First Filipina chess grandmaster and the rise of other Filipina athletes

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First Filipina chess grandmaster and the rise of other Filipina athletes

Topic |  


Traditionally the Philippines has organized athletic teams for both males and females.  When the Philippines was still a colony of the United States the sports program organized by the Americans lord it over the Asian continent.  In the Olympic and other international games, the Filipino athletes were able to obtain medals.

When the Philippines was granted independence by the United States, the Filipinos were competitive in basketball, boxing, swimming and some track and field events.  However, the Philippines have not yet won a gold medal in any Olympic event except in the demonstration sports of golf and bowling.

After the Martial Law years, Philippine Sports have been in the doldrums.  We have been left behind by other Asian countries like China and Japan.  The other Asian countries have already won gold medals in the Olympics and the Philippines has not.


Branzil Olympics

In the recent Olympics held at Rio de Janeiro in Branzil the Philippines won a silver medal in the sport of weightlifting.  The most unusual victory was performed by a female athlete by the name of Hidilyn Diaz in the 53 Kg category.

The silver medal victory of Miss Diaz was a fluke.  She was already sure of the bronze medal.  The weightlifter from China was already slated to win the gold medal if only she had played it safe.  However, the Chinese weightlifter went for a world record.  In the last sequence she opted to lift a weight that would establish a world record.  Unfortunately for China and fortunately for the Philippines, the Chinese athlete failed to lift the weight and was disqualified.  As a consequence, Miss Diaz rose in the ranking from bronze medal to silver medal.

So Miss Diaz became the first Filipina to win an Olympic medal after 20 years of medal drought for the Philippines, but it was not yet a gold medal.  Miss Diaz set her sight for a gold medal in the next Olympic event four (4) years from now.

Another unprecedented Filipina athlete during the Rio Olympic was Miss Ian Lariba.  She was the first and only Filipino athlete to qualify for the Olympic sport of Table Tennis or Ping Pong.  Her achievement was very unusual considering that only very few Filipinos are engaged in the sport of Ping Pong.

In my younger days I played Ping Pong but my skills could only reach the regional level in sports competition.  I trained younger athletes but only very few are interested in this relatively inexpensive sport.  Unfortunately Miss Lariba did not reach the medal rounds.


Chess Olympiad


The game of Chess was already played in the Philippines during Spanish times.  In fact in Sugboanon Bisaya, some terms used in chess came from Spanish names like peyón = pawn, roke; torre = rook; arpil = bishop.

Generally only men play the game of chess because it is a mental game and the player will be sitting for hours.  Only few women like the situation.

When chess became a worldwide organized sport, the governing body was the Federation Internationale Des Echecs (FIDE) or World Chess Federation in Paris, France.


The FIDE organized team tournaments by countries known as Olympiad.  There were also tournaments to determine who will be recognized as world champion.

In the beginning the recognized best chess players were known as “Masters”.  Since some of the Masters will be considered for the champion there has to be a category of the Masters.  Soon there was made the “International Master (IM)” category and “Grand Master (GM)” category.  Rules were then developed how to obtain these classifications by way of scores obtained in a FIDE recognized tournaments. A win is scored “1” and a draws is “1/2” and a defeat is “0”.


In the late 1950s and 1960s the highest ranking Filipino was International Master (IM) Vicente Tan Cardoso.  The national chess organizations classified their players as “National Master (NM)”.

In the 1970s Eugenio Torre became the first Asian to obtain the title of Grand Master. At present there are now many Filipinos with the Title of Grand Master and International Master.

When the Filipino Campomanes (a National Master) became President of FIDE, he introduced the Title of “FIDE Master (FM)”.  He soon allowed a female counterpart chess players.  As a consequence there became “Woman Grand Master (WGM)”.  “Woman International Master (WIM)” and “Woman FIDE Master (WFM)”.

First Filipina WGM

A few days ago at the Chess Olympiad, Miss Janelle Mae Frayna became the first Filipina to achieve the title of Woman Grand Master (WGM).  Her WGM was for the female players only.

However, a female chess player can also participate in mixed male and female category and Miss Frayna has obtained a title of International Master (IM) in the male category.  An International Master (IM) is already a very high category level as a chess player.

ILO Rating

To obtain a title of FM, IM, or GM is already a good indication of the skill of the player.  It is normal that players have good days, bad days, and lucky days.  Among active players there came a need to rate a particular player.  The physicist Aphad Ilo, an active chess player developed a procedure how to determine by statistics the relative playing strength of each player.

A new rated player will be given a rating of 1800.  The others were also assigned ratings according to their win and loss in tournaments.  When a higher rated player will lose to a lower rated player, the higher rated player will lose points to be added to the low rated winner.  Since there are many players, a statistical procedure was developed.  The actual number is a ratio less than one but the decimal point is eliminated and only four decimal places are indicated.

The ILO rating is very successful in indicating the relative playing strength of a player.  It is possible that an IM player will have a higher ILO rating than a GM player and each category will also have different ILO rating.

WGM Frayna has already an ILO of 2281.  GM Eugene Torre has ILO 2447, GM Jayson Gonzales has ILO 2409.  After the end of another tournament these ILO ratings will change.

The highest rated Filipino is GM Wesley So (ILO 2883).  Those having ILO of 2700 and above are now classified as Super Grand Master.  Due to some misunderstanding with chess authorities in the Philippines, Super GM So is now playing for the United States.  He is now within the 10 highest rated players in the world.


The Title of the player as FM, IM, and GM will be permanent except that the FM and IM can still increase to the next category.  A player with an ILO of 2100 is indicated by statistics in game results to be a weaker player than a ILO of 2400.  So if ILO 2100 will play against ILO 2400 we expect the ILO 2100 to be beaten.  However it is only statistics, in reality it may happen that the ILO 2100 will win because players will strive to rise in rating.

This year the field of athletics in the Philippines has women achievers.  It is not yet determined as to the reason but it is expected to continue.

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