Palawan Queen's Gambit: Antoinette San Diego making her dad proud

Palawan Queen's Gambit: Antoinette San Diego making her dad proud

MANILA, Philippines — Sometimes, a person’s dreams are sidetracked by life only to be fulfilled by their offspring.

Twenty-one-year old Woman International Master Marie Antoinette San Diego from Dasmariñas, Cavite, who is a member of the Palawan Queen’s Gambit team in the PCAPis living her father, Anton’s dream to be a chess master; albeit wholeheartedly.

“I started out playing chess at the age of three because of my father,” disclosed the bespectacled San Diego. “My father, Antonio, who competed for the Technological Institute of the Philippines, wanted to pursue a career in chess, but had to take on a real job because of the hardships of life.”

“Noon bata ako, dinadala ako ng daddy ko sa chess plaza sa may Luneta Park para makalaro,” added San Diego. “Every time ako natatalo ay umiiyak ako tapos bibigyan ako ng play money pa-konsuelo.”

At the age of five, Antoinette took part in her first tournament. By seven, she competed in her first international tourney.

“Naisip ko noon, ‘Wow, nakasakay ng eroplano at nakapunta ng kung saan,’” laughed San Diego at the fond memories. “At mas maganda, nabigyan ng scholarship sa college.”

Antoinette’s father was strict about her training; something she doesn’t mind as it bared fruit first with a scholarship to La Salle which she represented in the UAAP (where they were champions in Seasons 78, 80, and 81). 

It was towards her final year in La Salle when San Diego found herself at a crossroad. “I was thinking to concentrate on my studies in La Salle and play in the UAAP then work or to continue to play chess. I took part in the East Asian Junior Chess Championship in Tagaytay in June of 2017 and prayed for a sign,” she recalled. “If I win, I will continue to pursue chess. If not, I will finish my studies and just play in the UAAP. I wasn’t giving up on chess. It was just a shift in priorities.”

As fate would have it, San Diego tied for first in the girl’s division with a Chinese chess player and was conferred the rank of “Woman International Master.”

Three years later, the opportunity of a lifetime arrived with Palawan Queen’s Gambit with fellow WIMs Shania Mae Mendoza, Mikee Suede, Catherine Perena-Secopito, as well as the region’s homegrown players include Marife dela Torre, Yanika Eli Seratubias and Jesibel Maberit.

San Diego will be coached once more by her DLSU mentor, Susan Neri. 

“When I heard of PCAP, I wondered if there was a women’s division,” thought Antoinette. “Sobrang saya ko na meron isang team na all-womens. Masarap ang feeling may naka-appreciate ng women’s game and to give us a chance to show yung galing namin.”

“This is a great opportunity to inspire more girls…. and to make my father prouder.”

Professional Chess Association of the Philippines is slated to begin this January 2021.