PH's first woman grandmaster continues to make waves in Chess Olympiad


Posted at Sep 13 2016 06:33 PM

PH's first woman grandmaster continues to make waves in Chess Olympiad 1
First Filipina Woman Grandmaster Janelle Mae Frayna. Photo from Frayna's Facebook page

MANILA -- Newly minted Woman Grandmaster (WGM) Janelle Mae Frayna defeated International Master (IM) Olga Zimina to lead the Philippines to a 2.5-1.5 victory over Italy in the 10th and penultimate round of the 42nd World Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan Monday night.

She also added the men's IM title to her list of achievements.

The 20-year-old Frayna took the IM title after scoring seven points on five wins and four draws against a lone loss, the day after she she became the very first Filipina to obtain the WGM title.

In chess, an IM is a more prestigious title than a WGM but Frayna, who has a current rating of 2281, could only assume the former if she reaches the 2400-rating mark.

Frayna's victory plus Shania Mae Mendoza's triumph over WFM Desiree Di Benedetto on board four and a draw by Christy Lamiel Bernales with WFM Daniela Movileanu on board three also lifted the Philippines to a much-needed win over Italy and into a 13-team group at No. 16 with 13 points.

The Philippines will tackle 12th seed Lithuania in the final round, eyeing nothing less than a win to propel it to top 10. That would be its best ever finish if it happens.

The lone casualty of the day was WIM Jan Jodilyn Fronda, who lost to Marina Brunello on second board.

"Janelle had made history by becoming the first Filipina WGM and men's IM title-holder, which she both achieved in this Olympiad," said GM Jayson Gonzales, the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) executive director and women's skipper.

"But our biggest goal is for the team to make it to the top 10, which will be the country's best finish in the women's division if ever we achieve it. And hopefully we could, with everyone's prayers," he added.

In the men's section, GM Eugene Torre trounced FIDE Master Iain Gourlay to help the Philippines demolish Scotland, 4-0, while hiking his personal total to nine points on eight wins and two draws in 10 outings.

GMs Julio Catalino Sadorra, John Paul Gomez and Rogelio Barcenilla, Jr. downed IM Andrew Meet, GM John Shaw and FM Neil Berry on boards one, two and four, respectively, to cap the Philippines' one-sided win.

The Philippines, whose trip is being bankrolled by the Philippine Sports Commission, has 12 points and will take on Australia in the final round trying to salvage a decent finish.

Torre, meanwhile, is a strong candidate for a medal on board three being currently at No. 5 with a performance rating of 2813.

Interestingly, former teammate GM Wesley So, who is now representing the United States, leads the race with a spectacular 2883.

Azeri GM Rauf Mamedov's 2839 Russian GM Ian Nepomniachtchi's 2837 and Hungarian GM Zoltan Almasi's 2819 are at Nos. 2 to 4.

Grassroots program

Meanwhile, Former Bayan Muna Rep. and current NCFP vice-president Neri Colmenares noted that Frayna was discovered through their group's grassroots program.

"Our first woman GM in Janelle Frayna and another GM aspirant Judilyn Fronda were products of the grassroots campaign by the NCFP when it held trainings and try outs in different age groups in Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon" he said.

Colmenares also thanked the PSC for backing the country's campaign in Baku. He said major tournaments like the World Chess Olympiad brings out that best in Filipino players like Frayna.

"GM Frayna is young and has a lot of potential to excel further in international chess. We thank the Philippine Sports Commission for supporting the campaign. I hope President Duterte would not only double but even treble current spending on sports particularly in the grassroots level," he said.

"GM Jayson Gonzalez successfully trained and coached the women's team which only shows that we have the caliber for world class chess. I hope that the Duterte administration would increase the funding for sports especially those where Filipinos excel like chess," Colmenares added.

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