Occasionally a story strikes our fancy because of the sheer surprise of the subject. And so we were smitten by “Grandmasters in Guayaberas,” Josh Schonwald’s piece in the Miami New Times, about four unlikely chess champs.

Rodelay Medina, Renier Gonzalez, Charles Galofre, and Alberto Hernandez learned to love the game as youths in Cuba, but learned to crave victory as the scrappy Miami Dade College Sharks. They manage to beat Harvard and Yale, but not their true nemeses, the college-chess behemoths Texas and Baltimore.

We regret the length of this piece, wishing that it could have been edited taut and told in a more narrative voice. But we applaud the extensive reporting and the layers Schonwald wove in—the Cuban culture’s infatuation with chess, the history of the Miami Dade College Sharks, the physiological effects of competitive play. And we appreciated the myriad characters, from middle-aged bouncers in a club called La Covacha to “the Polish Magician” and “the Indian Tiger.”

Grandmasters in Guayaberas,” by Josh Schonwald

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