Just like any athlete going through the pandemic, Woman Grandmaster (WGM) Janelle Mae Frayna went through a difficult time when the country and the world literally stood still because of COVID-19.
Frayna, the country’s first-ever WGM, confided to The Designated Kit Man that she almost lost her way and “resigned” from chess. With the world adjusting to the impact of the pandemic, Frayna said admitted she lost her passion when the things she wanted to happen and the goals she set for herself for a certain time frame took a backseat due to the challenges of dealing with the lockdowns, social distancing, and cancellation of physical tournaments, among other concerns she has to deal with for the past two years.
Eventually all the pressures took a toll on her mental health.
“Nu’ng nag-pandemic kasi, curse and a blessing for me. Tumigil kasi ang mga regular kong ginagawa. Most of the time nasa bahay ka lang. At the same time, nag-open naman ‘yung mga online classes for chess,” Frayna recounted. “I have this goal or time frame na hinahabol. Na-inisip ko, na ‘pag hindi ko nakuha at a certain age, hindi ko na siya magagawa. ‘Yung pressure that time, instead na maging helpful siya, nakasira pa para sa akin.”
Fortunately for Frayna, it was her “students” —kids whom she teaches how to play chess online through the Philippine Academy of Chess Excellence or PACE—who saved her from leaving the sport she loves.
“Nakita ko ‘tong mga bata na ito kung gaano sila kapursigido matuto. At kapag nakakausap ko sila, sinasabi nila idol nila ako. Kaya na-influence din nila ako na huwag mag-quit, na if I give up that time, parang unfair sa kanila,” she recalled.
Frayna said chess streaming in the country also helped her enjoy the game again. It gave her the outlet to release her energy and the opportunity to connect with her fans and other chess enthusiasts in the country. Moreover, it allowed her to relax – which was both an ironic and a welcome development during her struggles and self doubts. With the support, love and care she received from her family, coaches and fans, Frayna was able to put behind her all her concerns and renew her love for chess.
“Kung kailan ako nag-relax, du’n gumanda ang laro ko. For the past year, hindi nabawasan kungdi paakyat nang paakyat ang ratings ko. It also showed in my recent competitions and performances. Even in the SEA Games, baka naka-gold kami sa Blitz – breaks lang talaga,” she said.
She is also grateful for the presence and impact of her teammates in her game.
“Kami kasi sa national team, mas naging close kami. Nandoon pa rin naman ang competition within pero iba kasi ngayon ang samahan namin ever since we had a one-month in-house training for the Southeast Asia Games. So nakapag-share kami ng mga personal goals namin, mga tournaments na we look forward to kaya nagkaroon kami ng bonding,” Frayna said.
“Ang goal ko rin kasi, para sa manila, sabay-sabay kaming aangat. Pangit din naman kasi na ako lang ang nasa taas.
Nakakatamad din. Samantalang kung nandoon sila, ikaw din macha-challenge, mape-pressure ka to do your best. Mag-uupdate kami sa isa’t isa. Maghihilahan kami pataas,” she explained.
She added that knowing that the team will compete in forthcoming tournaments such as the SEA Games, Asian Games and the Asian Indoor Games was a big deal for the athletes.
As early as now, Frayna is setting her sights on the Asian Continental Chess Championships from October 25 to November 4 in New Delhi, India this year.
“‘Yun talaga ang nilu-look forward ko, ‘yung tournament this October sa India, ‘yung Asian Continental. Kasi siya ‘yung qualifying tournament sa World Cup. ‘Yung top two sa Asian Continental ang makakapasok,” she said.
Frayna said what she went through during the last two years in the pandemic only prepared her to become a better chess player. It also taught her to enjoy life more. Which is good news for chess.
Speaking of good news, GM Jayson Gonzales will be transferred to a regular room after several days in the Coronary Care Unit or CCU in a hospital in Quezon City. The country’s 9th Grandmaster and one of the pillars of chess in the country suffered a heart attack almost a week ago and had to undergo angioplasty to save his life. Hopefully, his improving condition will continue toward his speedy and full recovery.
Please include Sir Jayson, who is also a good friend the past few years and the man behind many chess tournaments and activities as executive director of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines, in your prayers and well wishes.
Gonzales also needs our financial help to defray the cost of his medical expenses and other procedures to ensure that his heart will be free of any concerns in the future.
I was able to talk to Gonzales the night before his heart attack and I asked him if he has any plans to participate in tournaments soon. He said he will be prioritizing his coaching duties over his personal career.
“Para sa akin kasi, wala na ako kailangan patunayan para sa sarili ko. Mas gusto kong mag-coach para sa next generation at future chess players natin. Iba kasi ang passion at ng challenge sa pagtuturo. Mahirap kasing maituro ‘yung nalalaman ko bilang isang chess player sa mga bata bilang chess coach nila sa paraan na maiintindihan at mai-inspire sila na maglaro ng chess with patience, discipline at perseverance. Not all GMs or good chess players can be good coaches,” he explained.
Gonzales is the mentor of the Philippine women’s team that almost posted a Top 10 finish in the recently concluded Chess Olympiad in Chennai, India. He is also the coach of Far Eastern University chess team. He can do more for chess in the country. He can continue to inspire hundreds, even thousands, of woodpushers all over the country.
I’m also counting on Gonzales to make good of his promise to teach my son, Gambit, improve his chess game.
Laban lang Sir Jayson and get well soon!
For our regular programming, action in the Philippines Football League resumes with a double header at Rizal Football Stadium and another match up in Biñan, Laguna.
Streaking Kaya FC Iloilo will battle Maharlika Manila FC at the curtain raiser at 3 p.m. to be followed by the exciting match up between powerhouse United City FC against the upstart Azkals Development Team at 5:30 p.m. at Rizal, while the Stallion Laguna FC hosts the Dynamic Herb Cebu FC, 4 p.m. at the Biñan Football Stadium.
Kaya is looking to keep its unblemished record intact against Maharlika while United is hoping to get back at the win column following its 1-1 draw against the Cebuanos in its last game. The side, however, will be facing an inspired and Stephan Schrock led ADT which is coming from a 4-0 demolition win against Maharlika last Saturday.
The Biñan tussle is also expected to come up with the fireworks as the Stallion play their first home game in the tournament. Cebu is riding high with its last minute equalizer against United.
In a short tournament, every point counts and all the teams are expected to go all out for the win and some breathing space in the team standings. Just like in life, we need to celebrate even the smallest victory to help us through with the challenges we face day in, day out.
Stay safe. Stay happy peeps!
For comments or questions, you can reach The Designated Kit Man at erel_ca[email protected] or follow his account at Twitter: @erelcabatbat