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BOARDS & PIECES: CHESS IN THE PHILIPPINES

Chess is a competitive 2-player game. It is played on a board with 64 squares of contrasting colors which are usually black and white. The game is played by using abstract strategies and tactics using 16 pieces per player.

The pieces are called chessmen: 1 king piece, 1 queen piece, 2 rook pieces, 2 bishop pieces, 2 knight pieces, and 8 pawn pieces. The goal of the game is to protect your king and capture the king of the opponent. If the king cannot avoid capture, “checkmate” is called and the game is over.

It’s said that “Checkmate” actually came from “Shah Mat’ which is a Persian phrase that means “the King is dead”.

There are over 500 different gameplay patterns that have been recorded. When strategizing, there are also a lot of rules to consider. These include rules for gameplay, movement, competition. Some of these also vary depending on the type of chess you’re playing. (see: speed chess, classical chess)

Chess in the Philippine Context

As per estimates, we have thousands of active players in the Philippines. Probably so much more if you’re counting those who just play for fun. Chess has been in the Philippines for around 200 years. Even Jose Rizal, our national hero, played the game as mentioned in his own writing and according to accounts of his life. 

The longest game ended as a draw with 269 moves. It was between Ivan Nikolic vs. Goran Arsovic  in 1989.

Famous Filipino Chess Players

EUGENE TORRE

Eugene Torre started participating in championships (Junior World Chess Championship) in 1969. He was the first Asian to qualify for the title of Grandmaster in 1974. Torre was also considered the strongest player in the Philippines during the 1980s through the 1990s. 

Torre currently plays for the Rizal Towers of the Professional Chess Association of the Philippines. However, he sat out this year and served as the team’s head coach instead.

JANELLE MAE FRAYNA

Janelle Mae Frayna started playing during her elementary years, at the age of 11. She became champion in two editions of the Philippine women’s national championship.

Frayna also gained the title of Woman FIDE Master in 2013. Afterward, she became a Woman International Master in 2014 with a peak FIDE rating of 2325.

Frayna was recently nominated by the National Chess Federation of the Philippines for the 2021 FIDE Women’s World Cup in Sochi, Russia.

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