All-female chess squad out to prove mettle

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    THE all-female Palawan Queen’s Gambit, aiming to prove its mettle in the male-dominated sport of chess, kicks off its campaign against the Iloilo Kisela Knights bannered by Grandmaster Joey Antonio when the Professional Chess Association of the Philippines First Conference starts this Saturday.

    Palawan is among the 24 squads in the country’s inaugural pay-for-play chess league sanctioned by the Games and Amusements Board under the initiative of GAB chairman Baham Mitra.

    “We are here to challenge ourselves more than challenging the rest of the field,” noted Queen’s Gambit coach Susan Grace Neri in a recent online press briefing to introduce the members of the squad attended by Mitra and PCAP president and commissioner Atty. Paul Elauria.

    The trio of Women International Masters Catherine Perena-Secopito, Charlene Mikee Suede and Marie Antoinette Sand Diego will spearhead the squad while the others are WIM-elect Shania Mae Mendoza, Woman National Masters Cecilia Gaburno Quizon and comebacking Carmelita Abanes.

    Rounding up the squad owned by the GAB chairman’s elder brother Jojo Mitra, a keen chess aficionado, are homegrown standouts Jessel Mangambo, Marife dela Torre and Yanika Eli Seratubias, who is the chief of Palawan’s Distaster Risk Management Office.

    The team’s moniker is a takeoff from the popular Netflix drama series set in the fifties and sixties featuring fictional chess prodigy Beth Harmon, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, who defies the odds and makes waves in the predominantly male discipline.

    A former member of the UP varsity chess squad, Secopito, an eight-time World Chess Olympiad veteran, said she has not felt any discrimination during all her years of playing against men, although there were times that his losing male rivals would rationalize after their matches.

    “Sasabihin na lang nila, medyo masama ang tulog o gising nila pag-natatalo,” Suede recalled.

    The bespectacled Seratubias, who also played for the UP varsity squad, said her presence in local tournaments in Palawan sometimes raised eyebrows.