September 14, 2016
In Chess We Trust
It’s a happy and sad day for Philippine chess.
Sad because our men’s and women’s teams lost their 11th and final round matches in the just concluded 42nd World Chess Olympiad.
Our men’s team fell to Australia, 1.5-2.5, and into 58th place with 12 match points, one of the worst performances by the country in the biennial meet considered as the strongest chess team tournament in the world.
Our women’s squad bowed to 12th seed Lithuania, 1-3, and skidded to 34th place with 13 points.
But I will not dwell on the bad and just talk about the good, which I feel are many.
Janelle Mae Frayna, for one, is the best thing that ever happened to Philippine women chess. Frayna has left her mark by becoming the first ever Woman Grandmaster from our country. Not yet contented, she clinched the men’s International Master the next day. That’s another first, actually, since no Filipina has ever accomplished such feat.
Let’s talk about the women’s team.
Had the squad won in their last round match, we would have finished 10th at best and 18th at worst. We came just a one stroke of luck of making it that far. Imagine that. This same bunch of lady woodpushers have the talent. In case you’re hiding in a cave, these same team stunned fourth seed Georgia and faced several other teams in the Top 10 and 20 in the world like India, Hungary, Italy, Mongolia and Lithuania. Given the proper support, training and international exposures, we could make it to the Top 10. The cornerstone is Frayna. Count in Jodilyn Fronda, who held her own on second board. And this 19-year-old girl named Shania Mae Mendoza, who impressed with her attacking flare and daredevil style of play. We could build on these three players, whose average age is on the early 20s. Catherine Perena-Secopito is 32 years old but she’s good for many more Olympiads to come after she scored seven points of the possible 10.
Oh blessed Julio Catalino Sadorra.
He showed he could stand his ground against the best of them. He sent reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway backpedalling before settling for a draw in the end.
Saving the best for last is Eugene Torre.
He who scored a scintillating 10 points out of a possible 11 on eight spectacular wins and two fighting draws. And at age 64. Who could do that? For his feat, he took the bronze medal on board three, his first medal since snaring a silver in the 1974 Nice Olympiad where he also became Asia’s first ever GM.
Proud also of all the players, the captains and the delegation team members for just going there and wearing the flag on their blue jackets and shirts and just representing us.
Thank you all.
Don’t mind the doubters, whiners and doomsayers who ridiculed the team and hoped and prayed for a worst finish. You got your wish now and I hope you are all happy.
But no matter what they say, I will always keep my faith on Philippine chess. Because I know there is hope. And hope springs eternal.
(Photos courtesy of Bakuchessolympiad.com)
Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar