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This boy from poor community in Albay is a chess wizard

By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI City --- Grade 3 pupil Bince Rafael Operiano, 9, of San Isidro Elementary School in Barangay Busac in Oas, Albay who represented the Philippines in the Eastern Asia Youth Chess Championship bagged the championship title conducted early this month in Bangkok, Thailand.

Bince’s father works as a security guard at the Divine Word College. The kid is the middle child of Ben and Rosemary Operiano, a native of Negros Occidental

He was awarded the Conditional Candidate Master title in the boys under 10 years old standard event, individual category, in the championship which was held on November 5-12, this year.

Bince, who earned the moniker as the next Eugene Torre, the Asia’s first chess grandmaster, got Rank 1 in the category after nine rounds in which there were 29 players.

According to the National Chess Federation of the Philippines, Operiano will be granted the status of National Master when he reaches 10 years old.

Bince’s family asked for help in September to pay the registration fee to represent the country in the competition.

Before leaving for Bangkok, Albayanos including local politicians provided assistance to Bince to represent the country in the championship.

CHESS prodigy Bince and his father, Ben.

In spite of being almost penniless, Bince’s parents supported his passion for chess. His mother, recalled that Bince learned to play chess from a karton (cardboard) chessboard they bought for P50 when he was 4 years old.

“We didn’t have a television nor cellphone at home; it happened to be rainy season when we went home to Bicol after our vacation from my hometown, also a poor village in Negros Occidental. My two sons were getting bored because there was no entertainment nor toys. So, my husband thought of buying a toy soon after we went back to Bicol. He bought a chess board worth P50 in the Polangui supermarket because we can’t afford to buy more than a P500 chessboard with a box,” she said.

Rosemary, who sells gasoline in a bottle and retails prepaid load for mobile phones, formerly worked as a babysitter in Manila. She and her husband, Ben, went home to Bicol to raise a family in the countryside.

She said when children didn’t want to play chess with him, Bince came home crying. Oftentimes his playmates were teenagers and elderly. He doesn't like losing the game. He cries when he loses. But when he wins the game, he is elated. My husband trained them to play chess. It's our bonding and pastime together,” Rosemary said.

Rosemary said that Ben wanted his boys to join the tournament to test their skills. And in February 2020, at age 6, Bince joined a chess tournament held in the Albay Astrodome and was declared champion in the boys under-8 category. Chris Bryan, however, failed to compete due to fever which coincided during the event.

Believing that his son has a future in chess, Ben opted to work as a farm laborer so he can have more time training Bince. Rosemary said they see to it that the P300-membership fee at the National Chess Federation of the Philippines is paid so that Bince could play in NCFP-sanctioned tournaments.

In 2022, the Operiano couple obtained a Myphone cellular phone worth over P2,000.

“I tried to register for an online chess tournament until 2 a.m. using mobile data. I was able to register during wee hours. But the problem was that we didn't know how to play the online tournament because we didn't have an internet and laptop equipped with a camera,” she said.

On the day of the competition, the Divine Word College of Legazpi, according to Rosemary, helped them to use its laptop with free internet connectivity. She said that the IT personnel of Divine Word College offered a laptop for Bince to use, even on a Sunday.

“The equipment was set up by the DWC IT personnel in the morning though the tournament was set to be done in the afternoon. The IT personnel of DWC went home. So, we decided to quit because we didn't know about the screen sharing operation. That time the top 15 would be chosen to qualify for the semi-final but only 12 players participated. So, Bince was chosen even though he didn’t compete because he was 9th place in the elimination,” Rosemary said.

After qualifying in the semi-finals, Bince underwent training under Coach Archie Haig while Teacher Tessie Relleve of San Isidro elementary School helped the Operiano couple in financing the training of Bince.

Ben said he bought a laptop through instalment that Bince can use in training and in virtual chess tournaments.

In July 2022, Bince won the national boys under-10 category in Malolos, Bulacan. After winning the title, he was given an incentive by Albay Gov. Noel Rosal, Rosemary said.

Bince flew to Zamboanga to compete in the under-9 category of the National Youth and Schools Chess Championship Grand Finals last September in Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte. He won again.

Rosemary said that Bince was also thrilled to meet Janelle Frayna, the country’s first Woman Chess Grandmaster, in Malolos and in Zamboanga.

“Janelle gave my son a chess board and chess clock timer as a gift,” said Rosemary, noting that Frayna is also a Bicolana.

For bringing honor to his hometown, Oas Mayor Domingo Escoto Jr. handed over P30,000 cash incentive to Bince for winning in Bulacan and another P20,000 when he won in Zamboanga. Vice Mayor Hector Loyola Mallia of Oas also provided financial assistance to the Operiano family. Albay Third District Rep. Fernando Cabredo also gave them more than P10,000.

The cash incentive given to Bince was used for his training and other expenses in preparation for the competition in Thailand.

Before flying to Bangkok Thailand to represent the country in the 6th Eastern Asia Youth Chess Championship 2022, Bince stayed for a night at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) along with his father without hotel accommodation.

Bince flew to Bangkok, Thailand on November 2 without his father. His plane ticket was shouldered by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) but not his father’s. Rosemary said Ben was left at NAIA and stayed there for three nights, waiting for benefactors to buy him a ticket.

Rosemary called for help to finance the travel of her husband to assist their son in Bangkok. The people of Albay and Representative Cabredo responded and provided cash to Ben for him to follow his son in Bangkok.

Earlier, Bince’s family asked for help in September to pay for his registration fee to represent the country in the said competition.

Following Rosemary's plea, Cabredo sent P10,000 and Vice Mayor Mallia also provided P10,000 for the purchase of Ben's plane ticket to Bangkok.

After accumulating cash, Ben finally flew to Bangkok on November 6.

The PSC took notice of the young Operiano's achievements.

“We recognize Bince's potential and are grateful for all his sacrifices to achieve what he has,” the PSC said in its statement.

“It has, however, come to our attention that Bince encountered logistical problems during his participation in the said event.”

PSC Chairman Noli Eala, himself, promised to give assistance to Bince and his training.

“Given this, we are inviting Bince and his parents to the PSC to discuss how we can assist in nurturing his talent and help him achieve more. The PSC is here to assist our athletes within the bounds of existing policies and guidelines,” the statement added.

“We are also coordinating with the National Chess Federation of the Philippines to discuss what assistance has been given by the NCFP to Bince so far, and how their NSA (National Sports Association) and the PSC can partner to further develop this gifted athlete.”


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