An 11-year old homegrown chess talent is on a hot winning streak at the ongoing National Age Group Chess Championships in Malolos Bulacan, winning seven straight games with zero losses with two rounds remaining.
Stephanie Jabagat, who is playing with her elder sister Sophia in the tournament, is scheduled to play two more games on Sunday and has emerged as a strong favorite to clinch the title in the tough tournament organized by the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) in cooperation with Department of Education (DepEd) and Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).
“Sana ma-straight ko ‘yong two games tomorrow (Sunday), kahit po mahirap,” she said in a chat interview with Palawan News.
A championship finish will also win for Stephanie her national master title, according to her coaches.
Both of her coaches, Neal Garcia and Jess Maberit, said consistency will be the key to Stephanie’s victory..
“Aside from skills, stamina and endurance is now a critical factor. Steph should keep her composure to remain calm despite her lead. It’s not over until it is really over,” Garcia said.
Stephanie said that games are tough, as she has been facing the best players of their age brackets nationwide. She is set to play her the 8th game on Sunday morning.
Her elder sister, Sophia also displayed an impressive performance despite losing some games, as observed by her coaches. Sophia is playing in the under-14 category.
“On her part (Sophia), even in her lost games, her titled master opponents really felt the struggle. She lost but the fight was a really double-edged,” Garcia said.
“Siguro nandon pa rin pressure, and playing against veteran campaigners, medyo may kasamang respect,” Maberit observed.
Stephanie bagged 3rd place in the previous NAGCC grand finals which was held online, where she had to struggle with a slow internet connection playing at her home in Barangay Babuyan, Puerto Princesa City.
The top 3 winners of the grand finals will be representing the country in international competition.
Maberit credited the sibling’s performance in their training and support of the local chess community.
“Yong player natin, masasabi natin na dumaan sa magandang pagsasanay. Marami ang nagtulungan para sa labang to. At saka hindi na tayo behind sa ibang player, they can play blitz and rapid,” Maberit said.
Stephanie and Sophia’s participation in the tournament was supported by the Tandikan Chess Association of Puerto Princesa City, Rep. Edward S. Hagedorn and the City Sports program under Atty. Rocky Austria.