UAAP Season 77’s top athlete dreams to be 1st Pinay chess grandmaster

DSC_0035Far Eastern University student-athlete Janelle Mae Frayna is on a mission to prove that a female can become a dominant force in the world of chess. Frayna, a BS Psychology sophomore, was recently named co-winner of the UAAP Season 77 Athlete of the Year award after leading the FEU Women’s Chess Team to the UAAP Championship and posting impressive finishes in recent international tournaments.

She is currently ranked Woman International Master by Federacion Internationale des Echecs (FIDE) and was the number one ranked female chess player in the Philippines in 2014 but slipped to second behind fellow FIDE WIM Jodilyn Fronda (from De La Salle University), who has played more international tournaments this year. Many in the local chess circle believe that Frayna has a strong chance to become the first Filipina FIDE Grandmaster.

“Very few women play chess in the international scene. There is this stereotype that chess is a man’s game. This has made me want to become the first woman chess master in the Philippines since there are very few women playing, I see this as an opportunity that if I excel, then I can be given the attention, “ said Frayna,.

If there is one thing Jannelle does not stand, its losing. “I treat the game of chess not just as a mere sport but a profession because I invest a lot of time in training. Whenever I lose, I get frustrated. I look back on the long laborious training. Every game has to be won”.

For inspiration the consistent honor student looks up to Grandmaster and women’s chess icon Judith Polgar.

“She is my constant motivator. At a young age of 15, Polgar reached top ten and was the only woman to get the GM title”, shared Jannelle. She believes that deep down she has what it takes to be a GM but admits that a lot of hard that needs to be put it.

Frayna led the FEU Women's Chess Team to its first UAAP title in four years and was named tournament MVP.

Frayna led the FEU Women’s Chess Team to its first UAAP title in four years and was named tournament MVP.

“If I do get it, it will be a pride not just for FEU but for our country as well.”

Janelle started to make a name when she was winning chess tournaments while being part of the FEU Diliman Juniors Chess team. But heads started turning when she became the first woman to defeat a male grandmaster (GM) and another male international master in the Battle of the Grandmasters tournament on July 2014.

She is the first woman to qualify for the men’s division of the said event by being among the top six semifinalists. She finished in a tie with legendary GM Eugene Torre, 16-yerar-old Paolo Bersamina, GM John Paul Gomez, and IM Emmanuel Garcia.

Those achievements have brought her close to fully earning the rank of IM, just a rung below GM, according to GM Jayson Gonzales, executive director, National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP).

Asian Chess Federation Deputy Vice President Casto “Toti” Abundo said Janelle Mae will have to improve her current ELO rating of 2050 to 2200 this year to be become a full-fledged Woman International Master.

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