Newly minted Woman Grandmaster (WGM) Janelle Mae Frayna outclassed International Master (IM) Olga Zimina to lead the Philippines to a 2.5-1.5 victory over Italy in the 10th and penultimate round of the 42nd World Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan.
The 20-year-old Frayna took the IM title after scoring seven points on five wins and four draws against a lone loss the day after she also obtained the WGM title to become the very first Filipina to ever do so.
In chess, an IM is a more prestigious title than a WGM but Frayna, who has a current rating of 2281, could only assume the former if she reaches the 2400-rating mark.
Frayna’s victory plus Shania Mae Mendoza’s triumph over Woman FIDE Master (WFM) Desiree Di Benedetto on board four and a draw by Christy Lamiel Bernales with WFM Daniela Movileanu on board three also lifted the Philippines to the much-needed win over Italy and into a 13-team group at No. 16 with 13 points.
The Philippines will tackle 12th seed Lithuania in the final round eyeing nothing less than a win that would propel it to top 10, its best ever finish if it happens.
The lone casualty of the day was WIM Jan Jodilyn Fronda, who lost to Marina Brunello on second board.
In the men’s section, GM Eugene Torre trounced FIDE Master Iain Gourlay to help the Philippines demolish Scotland, 4-0, while hiking his personal total to nine points on eight wins and two draws in 10 outings.
GMs Julio Catalino Sadorra, John Paul Gomez and Rogelio Barcenilla, Jr. downed IM Andrew Meet, GM John Shaw and FM Neil Berry on boards one, two and four, respectively, to cap the Philippines’ one-sided win.
The Filipinos will take on Australia in the final round trying to salvage a decent finish.
For Torre, he is a strong candidate for a medal on board three being currently at No. 5 with a performance rating of 2813.
Interestingly, former teammate GM Wesley So, now representing the US, leads the race with a spectacular 2883.
Azeri GM Rauf Mamedov’s 2839 Russian GM Ian Nepomniachtchi’s 2837 and Hungarian GM Zoltan Almasi’s 2819 are at Nos. 2 to 4.