LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 26 (PNA) —- Welcome honors during the flag-raising ceremony at the City Hall and a motorcade around the city greeted 20-year-old Janelle Mae Frayna, the country’s first woman chess Grandmaster (GM), when she arrived in Legazpi City Monday morning.
Frayna earned the title after a match in the ninth round of the World Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan on September 11. During the welcome ceremonies, Mayor Noel E. Rosal said Frayna’s achievement has been an “inspiration not just for the young generation in Legazpi City but also for those in the Philippines and the rest of the world.”
Frayna said she was very happy for the support given to her by the Legazpenos.
She encouraged young people to start playing chess early, “even at the age of six years old.” Frayna recalled she started playing chess when she was 11 years old and joined the Magayon Chess Club to hone her skills.
“Always play and practice chess. Read a lot of chess books so you can improve your moves and learn different strategies,” Frayna said.
Rosal, along the city’s legislative council, handed a P50,000 worth cheque to Frayna who was accompanied by GM Jayson Gonzales, captain of the women’s team in the chess Olympiad in Azerbaijan and executive director of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines.
The Sangguniang Panlungsod of Legazpi gave chess boards to representatives of four elementary and high schools in the city, such as Ibalon Central School, Taysan Resettlement Elementary School, Legazpi Port High School and Oro Site High School to signify the inspiration brought by Frayna’s victory.
The 14th City Legislative Council during its eighth regular session on Sept. 19 adopted Resolution 14-0038-2016 that commended Frayna for being the first woman chess Grandmaster of the Philippines.
Rosal said he will invite Frayna and Gonzales to play against selected members of chess clubs in the city as part of the city’s fiesta celebration on October 22.
After the flag raising ceremony, students from various schools and universities joined the motorcade which went around the city’s main thoroughfares.
Gonzales said in December, Frayna will play against various male Grandmasters from Europe in an international chess competition to be held in Subic, Zambales.
Sonia Frayna, Janelle’s mother, a civil engineer who heads the housing division at the City Planning and Development Office, said it was a dream come true for Janelle when she became the first woman GM of the country.
The elder Frayna said it was “sheer determination that made her daughter achieve the feat.”
Janelle is the youngest and the only daughter among three siblings that include brothers Jam Mari Felix, 25, and Don Mari Phil, 22. Her father George is also an engineer.
Sonia said her daughter first showed interest in playing chess during her elementary days at the Divine Word College of Legazpi (DWCL).
In her first and second year in high school, also at DWCL, Janelle won in chess tournaments during City Meets, Palarong Bicol and Palarong Pambansa.
Sonia said Janelle’s winning streak in various chess tournaments at the age 14 earned her a scholarship at the Far Eastern University (FEU) when she was in third year high school.
A consistent honor student in elementary and high school, Janelle will graduate as a Psychology major in college. She is a candidate for cum laude at FEU.
Gonzales said among the chess competitions Janelle won were as athlete of the year in a season of the University Athletic Associations of the Philippines and most valuable player in chess.
“She was twice first runner up and twice champion in the women’s national championships and twice a national junior champion, and many times a champion in the age group chess championships in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) competitions,” he said of his prodigy.
Gonzales said Janelle enrolled in the Philippine Academy for Chess Excellence in 2010 after undergoing six to eight months of extensive training.
“She gained prominence in the Philippine Chess scene when she won the National Juniors in 2011, one of the youngest winners in that particular event,” he said.
After that, Janelle kept on winning various national and international tournaments, he added.
She became a three-time member of the Philippine team for the world chess Olympiad.
Janelle achieved her first woman’s GM norm in the 2014 National Men’s grand finals while her second WGM norm was achieved at the Bangkok open in 2015.
Gonzales said in 2014 Janelle made history after qualifying as the first female player to reach the men's grand finals in the national chess championship and getting the fourth spot.
“Janelle beat several Filipino Grandmasters such as Rogelio Antonio Jr. and Richard Bitoon while getting a draw with Barcenilla,” he said.
In the same competition she defeated International Masters Joel Pimentel, Oliver Dimakiling and Jan Emmanuel Garcia.
Earlier, Albay second district Representative Joey Salceda pushed for a House resolution that congratulated Frayna for her victory.
He said he would give his one-month salary to Janelle as an incentive to her while consulting with the Philippine Sports Commission for another “substantial incentive.” (PNA) LAP/GVR/MSA/EPS/CBD