Robert Racasa, more popularly known as the founder of the Philippine Memory Games, narrated a story that sort of defines the skyrocketing chess career of his daughter, Antonella ‘Tonelle’ Racasa, currently the country’s youngest Woman Fide chess master at 12 years old.
When Tonelle competed in the recent Under-12 girls’ division in the World Cadet Chess Championships in Weifang, Shandong in China, she posted probably the biggest upset in the tournament by toppling Olga Dm. Karmanova of Russia after 85 gruelling moves.
It was impressive in every sense of the word, because Tonelle entered the tournament as the 45th seed, while her Russian foe was seeded ninth, which is not surprising, since Russian players are ranked among the best in the chess world, then and now.
The Russians also use tactics to dominate and intimidate opponents over the chessboard.
And Karmonava’s Elo rating of 1830 which is nearly almost 500 better than Tonelle’s rating of 1380, was enough to instill fear into the hearts of chess players made of lesser stuff.
To top it all, Tonelle played the disadvantageous black pieces of a Benoni, which is actually not her favorite defensive opening (she favors the Sicilian with the black).
Fearlessly, Tonelle focused on her game and patiently marshalled her pieces into a superior endgame.
The defeated Russian girl, according to Robert, appeared stunned and inconsolable, the proud scowl and intimidating aura totally vanished from her face.
“Nakakatakot talaga siya. Sa pangalan pa lang nakakatakot na,” Tonelle said, a hint of a smile creeping up her face.
To most people, a parent should naturally be proud of their children’s achievements and successes, however big—or small—they are.
But Robert, who is on the front seat row in every tournament that Tonelle joins in, is not only immensely proud, but is continually amazed by her daughter’s multi-faceted talents and her determination to be the best that she can be.
Robert can ‘blame’ it all on genetics, since his skills as a ‘memory’ man is perhaps as phenomenal as his daughter’s chess talent, while mom Marife, who works with JP Morgan, is a financial whiz.
But in his heart, Robert knows that their only child has special gifts few children of her age possess.
Chess is one of those special gifts, because Tonelle is just as adept in drawing, painting and baking. She also dabbles in other sports such as swimming and taekwondo. She also wants to learn to play the keyboard and perhaps a hundred other things that would interest her in the near future.
Academically, Tonelle is doing superbly well as an online student of Home Global School despite her many other activities.
But it is in chess that Tonelle continues to spread her wings.
With over 10 trophies and 50 medals that she had accumulated since her first tournament at 10 years old, the wonder kid is eyeing perhaps one of the most difficult—and daunting goal for a chess player—to be a Grandmaster.
“Gusto ko pong maging Woman Grandmaster in two years,” Tonelle told stunned sportswriters in a recent forum, and she said it in a determined tone.
Tonelle and her father Robert are slowly taking the next steps towards that goal.
On October 19-30, Tonelle will see action in the Pattaya Chess Club Open in Thailand, where she is expected to draw some of the world’s best young chess players.
Robert said Tonelle will join both the Open and the Youth categories of the tournament in a bid to improve his daughter’s current rating.
Of course, the Pattaya tournament is one of perhaps a hundred more events that Tonette would join to gain more experience and hone her chess skills to achieve her ultimate goal.
And if and when that happens, perhaps Robert and her growing number of fans can cease to be amazed.
But for now, let us all watch and enjoy the metamorphosis of this pizza-and-pasta loving kid into a fearless chess warrior we can all be proud of.
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.