Chess: Ahead of FIDE World Cup, Filipina GM Janelle Mae Frayna hits travel snag

Manolo Pedralvez

Posted at Jul 10 2021 03:30 AM

With 3 days before her FIDE World Cup debut, Woman Grandmaster Janelle Mae Frayna and her coach, Grandmaster Jayson Gonzales, left early Friday night to compete in the prestigious tournament in Sochi, Russia opening on Saturday.

After a grueling 21-hour Qatar Airways flight from Manila, with stops in Doha and Moscow, Gonzales said they expect to arrive in the Russian resort city that was the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics at 1 a.m. on Saturday.

In a Viber message, Gonzales said they were supposed to be with the rest of the national team that left last Wednesday, July 7, if not for a defect in their Russian visas.

“Unlike the rest of the team members that were stamped July 8, my passport and Janelle’s were stamped July 9, so we were not allowed to board the plane and had our visas amended,” he explained.

Already in Sochi are International Masters Paulo Bersamina, Daniel Quizon and Michael Concio and coaches, GM Darwin Laylo and Fide Master Roel Abelgas, according to Gonzales, adding that they would try to attend the opening ceremonies Saturday despite their delayed arrival. 

“The roll call of players and technical meeting will be on July 11 (Sunday) while the first matches will be on July 12 (Monday),” added the coach, who thanked the Philippine Sports Commission for funding the trip, as well as the National Chess Federation of the Philippines and the Philippine Olympic Committee for their support.

The FIDE World Cup serves as the beginning of the elimination series to decide the challengers for men’s reigning world champion, Norwegian super GM Magnus Carlsen, and his female counterpart, Ju Wenjun of China. 

Frayna will barely have time to shake off the jet lag before she takes the board against Vietnam-born GM Hoang Thanh Trang, who now plays for the Hungarian flag, in the 64-player draw.

Trang, who has an ELO rating of 2404 to Frayna’s 2149, was the 2000 Asian women’s champion and the 2013 European women’s chess champion.

Now an Army Private, Frayna said she had met Trang before in an international tournament making her familiar with the Hungarian’s playing style.

Unlike before when she felt pressured to living up to her status as the country’s first and only WGM, Frayna said she found the joy of playing chess once again and would relish her experience in playing in her first FIDE World Cup. 

In the men’s tournament consisting of 206 players that include Carlsen, Bersamina tackles Indian prodigy and GM Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, 15, who has an ELO rating of 2608 against the Filipino’s 2462, an opponent he beat 4 years ago in international play.

IM Quizon plays veteran GM Evgeny Bareev, who was born in Russia but shifted allegiance to Canada in 2015, while IM Concio tangles with Indian GM Aravindh Chitambaram in the other Filipino matches in the Open division.