WOMAN National Master Loreshyl Cuizon, now five-month-old pregnant, is undaunted to face the challenge in the 3rd "Battle of GMs" chess championships on March 15-22 in Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Sur.

With the Cagayan de Oro city government backing her up, the former Olympiad campaigner Cuizon is determined to push her goal as the only Mindanaoan player to see action in the prestigious event organized by the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP).

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Loreshyl's father, National Chess Arbiter Lorenzo "Jun" Cuizon said her oldest daughter is now put in similar situation when his wife (WNM Cecile Cuizon) once hurdled the national qualifier for the country's representatives in the World Chess Olympiad in Moscow, Russia.

"At that time, buntis akong wife. So, we presume nga suwerte ang buros nga mag-compete," the elder Cuizon told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro. In passing, thanking no end sportsman Rogelio "Jigs" Jaraula Jr. for bringing the matter to City Mayor Constantino Jaraula that paved the way for Loreshyl's impending participation in the cash-rich tourney intended for selected RP players.

"Inspired among anak nga mo-compete after learning nga mo-support ang city government especially Sir Jigs nga mao sab ang nangusog sa malampuson nga pagpahigayon sa 2009 Mayor Jaraula Cup Christmas Open Chess Championships," he added.

Newly-crowned Aeroflot Open top junior player Grandmaster Wesley So seeks an unprecedented third straight title in the said event.

So, who dominated the first two editions, will set out as the prohibitive favorite anew in this keenly-awaited tourney being supported by Phoenix Petroleum and the Dapitan City government, headed by Mayor Dominador Jalosjos and Vice Mayor Patri B. Chan.

The 16-year-old Filipino champion, who was voted as the "Chess Player of the Year" by the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) arrived only last Feb. 21 from Moscow, Russia after playing in the Aeroflot Open.

NCFP president and chairman Prospero "Butch" Pichay said So is expected to put up another strong performance in the Battle of GMs like what he did in the past two years.

But Pichay said he expects the rest of the participants to give the highly-rated So a "run for his money this time."

Pichay and NCFP secretary-general and Tagaytay City Mayor Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino have been invited to grace the opening ceremony in Dapitan City, a scenic Mindanao City where national hero Dr. Jose Rizal was once exiled.

Expected to give So a hard time are GMs Rogelio Antonio, Jr., who finished runner-up last year, Asia's first GM Eugene Torre and reigning Asian Zone 3.3 champion GM Darwin Laylo.

Like So, Antonio and Laylo also saw action in the recent World Chess Cup held in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia last December.

The other players seeing action in the men's division are GMs John Paul Gomez, Mark Paragua, Jayson Gonzales and Bong Villamayor, IMs Ronald Dableo, Richard Bitoon and Rolando Nolte and FM Haridas Pascua.

In the women's division, WFM Shercila Cua defends her crown against an equally-tough field which include younger sister WFM Sherily Cua, Cheradee Chardine Camacho, WIM Beverly Mendoza and Cagayan de Oro pride Cuizon.

The other participants in the female division are WFMs Catherine Perena and Cherry Ann Mejia, WNMs Daisy Rivera, Christy Lamiel Bernales, Jedara Docena, Jan Jodilyn Fronda and Akiko Charmaine Suede.

At stake in the annual competition is a guaranteed cash prize of P800,000, with the champion in the men's division bringing home the top prize of P200,000 and the winner in the women's category pocketing P60,000.

All the other players seeing action are assured of receiving cash prizes, according to NCFP executive/events director Willie Abalos. (With PNA reports)