Back from a break, Grandmaster Frayna gears up for 2018 Chess Olympiad

MANILA, Philippines – Janelle Mae Frayna may be the Philippines' first female Grandmaster, but she doesn't want to sit on her laurels. 

The 21-year-old young woman, in fact, feels she has more to learn as she gears up for the 2018 Chess Olympiad in September in Batumi, Georgia.

"I am not happy at all. I want to be better," said Frayna on Saturday, May 5, a few days after she finished second in the 2018 JAPFA Women's Grandmaster Tournament in Indonesia.

It was the second time in two months Frayna settled for runner-up in an international tournament.

Last month, she also wound up with the same finish in Malaysia – her first tournament after taking a 5-month hiatus. 

"I wanted to reassess and have a break," Frayna said of that period. 

In the JAPFA tournament,  Frayna scored 4.5 points in the last 6 rounds after drawing a bad position against eventual winner Keti Tsatsalashvili of Georgia in the 5th round.

In contrast, the Georgian mowed down the field with a 6/6 score and won the tournament a point ahead of Frayna.

"After accepting a draw in Round 7 where I could play on, I had a bad feeling," said Frayna.

In Round 8, Frayna's French Defense – whose carapace makes it a hardy weapon for Black – was cut up by Mila Zarkovic of Serbia.

"Things just went wrong," said her coach Jayson Gonzales. 

Frayna gained nearly 16 Elo points to hike her rating to 2319. But she still pales in comparison to Asian champion Vo Thi Kim Phung (2376) and Hoang Thi Bao Tram (2366), the standard bearers of the powerful Vietnamese women's team. 

"I have a lot to learn," the former Far Eastern University standout said. 

To boost her rating and toughen her for the 2018 Chess Olympiad, Frayna and International Master John Marvin Miciano will be campaigning in 4 tournaments in Europe and the Malaysian Open starting July. 

Miciano, one of the strong junior players last year, became an International Master after winning the Under-18 division of the Asian Youth Championship. 


They will be mentored by Gonzales, who helped the studious and patient Frayna earn the country's first Woman Grandmaster (WGM) title. 

"I noticed that she was the only one in the FEU team who read all the books I gave my players [so] I worked on that quality," said Gonzales.

Ultimately, Frayna's goal is to hurdle the 2019 Asian Zonal to qualify for the World Cup.

The zonal remains a formidable event with favorites Vietnam, which has ruled the men's and women's chess in Southeast Asia since 2005, and Indonesia, which has produced two women grandmasters.

Although Frayna still stands as the underdog, this young woman who never stops honing her game aims to spring a surprise, just like what she has always done in her career. –