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Palawan Q Gambit shows the way for women’s chess

After much fanfare, Palawan’s Queen Gambit finished 11th out 12 teams in the Southern Division of the Professional Chess Association of the Philippines.

Five wins and 29 losses are just par for the course for the hardy all-women’s team. But in individual matches, Palawan’s Queen’s Gambit can hold their head high.

Top board Shania Mae Mendoza, who defeated many time Philippine champion Joey Antonio in the very first round, has shown her mettle against masters. Her brave decision to attack 2019 national champion Rogelio Barcenilla in the inter-league phase, should have been rewarded with a win had it not for Barcenilla’s experience.

Mendoza has adjusted to blitz and rapid. A few months before the PCAP, she was struggling in fast time controls. It’s a different story now.

Catherine Secopito, at second board, showed little fear against national masters and those online warriors. Time pressure eventually spoiled the best plans of Secopito and Mendoza.

Marie Antoinette San Diego was a real rock on board three, seldom losing. This could not be said of Cecila Cuizon and Carmelita Abanes, at fourth board. But they were pitted fast moving players, which many teams pack in the lower boards. Mikee Suede, facing these beasts, took time to warm up.

Now, is professional chess ready for a women’s team? Yes. In the last 20 years there have been plenty of girls playing in student leagues compared to 40 years ago.

Women players in hometowns do not play often as they have jobs. Some are lawyers and government employees. But for the young and eager to be woman grandmaster, plenty of women want to try and become Woman International Masters and Woman Grandmasters. Palawan’s Queen’s Gambit has shown the way.

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