Historias de Ajedrez - now on YouTube

by André Schulz
8/30/2022 – "Historias de Ajedrez", "Chess Stories", is a movie by the Cuban filmmaker Emmanuel Martin Hernandez. Hernandez is a chess player himself and his film tells the stories of chess players in Santiago de Cuba. Unfortunately, the film was released at the beginning of the pandemic and did not find the audience it deserved. But now you can watch it for free on YouTube.

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In three, or maybe four stories, that are connected by chess, the filmmaker takes a look at life in Santiago de Cuba.

The first episode tells the story of Raul, a chess teacher, but also a gambler who has debts and loses control of his life.

He loses his job as a chess teacher and is beaten up because of his gambling debts.

Osdalgia Vidaux is the main character in the second episode. She is a devout Christian and a strong chess player who plays for the title in the national championship.

Winning the championship would give her the right to play for Cuba in the Chess Olympiad. It would also help her financially, as she has to support a family with two children while she also has to take care of her sick mother.

As she is not in good shape because of these obligations, her coach suggests that she should cheat with the help of the Houdini engine, but Osdalgia refuses. While she fights to win the tournament, Osdalgia's husband kills her sick mother.

At her mother's funeral, Osdalgia proclaims her realisation that a good Christian cannot be a successful athlete. Family and competitive sport were also incompatible for women.

The third story begins in 1966, when Havana was the venue for the Chess Olympiad. The games of the Olympiad were shown on television and the event is of great importance for the still young communist republic.

The whole country is gripped by chess fever, including Pedro and Pablo, both eleven years old, who sit around a homemade chess board with other street children and try to teach themselves the game with the help of chess books.

Through their love of chess, Pedro and Pablo remain connected throughout their lives. 52 years later, they are both ill. Pedro has difficulty walking, Pablo has diabetes. But they still meet regularly to play chess.

Pablo's daughter has come to Santiago from Havana to sell her father's house and take him back to Havana with her. When Pablo learns that he is to lose his chess partner, he offers the daughter money so that his friend can continue to stay in Santiago.

A fourth story, which was allegedly found on the internet, is told by an off-screen voice. In 1975, Bobby Fischer and Anatoly Karpov are said to have agreed by letter to play a match in private, bypassing the World Chess Federation and the Soviet authorities. The match allegedly took place in Japan, with only one witness present.

The atmospheric film concludes with a melancholic final image.

Emmanuel Martin Hernandez, the author, director and producer of the film, is a chess player himself and knows the chess scene of Santiago de Cuba and its characters, which he convincingly portrays with all their strengths and weaknesses.

Hernandez also achieved another rare feat in his film. In each of the three stories, women play an important role and the film is full of sensual moments, which is unusual in films that deal with chess.

Hernandez made "Historias de Ajedrez" (Chess Stories) in 2019, and it was shown at some festivals but due to the Corona pandemic it did not find its way into cinemas, at least not outside of Cuba.

Hernandez has now made the film, which deserves a large audience, freely available on YouTube.

Emmanuel Martin Hernandez

The director with his Actors

Hernandez learned to play chess as a child and took part in Cuban junior championships. Later, and for a total of eight years, he worked at various times intermittently as a chess teacher. He has also published several articles on Grandmasters and International Masters from Santiago de Cuba.

Oleynis, la ajedrecista de Cristo

El Menor, un ajedrecista atípico

For a while, Hernandez worked as a freelance journalist. He knows many chess players, hobby players and club players, in his hometown Santiago de Cuba personally and is friends with them.
 

Historias de Ajedrez, 2019, 79 minutes

Written and directed by Emmanuel Martín Hernandez

Producer: Emmanuel Martín Hernandez

Cast: Adela Legra, Jorge Molina, Neisy Alpizar, Raúl Gomez, Barbara Rodriguez, Laura Ferrer, Yara Gonzalez, Jose Emigdio Pini, Mateos Pazos, Alberto Juantorena, Manuel Enríquez. Most of the performers are actors from different theatre groups of Santiago de Cuba.

In Spanish (with English subtitles.)

Calella Filmfestival...

Chess Stories (2019, Cuba, Historias de Ajedrez): The complete film

Links

Chess in films...


André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.
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