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Board one for chess phenom

Janelle Mae Frayna has progressed phenomenally in the last few years that it’s just a matter of time before she becomes the country’s first woman grandmaster.

The 20-year-old chess player from Albay will play board one for the Philippines in the women’s division of the Chess Olympiad which unfolds on Sept. 2 in Baku, Azerbaijan.

“Hopefully, I will get the WGM title there,” said Frayna, a graduating psychology student from Far Eastern University.

Frayna, a strong positional player, figured prominently in the recent world junior championships in India before fading into fifth place, barely missing the WGM title.

“I have a problem finishing a tournament. Palaging ganun ako. I still have to figure out the reason behind it,” said Frayna who competes against men as part of her training.

Frayna took part in the semifinals of the national men’s championship this year and boasted a victory over Olympian Rolando Nolte.

But his foremost win came at the expense of long-time Philippine champion GM Eugene Torre last year.

GM Jayson Gonzales, who coaches Frayna, describes the game as one of the best he’d seen.

“Akala mo dalawang super GM ang naglalaro. Ang nakakagulat, Janelle beat Eugene sa endgame. Kilala naman natin kung sino ang hari ng endgame dito sa Pinas,” he said.

Ironically, Frayna is not the most talented player that Gonzales has handled.

“May mas talented sa kanya, pero when it comes to hard work, no one beats her,” Gonzales said. “Isa pa, she picks up the lessons easily. Matalinong bata.”

Frayna graduated valedictorian in elementary and high school.

With an average of 1.5, she is set to graduate cum laude next year.

“Janelle is very passionate with whatever she does and makes up for what she lacks with hard work and determination,” Gonzales said.

With an ELO of 2299, Frayna is the highest-ranked Filipina ever.

Gonzales said Frayna has the potential to reach an ELO of 2500 if given the opportunity.

“After her graduation, we will try to campaign in Europe,” said Gonzales who qualified to play in the Olympiad, but opted to coach the women’s team.

Frayna, Gonzales and the rest of the national delegation leave for Baku today.

The other members of the women’s squad are WIM Jan Jodilyn Fronda, WNM Cristy Lamiel Bernales, WFM Shanai Mae Mendoza and WIM Catherine Perena Secopito.

Also leaving are Torre, GM John Paul Gomez and International Master Paolo Bersamina of the men’s squad. They will hook up with GM Catalino Sadorra and Rogelio Barcenilla who will be coming from the United States.

Rounding out the delegation are men’s captain James Infiesto and delegation head Ruel Canobas. (REY BANCOD)