of games. The players are very passionate, have a good standard and many strong players claim roots at the club. Because of this chess culture Cuba has developed into a chess power and is currently ranked #19 in the world… second to the U.S. in the western hemisphere. Leinier Domínguez is the top-rated player while the top-rated female player currently is Oleiny Linares Nápoles, winner of silver medal at Dresden Olympiad. Perhaps the Spanish name “Linares” is now known for more than the defunct super-GM tournament.

Born in the region of Santiago de Cuba in 1983, Linares hails from the same region of the great Afro-Cuban revolutionary, Lt. General José Antonio de la Caridad Maceo y Grajales… or simply Antonio Maceo. It is also the place where national hero Jose Marti is buried and incidentally Linares lives in the district bearing his name. There are a large number of Afro-Cubans in the city of Santiago de Cuba and Linares is one “Santiaguera” who has shined on the chess scene. Born June 27th, 1983 in Santiago she is a veteran of three Olympiad tournaments and has won several national titles. She earned the Women FIDE Master (WFM) title in 2000.

Linares on the podium receiving a silver medal at the 2008 Chess Olympiad in Dresden, Germany.
She scored an incredible 9/10. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

At the 2008 Dresden Olympiad, she rose to international prominence by scoring 9/10 (+8-0=2) and earning both a silver medal and the WIM title. In 2010, Linares became the women’s Cuban national champion and would help the team score a splendid result in the Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk. Cuban women achieved their highest ranking ever of 4th after wins over Latvia and Croatia. Linares would score 5.5/9 on second board and later be awarded the WGM title.

In 2012, Cuba was unable to repeat the success of the previous Olympiad and came in 19th despite only two losses. Both Linares (who was pregnant) and Lisandra Ordaz Valdes scored 6/10 at the 2012 Istanbul Olympiad (Linares on board #3). She won Havana’s Concluyó la Copa Giraldilla with 6.5/9. In this year’s women’s national championship, she came in joint 4th with the legendary WGM Maritza Arribas winning her 10th title.

In March of this year, Linares competed in the Capablanca Memorial, the annual tournament that attracts some of the world elite including Vassily Ivanchuk. The tournament is comprised of two sections: the Elite section, a near-2700 level tournament and the Premier section which is comprised of strong master-level players. While Hungarian Grandmaster Zoltan Almasi won the Elite section with 6.5/9, Linares won the Premier section with 7/9 with superior tiebreaks over IM Carlos Davila. In doing so, she scored a second IM-norm and it confirms the fact that women competing in the strongest available fields can yield good results.


Linares winning 1st at the 2013 Capablanca Memorial.

Linares can be considered one of the strongest players of African ancestry (male or female), but most certainly the strongest woman. It goes without saying that the success of this talented Afro-Cuban woman should not go unnoticed despite the lack of exposure Cuba gets in the mainstream western media. In addition, it is noted that her success should encourage women to come out of the comfort of playing solely in women’s tournaments since there are no limitations that would normally occur if brute strength were required.

A proud mother of two daughters (Mirtha Esther and Faith Victoria) with a supportive husband, she represents all that is good about chess and provides inspiration for those who may believe there are limitations of race and gender in the chess realm. Cuba is a country of intrigue and nostalgic beauty. It is a country with a complex geopolitical and sociocultural landscape, yet it is a country presenting many examples of resourcefulness and opportunism.

Rogelio Ortega is a name Linares must surely know. As the 1958 and 1966 national champion of Cuba, he served as a trailblazer in times where master-level players of African descent were rare. Ortega traveled the world competing against legends like Semyon Furman, Saloman Flohr, Max Euwe, Wolfang Uhlmann and Vlastmil Hort. Despite the height of Cuba-U.S. political tension, he traveled to the U.S. to play in the 1959 U.S. Open. He is honored by a memorial tournament in Cuba every year.

The aforementioned Afro-Cuban Antonio Maceo is honored on the Cuban peso and considered a national hero. More than 100 years later, we find another Afro-Cuban from the same city serving not as a soldier, but an ambassador of a sport that ofttimes is very exclusive. It is with such an example that Oleiny Linares Nápoles can continue her quest for excellence in chess and help present a picture of chess that is universal and more inclusive.

15 Comments

  1. Résumé of Oleiny Linares Napoles (in Spanish)

    Trayectoria deportiva
    Inicios

    Se inició en el Ajedrez a la edad de 10 años, el 23 de enero de 1994. A los tres meses participó en el Torneo Provincial Pioneril categoría 11-12 años obteniendo el tercer lugar con 61/2 de 9 posible, comenzando así la vida deportiva como ajedrecista.
    Resultados

    1995

    2do lugar –Torneo Municipal de Ajedrez Categoría. 11-12.
    1er lugar –Torneo Provincial de Ajedrez Categoría. 11-12.
    3er lugar –Torneo Juegos Nacionales Pioneriles, Matanzas Categoría 11-12.
    1er lugar –I Torneo Internacional I.S.L.A. Hotel Meliá Cohíba, La Habana.

    1996

    3er lugar –Torneo Provincial Femenino 1ra Categoría.
    Título de Experta Provincial de Ajedrez.
    3er lugar –Torneo Juegos Escolares Provinciales Categoría. 13-14.
    Participó en los XXXII Juegos Escolares Nacionales Categoría. 13-14.
    Participó en el Torneo Internacional I.S.L.A. Panamericano.

    En este mismo año ingresó en la EIDE Capitán Orestes Acosta

    1997

    1er lugar –Torneo Nacional “Protesta de Baraguá”.
    2do lugar –Torneo Juegos Provinciales Juveniles.
    2do lugar –Torneo Final Provincial 1ra Categoría.
    1er lugar – Torneo Juegos Escolares Provinciales Categoría. 13-14.
    1er- 4to lugar Torneo en los XXXIII Juegos Escolares Nacionales Categoría.13-14.
    Participó en los Juegos Juveniles Nacionales.
    Participó en el Torneo Internacional I.S.L.A. Hotel Comodoro.
    Ingresó a la ESPA Provincial Israel Reyes Zayas

    1998

    1er lugar –Torneo Juegos Escolares Provinciales Categoría. 15-16.
    1er lugar –Torneo Final Provincial 1ra Categoría.
    1er-2do lugar –Torneo XXXIV Juegos Escolares Nacionales Categoría 15-16.
    Participó en los Juegos Juveniles Nacionales.
    3er lugar –Torneo Semifinal Nacional 1ra Categoría.
    Título de Experta Nacional.

    1999

    7mo lugar- Torneo Campeonato Nacional de Cuba 1ra Categoría.
    Participó en los XXXV Juegos Escolares Nacionales Categoría 15-16 (masculino).
    1er lugar –Torneo Final Provincial 1ra Categoría.
    2do lugar-Torneo Juegos Juveniles Nacionales.
    Participó en el Torneo Internacional I.S.L.A. Panamericano.
    Participó en el VIII Torneo Nacional Clemente Vázquez in Memorian.
    Participó en VII Festival de Ajedrez Universitario AJEDUNI.
    Mejor Atleta Juvenil Femenina del Año en Santiago de Cuba.
    En este mismo año Ingresó al CEAR “Giraldo Córdova Cardín”

    2000

    Participó en el XIII Torneo Nacional “Protesta de Baraguá”.
    1ro-4to lugar –Torneo Final Provincial 1ra Categoría.
    8vo lugar en los Juegos Juveniles Nacionales.
    Título de Maestra Nacional.
    Título de Woman Fide Máster. (Maestra Fide).

    2001

    4to lugar-Torneo Final Provincial 1ra Categoría (masculino).
    Participó en el XIV Torneo Nacional “Protesta de Baraguá”.
    2do – 4to lugar en el Torneo Juegos Nacionales Juveniles.

    2002

    2do lugar –Torneo Juegos Cimarrones.
    Participó en los Juegos Juveniles Nacionales.
    1er lugar –Torneo Final Provincial 1ra Categoría.
    Participó en la I Olimpiada del Deporte Cubano.

    2003

    Participó en el Campeonato Nacional de Cuba 1ra Categoría.
    2do lugar- Torneo Nacional Copa Granma.
    1er lugar-Torneo Juegos Juveniles Nacionales. Campeona Nacional Juvenil.
    Mejor Atleta Juvenil Femenina de Cuba
    2do lugar – XXI Torneo Nacional Hermanos Saíz in Memorian.

    2004

    5to lugar en el Torneo Campeonato Nacional de Cuba 1ra Categoría.
    3er lugar en la II Olimpiada del Deporte Cubano 2004.
    2do lugar –Torneo Especial Aje-Ché.
    Participó en el I Torneo Nacional Ernesto Che Guevara Aje-Ché.
    1er lugar –Torneo Final Provincial 1ra Categoría.
    4to lugar- XXII Torneo Nacional Hermanos Saíz in Memorian.

    2005

    1er lugar –Torneo Final Provincial 1ra Categoría.
    2do – 6to lugar –Torneo Semifinal Nacional 1ra Categoría.

    2006

    6to lugar en el Torneo Campeonato Nacional de Cuba 1ra Categoría.
    1er lugar en la III Olimpiada del Deporte Cubano 2006.
    3er lugar en el Torneo Final Provincial 1ra Categoría.
    Participó en el III Torneo Nacional Ernesto Che Guevara Aje-Ché.
    Participó en el XLI Torneo Internacional José Raúl Capablanca in Memorian; norma de MI.
    1ro – 6to lugar en el Torneo Semifinal Nacional 1ra Categoría.

    2007

    5to lugar en el Torneo Campeonato Nacional de Cuba 1ra Categoría.
    Participó en el XLII Torneo Internacional José Raúl Capablanca in Memorian.
    Participó en el XIV Torneo Internacional Guillermo García in Memorian.
    Participó en el IV Torneo Internacional Copa Moncada.
    3er lugar- IV Torneo Nacional Ernesto Che Guevara Aje-Ché.
    2do lugar- XXIV Torneo Nacional Hermanos Saíz in Memorian.

    2008

    2do – 3er lugar en el Torneo Campeonato Nacional de Cuba 1ra Categoría.
    1er lugar en el Torneo Copa 13 de Marzo.
    1er lugar en la IV Olimpiada del Deporte Cubano 2008.
    Participó en el XLIII Torneo Internacional José Raúl Capablanca in Memorian.
    Participó en el V Torneo Internacional Copa Moncada.
    2do lugar XXXVIII Olimpiada Mundial de Ajedrez.
    Participó en el XXI Torneo Internacional Carlos Torre Repetto in Memorian.
    Mejor Atleta Femenina del Año Deporte Ajedrez.
    Mejor Atleta Femenina más Destacada del Año Novato en Santiago de Cuba.
    Título Woman International Máster. (Maestra Internacional)

    2009

    4to lugar en el Torneo Campeonato Nacional de Cuba 1ra Categoría.
    1er lugar en el Torneo III Juegos Deportivos del ALBA 2009.
    Participó en el Evento Científico Internacional III Juegos del ALBA.
    Participó en el VI Torneo Internacional Copa Moncada.
    Participó en el XLIV Torneo Internacional José Raúl Capablanca in Memorian.
    3er-8vo lugar en el Torneo Continental Femenino de Ajedrez.
    2do lugar en el Torneo Campeonato Nacional Universitario.
    Premio en Evento Científico Nacional Ernesto Che Guevara Aje-Ché.
    1er lugar en el Torneo Campeonato Panamericano Universitario.
    Título de Licenciada en Cultura Física.
    Premio Anual del Decano de la Facultad de Cultura Física de Santiago de Cuba.

