Home Announcement Portland Teens Travel to Promote Cross-Cultural Understanding Through Chess

Portland Teens Travel to Promote Cross-Cultural Understanding Through Chess

by Ogunsiku Babatunde
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Equatorial Guinea, a Central African nation without a chess federation, is going through the change of a lifetime, as teenagers from Portland, USA in partnership with the United States Embassy in Malabu, and the Equatorial Guinea Embassy in Washington D.C, would be creating a change in the way the country sees chess, and here is the story of how it all began.

…..Showing the world that distance is not an issue when you believe in a cause!

After years of long-distance support, chess activists in Oregon will travel 8,000 miles to meet their counterparts in Equatorial Guinea.

Four Portland high school students will travel to the Central African nation of Equatorial Guinea this month to work directly with students and teachers in promoting cross-cultural understanding through chess education and competitive play. The trip, scheduled for November 14-23, is the culmination of a two-year collaboration with Equatoguinean chess activists. The cross-cultural exchange was initiated by students Avi Gupta and Seth Talyansky in 2016, after they made contact with educators and chess enthusiasts in Equatorial Guinea, and learned of the obstacles young players face due to a lack of existing chess infrastructure.


Aerial view of Malabo, Capital city of Equatorial Guinea, located on Bioko Island. Image Credit: Ipisking

The four teens traveling to Equatorial Guinea are Avi Gupta (senior), Seth Talyansky (senior), Duncan Soiffer (junior), and Sean Uan-Zo-li (sophomore), all students at Catlin Gabel School in Portland. The efforts of Gupta and Talyansky over the past two years have been in collaboration with La Asociación Nacional de Ajedrez de Guinea Ecuatorial (ANAGE). On their trip, the four will work directly with ANAGE Technical Director Federico Ele Rano and his team to organize a chess festival that will include a youth tournament and the inaugural international Equatoguinean Open. They also plan to continue their effort to promote chess education in schools. Various National Chess Federations have backed the project, including those of the United States, Spain, and Brazil. The Oregon Scholastic Chess Federation (OSCF) and the Washington Chess Federation (WCF) have also contributed chess supplies for donation to Equatoguinean schools.


Malabu-US Embassy Chess Tournament at the Hilton Hotel: Image Courtesy – https://gq.usembassy.gov/checkmate-u-s-embassy-malabo-supports-successful-chess-competition/

Their partnership with the US Embassy in Malabu brought about the support for a physical chess tournament in March, early this year, which culminated into a chess workshop to train several individuals about the understanding of the game of chess.

The trip to Equatorial Guinea is the culmination of years of work by Gupta and Talyansky to promote chess locally, nationally, and internationally. As leaders of the Catlin Gabel Chess Club, they launched the Catlin Gabel Chess Festival in 2016, an open, all-ages competition that initially drew a hundred and twenty three (123) players from 30 schools around the area, which included Inza Wood Elementary School in Wilsonville, the El Puente Bilingual School in Milwaukie, the Talmadge Middle School in Independence and Illahee Elementary School in Camas, Washington.


Catlin Gabel Chess Festival, 2016: Photo Credit – https://www.catlin.edu/page.cfm?p=502&newsid=120

Since the inaugural Festival, Soiffer and Uan-zo-li have been substantially involved in the Festival planning and execution. In 2018, the Festival attracted a hundred and fifty (150) players from across Oregon and Southwestern Washington, including a delegation of first-time competitors from Hermiston, Oregon, that overnighted on the campus. Festival proceeds have gone toward numerous charitable causes, including a donation to the Portland Rescue Mission, and initiatives to support chess in Macedonia, Guatemala, and of course Equatorial Guinea.

The Portland students’ collaboration with chess players and educators in Equatorial Guinea began in 2016, when Talyansky contacted the country’s embassy in Washington, D.C, as a project for his Spanish class (Equatorial Guinea is the only Spanish-speaking country in Africa). Through the embassy’s consular secretary, Talyansky and his classmate Gupta were introduced to Federico Ele Rano, who would become their partner in Equatorial Guinea.

Maria Cano School

Kids from Maria Cano School learning how to play the game of chess. Image Credit: Federico Ele Rano

Working with Ele Rano, the Portland students have coordinated correspondence games with Equatoguinean players over email and WhatsApp; offered guidance on forming and operating a chess club; and shipped chess materials to their counterparts, including chess sets, clocks, and books.


They can discuss these cross-cultural efforts before they depart for Africa on November 15, or after they return on November 22. They will be documenting their trip with photographs that they are also willing to share with media.

To arrange for an interview, you can contact the team members and spokespersons Avi Gupta at [email protected] and Seth Talyansky at [email protected]. You may also contact Ken DuBois, who happens to be the Catlin Gabel Director of Public Relations, at [email protected] and 503-867-3708.


Catlin Gabel School, Oregon. Image Credit: https://www.walkermacy.com/projects/catlin-gabel-elementary/

Catlin Gabel School is an independent, non-sectarian, progressive coeducational day school serving 760 students from preschool through 12th grade. Our mission: to support inspired learning leading to responsible action through dedicated teaching, caring relationships, a challenging curriculum, and community service. Learn more at www.catlin.edu.


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