Frayna, other PH bets face tall order in opening round of FIDE World Cup

WGM Janelle Mae Frayna (left) and IM Paulo Bersamina (Screenshot from PSA Forum)

Woman Grandmaster Janelle Mae Frayna and the other Filipino representatives will have their hands full against big names and higher-rated foes right in the first round of the FIDE Chess World Cup 2021.

Frayna, the country's first and only WGM so far, and International Master Paulo Bersamina were nominated by the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) to participate in the World Cup

For their part, teenage IMs Daniel Quizon and Michael Concio Jr. finished 1-2 in the Asian Zone 3.3 Chess Championships last May to make up the biggest PH delegation in the prestigious event that stakes berths in the Candidates Tournament--the final competition to determine the contender for the World Chess Championship.

Frayna, who is set to become the first Filipina to play in the Women's World Cup, will take on WGM Hoàng Thanh Trang for her first match in the 103-strong tilt scheduled on July 10-August 6 in Sochi, Russia.

Frayna is upbeat in facing the 40-year-old Vietnamese-born Hungarian player despite losing to her in the 43rd Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia three years ago.

"Hindi ako masyadong natatakot sa kanya kasi I already have some experiences against her and may feel ako doon sa playing style niya," said the 24-year-old standout during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday, June 29.

On the other hand, Bersamina will tangle with 15-year-old Indian prodigy Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, who is touted to become a world champion in the future, in the opening round of the 206-man tourney slated August 1-28 in Minsk, Belarus.

"Every game counts po dito kasi once na matalo out na agad. Mas malakas na agad sa amin ang kalaban by rating. Kaya dapat po all-out na sa Round 1 pa lang," said the 22-year-old woodpusher, who recalled his win over the then 11-year-old Praggnanandhaa who lost on time.

NCFP chief operating officer GM Jayson Gonzales took the time to explain the nomination of Bersamina ahead of active GMs, saying that they are grooming him to become the first Filipino grandmaster since 2012.

Bersamina has already earned three GM norms and only needs 38 points to reach the 2500 rating. He said he will need around seven game wins in the World Cup to get the GM title.

Meanwhile, the 16-year-old Quizon will challenge veteran Russian-Canadian GM and former world No. 4 Evgeny Bareev while the 15-year-old Concio will duel two-time Indian chess champion GM Aravindh Chithambaram in the round of 128.

Quizon is eyeing to stun Evgeny and another opponent in the round of 64 to set up a dream match against reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen in the third round.

Gonzales said all the chessers have been vaccinated as well as the rest of the eight-man delegation in compliance with the "no vaccination, no play" policy.

Gonzales is hoping for a success in the World Cup that will once again bring Philippine chess to the spotlight as they seek to replicate or even surpass the round of 16 finish of Wesley So in 2009.

"Sana itong World Cup na 'to ay maging susi para sa pagiging malakas ulit ng Philippine chess."