Friday, August 10, 2012

Pangasinan shines, in chess

‘Gener’ drenched and flooded most of Pangasinan the other week. The weather was generally gloomy and for the Pangasinenses residing in low lying areas – scary! The localized class suspension advisories in some places were confusing if not late. But then, one can’t easily dampen the spirit of Pangasinenses. Despite the continuous rain and pesky flood, Pangasinan did shine!

A 14 year old chess prodigy officially earned the title of National Master (NM) in the recent 2012 National Open Chess Championships, where he was the youngest player to qualify. And yes, he is from Pangasinan!  The new National Master’s father, Raul Mejia is from San Jacinto. His mother, Eva Mejia hails from Labrador.

Giovanni Mejia, nicknamed “Baby Dynamite” for his aggressive and explosive counter-attacking chess moves defeated the tournament top seed GM Oliver Barbosa. Mejia also upset GMs Rogelio Barcenilla, Jr. and Roland Salvador during his eventful first stint in the national championship dubbed “Battle of the Grand Masters." A “Wesley So” in the making (referring to Filipino chess grandmaster who became a GM at the age of 14), Mejia’s brilliant semifinal finish earned him his NM status. It should also be noted that Giovanni was the Most Valuable Player in the juniors division of the National Collegiate Athletic Association in 2011, a year after leading La Salle Greenhills (where he is now a third year student) to its first league championship in three decades under the watchful eye of 2010 NCAA Juniors Coach of the Year and LSGH head coach National Master and International Arbiter NM Erwin Carag.

Brilliance does come in pairs as Giovanni’s sister Cherry Ann is a 17 year old chess whiz and a Woman FIDE Master. She finished fifth place in the women’s division of the 2012 National Open Chess Championships. Cherry Ann Mejia was a Silver Medalist in the 2011 ASEAN Age Group GU-16 and Champion in the National Age Group GU-16. She received her WFM title in 2009. She is currently a 2nd year student taking up Sports Management at De La Salle University.

Raul Mejia, Giovanni’s father, said in a phone interview that young chess prodigy’s interest with chess began when he was about 7 years old. Giovanni instantly fell in love with the sport when he saw a magnetic chess board in the market and asked his mother to buy one. It was his father, a champion in his own right in local chess tournaments in Taguig, (where he works) who that taught him the rudiments of chess. Both siblings picked up the sport naturally and now Pangasinan has “chess treasures” to be proud of. As shared by Mr. Raul Mejia, Giovanni and Cherry Ann always look forward to a stay in Pangasinan especially during occasions and holidays, away from the hustle and bustle of the metropolis - highlighted by an intense yet family bonding-filled chess game. He is also very happy that his children have brought pride to Pangasinan. His advice to young Pangasinenses: “Never lose hope whether in sports or in life. And always study hard.” 

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