    2010
    Oleiny Campeona Nacional
    Oleiny Campeona Nacional

    1er lugar en el Torneo Campeonato Nacional de Cuba. Campeona Nacional de Cuba
    Participó en el Evento Científico de la V Olimpiada del Deporte Cubano.
    Medalla de Oro y Plata en la V Olimpiada del Deporte Cubano 2010.
    Participó en el XLV Torneo Internacional José Raúl Capablanca in Memorian.
    Participó en el XXX Torneo Internacional Villa de Benasque.España
    Participó en el XV Torneo Internacional Balaguer (2do Lugar Fem.)España
    Participó en el X Torneo Internacional Cervelló. España
    Participó en el XX Torneo Internacional La Pobla de Lillet. (1er Lugar Fem.)España
    Participó en Torneo Internacional de Ciudad Bella, España
    Participó en el X Torneo Internacional Vila del Poblenou (1er Lugar Fem.) España
    Participó en el I Torneo Internacional Por la Igualdad (3er Lugar general) España
    Participó en el X Torneo Internacional Villa de Bilbao (2do Lugar General) España
    Participó en el IX Torneo Internacional Virgen de Piélago (1er Lugar Fem.) España
    Participó en el XV Torneo Internacional Puerto de Santander (3er Lugar general) España
    Participó en la 39 Olimpiada Mundial de Ajedrez (4to lugar por equipos). Kanthy-Mansiysk, Rusia.
    Seleccionada entre los 10 Mejores Atletas del Deporte Ajedrez en Cuba.
    Seleccionada entre los 10 Mejores Atletas del Año en la provincia Santiago de Cuba.
    Título de Woman Grand Master. (Gran Maestro)
    Orden Antonio Maceo.
    Título de Héroe de la República de Cuba.

    2011

    2do lugar en el Torneo Campeonato Nacional de Cuba. Subcampeona Nacional de Cuba.
    Lleva 6 años en la Preselección Nacional de Ajedrez y 3 en la Selección.

    Source: https://www.ecured.cu/index.php/Oleiny_Linares_N%C3%A1poles

  2. It took me a while to understand why this web site portraits the talent of WGM Olenis Linares and not other cuban female players. After a while, after seeing so many references to the word afro, the design&name of the site and other stories, I was able to understand that the reason is because she is a good player and BLACK.
    I guess i dont have any problem with that but in my view [maybe limited since I am a cuban who happens to be white] dedicating a site to highlight the accomplishments of black players divide instead of uniting. In Cuba you will never see that; If you are black, white or in between and you are good, you are simply good not a black player that happens to be good or viceversa.

    Seeing the world in black and white seems like an extremism in my book. It was positive and needed in the past (civil right movement comes to mind); but the world is evolving, racial discrimination is a matter of the past as far as institutions and most laws are concerned (the mind of some people evolves slower but evolves nonetheless), so why concentrating in only a category of players according to race? What about if white players create a website for only white players? Everybody would call KKK or racism, deservedly so by the way. My advice, try to widen your scope and start targeting chess as a sport regardless of race.

  3. Jose,

    Firstly, this site has been up since 2001 and you are only discovering it… shame. It is widely known. It is clear that you have not taken much time to look through the site before writing this response.

    On your point… this accusation has been made an a lively discussion took place here six years ago when an Australian made the same point you made. He called the site “racist”.

    https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2007/07/14/is-the-chess-drum-a-racist-website/

    He also mentioned the Civil Rights movement as if that is the first point of political debate on race in America. It was not. I am not sure why many believe Dr. Martin Luther King was the only one who fought against racial exclusion. Race has been an issue for thousands of years and scholars have used race to justify the oppression of others and it is still happening. To say the world has moved past this means you’re either uninformed, or grossly naive.

    If you were not aware of this site then you may have missed the fact that it covers a variety of major tournaments around the world including World Championships, World Cups, qualifying tournaments, elite tournaments, U.S. Championships, subzonal events and I have even traveled to four Olympiad tournaments. By the way, I have also traveled to Cuba as well (a place where you say is no racism). This site contains over 13,000+ pages of news, information, essays, op-ed articles, interviews of players around the world. I do this in my own free time and money with no sponsors… only with hard work and my God-given skills.

    “My advice, try to widen your scope and start targeting chess as a sport regardless of race.”

    You should look at this page…

    https://www.thechessdrum.net/newsbriefs/newsbriefs.html

    … then you should answer this question: Why should this site be like all the other major sites in the world that cover primarily European and North American chess? Do you accuse them of racism? In fact, this site covers a wide variety of chess activity in places that receive little coverage… PLUS it covers the major events as well. If you also look at the side bar of the blog you will see how many countries have been highlighted on this site. Also I have interviewed many, many players including those such as Levon Aronian, Hikaru Nakamura and other strong GMs throughout the world. Take a look.

    https://www.thechessdrum.net/interviews.html

    However, The Chess Drum highlights players of African descent because it would not otherwise occur and thus it would not show the true INCLUSION (not EXCLUSION) of different ethnicities around the world. Cuba should be proud of all of its players, but that does not stop players of African ancestry from also being proud of Oleiny’s accomplishments. She IS one of African ancestry, we are proud of her and she is a role model in chess despite not being a very famous player. It makes quite a difference.

    Just as Viswanathan Anand gave hope to Indians around the world (and are now a chess power), we have players who we can admire and there is no apology for having such a website. There are all types of websites that focus on specific groups, nationalities, ethnicities, women and physical disabilities (such as the blind). Is this also bad? The Chess Drum is not to the exclusion of others, but it also shows that players of many ethnicities can excel. There is still a widely-held belief that Blacks cannot achieve intellectual feats. Here is a site of white supremacists discussing this.

    https://www.thechessdrum.net/newsbriefs/2005/NB_WhiteBlack.html

    As far as racial discrimination… you are living in a dream world. Racism is still as vibrant as ever. I have been all over the world and what you speak is pure nonsense.

  4. No matter how hard you try, there will always be people who will never grasp matters of race because their lack of understanding stems from something deeper than ignorance. I’d just say if your website is being attacked for also covering the achievement of black chess players, you must be doing something right.

    1. It would be an interesting debate if his comments were true, but as soon as he said that looking at the world in black/white terms was acceptable during the Civil Rights movement, but not relevant now, he is totally discredited. Most people never even consider The Chess Drum as a reputable site because they are stuck on their own insecurities in dealing with people of other ethnicities. However, The Chess Drum is not discussing racial conflict or seeing the world in black and white. It is simply highlighting the accomplishments of Black players as well as celebrating the universality of chess.

      Seeing the world in black and white seems like an extremism in my book. It was positive and needed in the past (civil right movement comes to mind); but the world is evolving, racial discrimination is a matter of the past as far as institutions and most laws are concerned (the mind of some people evolves slower but evolves nonetheless), so why concentrating in only a category of players according to race?

      People like Jose think that racism does not exist because laws have outlawed it. This is the most ridiculous notion. That is like saying crime doesn’t exist because there are laws against crime.

  5. I agree 100% with Guy, Daaim. Keep doing the good work you are doing. You will always have haters. It’s only when people STOP attacking you should you begin to worry 🙂

    Peace !

    1. It is OK to be accused of something if it is based on facts, but when people like Jose had never seen the site before and apparently never took the time to go through the pages. He doesn’t have a clue on what the site is about.

  6. In my opinion, it’s a waste of your time to spend your energy to defend the good work that you are doing to an individual who shoots before aiming.While I enjoy hearing what players from all parts of the world are accomplishing, what I love to hear the most is what my brothers in Africa and the Caribbean are achieving.It’s exciting to hear good news about a neighbor but it’s even better to receive good news about a son.

  7. In fairness, Jose boldly raised points of interests which should be appreciated only to illustrate his personal lack of understanding. I think his question is, Why a Chess Drum site centered on the promotion and achievements of groups/individuals who acknowledge their African heritage. Maybe we should ask Jose why he describe himself as “Cuban” and “White”. I wonder if Jose knows he might not normally be considered as “white” in the USA and enjoy special societal privileges expected and bestowed upon individual of European heritage.

    I do agree with Jose in that we should see the world in more than a white and black perspective. I personally do not use these term in representation of other individuals. Historically, they are used and associated with the presumption of privileges or lack of privileges. I personal challenge Jose (and all others) to look beyond the “white and black ” label and see their true heritage and appreciate the heritage of others. Believe me it is easier to make friends this way or at least understand the perspectives of others?

    cpercy

    1. Great comment!

      Furthermore I believe that many equate an emphasis on one group as somehow being a de-emphasis (or even an attack) on others. Otherwise not sure why Jose would say I’m looking at the world as black/white. Not at all. That appears to be the notion on race relations here in the U.S. which is why predominately Black groups and institutions are attacked while predominately-female, predominately-Asian or predominately-Jewish are not.

      The Chess Drum has never been recognized as a all-purpose site, but only one focusing on a niche market. Of course this is wrong. If we can just understand that we are adding another element to the chess community and a unique expression, we will understand that The Chess Drum a site of inclusion, not exclusion. To promote one group does not presume that you are somehow against the others.

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