Cuba’s top chess grandmaster switches allegiance to U.S.

HAVANA, Dec. 20th Chess Grandmaster Leinier Dominguez, Cuba’s strongest player and one of the top 20 ranked players in the world, is switching affiliations and now will play for the United States, officials at the U.S. Chess Federation announced Wednesday.

The 35-year-old Havana native has won the Cuban national championship five times and is also well known as a chess author and trainer. Although he has been relatively inactive on the tournament scene in recent years, his rating of 2739 would make him the fourth highest-rated player in the U.S.

Mr. Dominguez has been living in Miami. In a statement, he said it was “great to see the tremendous level that the game has acquired in the U.S. and I definitely want to be a part of it.”

Anchored by top grandmasters such as recent world championship challenger Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura, the U.S. has been a rising force on the world chess scene. The team anchored by Mr. Caruana won its first gold medal in 40 years at the 2016 biennial Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan, and took the silver (behind China) at the 2018 Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia in October.

It is not unheard of for top players to transfer their allegiance to a new federation. Mr. Caruana played under the Italian flag for a decade before returning to the U.S. Chess Federation in 2015. The process includes filing an application, documenting a shift in residency and paying transfer fees, according to officials of the international chess organization, known as FIDE.

Cuba also has a rich chess history, hosting a number of memorable tournaments and matches. Cuban-born Jose Raul Capablanca was world champion from 1921 to 1927 and is considered one of the greatest players in the history of the game.