The world of Philippine chess is abuzz as 10-year-old Nika Juris Nicolas of Pasig City defies norms and breaks barriers by earning the title of National Master – a first for a female in the country. The National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) awarded Nika this prestigious title, marking a significant milestone in the country’s chess history.
Competing in the Boys Under 11 Division of the National Youth and Schools Chess Championships Grand Finals, held in Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte, Nika stood as the only female player. However, this didn’t deter her from shining brightly, winning silver medals in the Standard and Blitz categories, and a bronze in Rapid.
In a Facebook post from the NCFP on June 10, a day after awarding Nicolas her NM title, the group applauded Nika’s prowess, “She is the brightest future of Philippine chess. The fact she demonstrated her talent with amazing performances in her several achievements, then the country can hope for a world-class athlete if not a would-be renowned and astounding Chess Grandmaster in the making.”
Nicolas, a Grade 5 student at Victory Christian International School, challenged conventional practices and questioned why girls were restricted to their division. Encouraged by her mother, lawyer Nikki de Vega, who also serves as NCFP legal counsel, she ventured into the Boys’ division, proving that girls could indeed compete with boys in chess.
“Nika is overjoyed because it has always been her dream to compete with the boys,” de Vega said in an interview reported by PNA. “It was a dream come true for her to get the National Master title.”
Nicolas’ studied chess at age 9 and joined her first tournament in February 2022, at the National Age Group Chess Championship. She showcased her skills with six wins and one loss. Today, she already holds the credentials as a candidate FIDE Master, national age-group champion, Asian youth medalist, Eastern Asia silver medalist, and a Batang Pinoy champion.
Nika started this year strong when she emerged victorious in the Under 11 Boys Division of the NCFP National Eliminations held in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental, demonstrating her exceptional skill. Her recent victory further solidifies her position in the chess world and shatters the existing gender disparities in the sport.
Nika is now set to compete in the ASEAN Age Group Chess Championships in Bangkok, Thailand, from June 17-27, 2023, carrying hopes and dreams for her country. She’s no stranger to the international scene, having led the Girls’ Under-10 team to a bronze medal in the previous year’s ASEAN Age Group Championships held online.
“Nika hopes to do better this time around,” her mother said, expressing gratitude for their supporters and prayer warriors, including coaches Lourecel Ecot, Raul Damuy, and MJ Ladrona; Philippine Academy for Chess Excellence led by Grandmaster Jayson Gonzales and Woman Grandmaster Janelle Frayna; Pasig City government; NCFP; and other chess parents.
Following the Bangkok tournament, Nika is slated to compete in the 1st Professional Chess Association of the Philippines (PCAP) National Inter-School Championship, an online event in July. She will represent the VCIS-Homeschool Global team, along with Woman National Master Antonella Berthe Racasa, Gabriel Ryan Paradero, Andrew and Aron Toledo.
With the chessboard as her canvas and pawns as her paint, Nika Juris Nicolas continues to rewrite history, encouraging more girls to take on the challenge and be fearless in their pursuit of chess mastery.
The Philippines’ most celebrated chess champion recently honored with a chess museum in his name, is Eugene Torre, the first Asian and Filipino Grandmaster who was inducted into the World Chess Hall of Fame in 2021 at the St. Louis Chess Club in Missouri, where he reunited with Filipino-American U.S. Chess Champion and World Top 10 chess player, Wesley So. The Cavite-born Wesley So continues to support Philippine chess by providing chess scholarships for children and supporting the PCAP conferences.
Other young Filipino chess champions include Albay’s 9-year-old chess prodigy, Bince Operiano, and 6-year-old chess whiz Fil-Am Scott Matthew Escalera.
Source: Good News Pilipinas