Interested by the subject, I used a bit our modern friend - internet - and I came up with the following information:
What is it about Che Guevara that makes him mythical 40 years after his death? Che became rooted not only in worldwide political mythology, but even in American pop culture. He is the narrator in Evita. The group "Rage Against the Machine" had his image on the cover of their first album. While studying in university, I was always passing by a big poster of Che that hung in the campus. I saw many people wearing a t-shirt with his image on it. Certainly his good looks didn't hurt.
|Ernesto Inarkiev with his port-bonheur.|
|Rauf Mamedov fascinated as well|
by Che Guevara's personality.
Ernesto "Che" Guevara (June 14, 1928 – October 9, 1967), commonly known as El Che or simply Che, was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, intellectual, guerrilla leader, diplomat and military theorist. A major figure of the Cuban Revolution, his stylized visage has become a ubiquitous countercultural symbol of rebellion and global insignia within popular culture. - Wikipedia.
So much has been written about him, but for the moment my main interest went towards his flame for chess. You might say he used chess to present to the general public an intellectual image, to be a model for his people. Which I think it's not true, if you consider his education, his family background and his avidity for knowledge.
Chess photographs of Che Guevara are by no means scarce. For example, the following appeared on page 43 of the Cuban book on the Havana Olympiad, Cuba/66 XVII olimpiada mundial de ajedrez:
Below, moreover, are the front covers of two Cuban chess magazines:
Che and the Catalan:
In his preface to Korchnoi's new book (My Best Games, Vol. 1), Sosonko tells the following story:
- 1963, tournament in Havana: Some participants, including Tal and Korchnoi, give simuls. Among Korchnoi's opponents there is Che Guevara. An official approaches Korchnoi, telling him: "Che Guevara loves chess passionately, but he is a rather weak player. He would be extremely happy to draw his game against you." Korchnoi nods understandingly. Later in the hotel, Tal asks him how it went. "I won them all." - "Against Che Guevara, too?" - "Yes, he doesn't have the faintest idea what to do against the Catalan."
What firm facts can be added regarding his involvement in chess? Or, to pose the question more provocatively, what justification exists for his becoming, posthumously, a 'Grand Knight of FIDE'? Two of those created in 1992 were 'H.E. Corazon Aquino, Former President of Philippines' and 'H.E. President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida of Nigeria', whereas the 1999 winners included 'H.E. Francis Chiluba, President of the Repulic of Zambia', the Presidents of Georgia and El Salvador, Mikhail Gorbachov (Soviet Union) and James Callaghan (United Kingdom). Most impressive of all is the final entry in this 'Grand Knight of FIDE' category: 'Ernesto Che Guevarra. Post Humous Award, Cuba'.
If he deserved or not this title is not the purpose of this article.
The caption reads:
'Ernesto "Che" Guevara, Cuba's popular Minister of Industries (left) watching Boris de Grieff (Colombia) with the white pieces against Boris Spassky, the USSR Champion, in the Capablanca Memorial Tournament now in progress in Havana.'
There are also a couple of games available on Edward Winter's notes; underneath you can see the game played against the well known Najdorf:
On chessgames.com, I found the following explanations on the above game:
- "In a wonderful book written by Najdorf's daughter she tells a differrent story. According to her, quoting Najdorf, this game was not drawn. Najdorf told her that in this game he had offer Che a draw and that he had not accepted it. The game had gone on and Najdorf had won."
- "I'm Argentine and some years ago I read in Najdorf's chess column in the newspaper Clarin that he offered a draw but Guevara refuses it, leaving him with no option but winning."
- "I'm Argentine too and I remember Najdorf wrote that when he offered a draw to Guevara he agreed but saying: "Well, you are a great master of chess and a good diplomatic too. But now, please, play not diplomatically" and the following game was not recorded."
Before he founded a great chess tournament, Ché Guevara came to Cuba as a guerilla, when the island was ruled by Batista and the mob. He was on his way to a big hotel, the Havana Hilton. It was opened in 1958, as another gambling hall. Revolutionaries took over the building within a year. The new government occupied one floor of the enormous hotel and renamed it Habana Libre.
When the political situation had stabilized, Ché warmed up the government for a chess event. The Capablanca Memorial (in Memoriam) became the best paid tournament in the world. Ché Guevara could cover the costs as director of the National Bank and Minister of Industries. Twenty-two players from Europe, Latin America and Cuba conducted the first contest in Habana Libre from April until May 1962.
|Ché Guevara talks to Miguel Najdorf in 1962.|
Credit: Jan van Reek
"You know, comrade Pachman, I don't enjoy being a Minister, I would rather play chess like you, or make a revolution in Venezuela." - Che Guevara
1. Chess Notes by Edward Winter
2. Tim Krabbe: "Open Chess Diary"
4. Jan van Reek: "Capablanca Memorial"