Asia’s first Grandmaster Eugene Torre, 64, has met his “match” in Janelle Mae Frayna, the Philippines’ first Woman Grandmaster.
Frayna, 20, bagged the third and last required FIDE norm at the 42nd Chess Olympiad in Baku last Sunday night.
The good news about the Far Eastern University graduating psychology student who is vying for cum laude honors came from GM Jayson Gonzales, captain of the Philippine women’s team in the Olympiad, which is on its last two rounds in the Azerbaijan capital.
In nailing the elusive title, Frayna seemed to be continuing the recently successful run of Filipino woman athletes in the international arena.
Earlier last month, weightlifter Hidylin Diaz, 25, became the country’s first female Olympic silver medalist by placing second in the 55-kilogram division at the Rio Olympic Games.
Both young women made it on their own and without much fanfare.
Even if they wanted drum rolls, it was unlikely that they would get them.
One reason is that the sports of choice of Diaz and Frayna are not commercially viable for corporate sponsors, whose support concededly has been a big factor in popularizing women’s volleyball, in particular, in these parts.
Who would want to watch two persons sitting across each other for sometimes three hours or longer, pushing pawns and rooks, punching their respective clocks and, after their match ends, shaking hands and leaving, without as much as a backslap or a hug or a beso-beso?
Their coaches, maybe, and we can safely bet that neither the wife/girlfriend nor the husband/boyfriend will muster enough patience to stay in a chess hall where they have nothing to see but chessboards and more chessboards.
Unlike other disciplines such as, well, volleyball and basketball, chess treasures silence and frowns at the bratty and chatty crowd (strictly and very strictly, no mobile phones allowed!).
In weightlifting, the drama is short, maybe lasting at most a minute, after the weights have been lifted.
Besides, the sport suffers from abominable stereotyping of how women should look physically even if they are engaged in hoisting barbells heavier than two persons.
If some Filipinos rate woman athletes by good looks alone, then they should expect to see them in beauty pageants, not wrestling mats or basketball courts.
In beauty competitions, there are ugly contestants, so what is the problem of these people with “ugly” woman boxers or tae kwon do jins?
Hidylin and Janelle Mae probably could not care less about some of their countrymen being so obsessed with what they think female athletes should possess for them to even remotely appreciate their achievements.
What do you know? The two overachievers are pretty and charming as they are determined and capable to represent the Philippines the best way they can.
Congratulations, Miss Frayna and wishes for your ELO rating to go up and up!