14ymedio, Julia Mézenov, Villa Clara, 9 February 2019 — Although Lázaro Bruzón is one of the most important Cuban chess players, his name is no longer on the national team’s roster. This 36-year-old from Las Tunas, who enjoys every victory to the fullest and is extremely upset with the defeats, has taken his separation from the island without drama in international events.
While the specialists speculate about his future, Bruzón continues to dedicate himself to moving the pieces, something he has not stopped doing since he was enthusiastic about chess at the age of seven. «It was very hard, but I understood that it was the right thing to progress and I always had many dreams of improving to help my family,» he tells 14ymedio now.
In 1999 he was part of the Cuba team for the first time and returned to Las Tunas with his title of Grand Master. At just 18 years of age, he was world youth champion, but despite his laurels and the fact that his name ws heard more and more in sports media, he had to continue going through many everyday problems such as the difficulties of travel.
«There was a time when we received more support but then everything got complicated until the help was practically nil,» he recalls. «Many times they invite us to tournaments and help us with the expenses, but everything depends on the level of the player and his Elo.» That reality ends up hitting many young chess players who «if they can’t afford these trips and no one pays for them… how do they do it?»
When he reflects on the possibility of sustaining himself economically playing chess in Cuba, Bruzón talks about the different moments he has lived through. «For a short time, in the Capablanca Tournament, Cubans have been awarded prizes. Before the payments were only for foreigners, and in international events the prizes vary a lot.»
Last September, Bruzón was officially expelled from the national chess preselection for refusing to return to the country. In spite of this incident, he affirms that he does not have any «personal» problem against anyone specific to the Cuban Chess Federation and insists that throughout his career «this is the first time such a controversy has been created.»
«They have erroneously taught us that everyone who leaves Cuba becomes a kind of enemy. I left with great optimism that good relations could be maintained based on communication and mutual respect with all the intentions of the world to continue playing for my country, but in practice it is difficult,» he laments. «I wish that Cuban sports could divorce itself from politics a little. I hope one day it does not matter where a person resides in order to represent their country.»
Currently, half of the Grand Masters of Cuban chess reside abroad. Regarding this reality, Bruzón believes that «progressing beyond a point while in Cuba» is complicated because it collides with «a ceiling beyond which you can no longer climb.» He also has talked several times about the lack of connectivity. «I’ve talked about the importance of the internet for chess.»
His presence in the United States began with a study opportunity. «In my plans I was not leaving Cuba but the possibility of coming to a prestigious university, such as Webster, with a chess program led by former world champion Susan Polgar, motivated me a lot,» he says. «It’s where they see everything differently, here there are many great teachers who study and come from different countries, but they do not break with their federations or with their countries because they are here. »
This week Bruzón was involved in an intense controversy when he posted on his Facebook account several criticisms of the text of the new Cuba Constitution that will be voted on in a referendum on February 24. The chess player questioned that in the preamble of the Magna Carta says that «only in socialism and communism the human being reaches his full dignity.»
«I have been looking for the definition of dignity in all places, I have also inquired about the importance of the Constitutions to countries and what they should be, and there is no way to understand that this approach is correct.»
With his traditional moderate tone, Bruzón defined as a «long path» the one that remains for Cubans «to travel» to «learn that the other person can think differently from us and that does not mean that he is wrong, we are not possessors of the absolute truth, although they have taught us otherwise,» he added.
In the conversation with 14ymedio he reiterates these concepts when he points out that migratory restrictions have affected chess. «Many athletes would still be in Cuba representing their country if they could come and go without so many obstacles. And it’s not only in chess. I think we have to fight for the right things and break old schemes that only serve to create disunity among Cubans.»
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