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Frayna becomes PH’s 1st Woman Grandmaster

BAKU has turned out to be a chess milestone for the Philippines.

Janelle Mae Frayna finally got the last norm to become the country’s first woman grandmaster by drawing her game against Davaademberel Normin-Erdene of Mongolia in Sunday’s ninth round of the Baku Chess Olympiad.

Frayna and her foe split the point in 33 moves of a French Defense, giving the Filipina 6 points out of 9 games in a field that had three woman grandmasters and one woman with the male International Master title.

Though the Philippines lost 1.5-2.5 to Mongolia, Frayna’s historic quest more than made up for it.

“Good news for our country. I’m proud to announce that WIM Janelle Mae Frayna achieved the third and last result to become the first Woman Grandmaster from the Philippines,” said GM Jayson Gonzales, the women’s team skipper and Frayna’s personal trainer and coach at Far Eastern University.

Frayna’s title will be confirmed by the FIDE, the ruling body for world chess.

Eugene Torre won a wild game against Diego Flores and Ino Sadorra outmanuevered Sandro Mareco as the Philippines scrambled to draw Argentina after Paulo Bersamina and John Paul Gomez lost.

Torre has eight points out of nine rounds and is running third for the best prize on Board Three behind Zoltan Almasi of Hungary and Wesley So, the former Philippine champion, who now plays for the US.

The men’s team which now in 56th place meets Scotland in Monday night’s 10th and penultimate round, while the women’s side, now in 28th place, clashes with Italy, aiming nothing less than a win to remain in contention for a Top 10 finish.

Frayna will be fielded against the Italians as she pursues the men’s International Master title.

Frayna came close to claiming the title after she led with three rounds to go in the World Juniors in India a few weeks back and faltered in the stretch.

She was not to be denied this time.

WIM Janelle Jodilyn Fronda’s defeat to IM Tubswhintugs’ Batchimeg on board two decided the PH’s doom as Catherine Secopito and Shania Mae Mendoza halved the point with WGM Aoltan Ulzii Enkhtuul and WIM Uuganbayar Lkhamsuren on boards three and four.

The 64-year-old Torre now has an undefeated record of eight points on seven wins and two draws, the highest points by any individual player in the 11-round tournament.

But Torre is running fifth in the battle for the gold medal on board three, which will be determined by whoever ends up with the highest performance rating, behind a stellar cast that included GM Wesley So, who is representing the United States.

Russian GM Ian Nepomniachtchi currently leads the way with 2887 followed by Hungarian GM Zoltan Almasi’s 2871 while French GM Laurent Fressinet at No. 4 with 2857.

“Hopefully, Wesley and I could end up as board medallists and I’m also thinking of helping the team win matches,” said Torre, whose lone board medal came in the form a silver in the 1974 Nice Olympiad, where he eventually emerged Asia’s first ever GM. (MS)