‘With Chess We Teach Children How To Manage Frustration and Defeat’

Riojaque is a training center in Spain that provides resources to stimulate the creativity of children from an early age, says Magariño. (Riojaque)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Xavier Carbonell, Salamanca, 11 November 2023 — In the language of chess, Cuba is still a key word. Despite the historic ups and downs, the precariousness – and politicization – of the teaching and the exile of its best players, the Island continues to produce outstanding chess players. This is the case of the teacher Daylin Magariño Carralero (b. Puerto Padre, Las Tunas, 1999), who emigrated to the Spanish community of La Rioja in 2020 to found her own academy and play under the flag of her adopted country.

A “noble and simple” childhood, the chessboard – which she handled with ease at the age of six – and an environment like the Cuban one, where the passion for the game has survived everything, were enough for Magariño to start a promising career in Las Tunas.

In Cuban classrooms, the teaching of chess is an option, sometimes mandatory, and although it is a copy of the Soviet system – intended to prove the “intellectual superiority” of the new man of communism – there is a more powerful reason why Cubans are proud of the sport: José Raúl Capablanca, the only world champion (1921-1927) from the Americas, other than the American Bobby Fischer.

However, Magariño tells 14ymedio, at present the Cuban chess players – despite the fact that several of the “big ones” have left – have not lost their standards. “In my opinion, the strongest Cuban teachers are Leinier Domínguez, Lázaro Bruzón, Carlos Daniel Albornoz and Lisandra Ordaz.”

A recent measure by the Cuban Chess Federation prevents Domínguez – who occupies the 13th place among the best in the world and is considered the symbolic “heir” of Capablanca – and Bruzón from playing in Cuban tournaments. The reason: being critical of the ruling party and belonging to other federations.

Magariño prefers not to allude to the tensions of the Island and alleges that, beyond the basics, she doesn’t know the situation of the education in the game in her country

Magariño prefers not to allude to the tensions of the Island and alleges that, beyond the basics, she doesn’t know the situation of the education in the game in her country of origin. Her life, she says, is now in Spain, a country in which she always wanted to live because of its “language, culture and chess tradition,” and to which she traveled with her husband. “The welcome they have had for me has been wonderful. I have had the opportunity to play in several tournaments, meet important sports figures and start my studies in psychology,” she says.

The young woman says that in La Rioja she has achieved her two great dreams: “Playing and teaching chess.” Her project, the Riojaque academy, offers courses to children and adults in different learning modalities.

“Riojaque is a training center that also provides resources to stimulate creativity and imagination in children from an early age; it’s not just to pass the time,” says Magariño.

Together with a partner “musician, teacher and writer,” they develop one of the areas in which Spain leads worldwide: educational chess. “We teach children to manage frustration, defeat and reinforce discipline and order,” she defines.

Being in Spain has also allowed Magariño to find other Cuban teachers who have arrived on the Peninsula, such as Arián González – also affected by the prohibition of the Cuban Federation – and Renier Vázquez. With them she played in the absolute individual championship of Spain and says that both are “well known and recognized by their Spanish colleagues,” with whom they now share a flag.

Magariño – champion of La Rioja in classic and fast chess in 2022 – has several immediate goals: to continue with Riojaque, to be in charge of the official Women’s and Chess Commission in La Rioja and to complete her psychology studies. About the Island, to which she has returned only once since she emigrated, she has a rather dispassionate opinion: “Like all countries, Cuba has good things and could improve others. What I like about my country is that people love chess.”

Translated by Regina Anavy


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