Palawan Queen’s Gambit coach Susan Neri: Public service through chess

Rick Olivares ( – December 30, 2020 – 3:34pm MANILA, Philippines – Imagine losing your

Rick Olivares ( – December 30, 2020 – 3:34pm

MANILA, Philippines – Imagine losing your emotional anchor. Your mentor, trainer and partner in most of what you do in your professional and personal life. More so in this difficult time of pandemic. How does one carry on?

Imagine if all of those responsibilities above are roles that one’s father fills. How do you find your legs?

For Palawan Queen’s Gambit coach Susan Neri, losing her father — Aklan-based National Master and International Arbiter in Chess Wilfredo Neri — two months ago right after he helped found the Philippine Arbiters Chess Confederation is something that still tugs at her heartstrings in this holiday season.

“My father was everything to me,” succinctly put Neri.

Wilfredo Sr. dreamed of an all-male chess team like the Mariano brothers. While his two sons, Wilfred Patrick and Wilfred Vergel, both played chess for the Philippine Maritime Institute and Far Eastern University, respectively, fate had other plans.

“Naiba yung iyak ko,” laughed Susan of how the all-male dream was dashed.

However, reality never looked so good.

Susan not only joined her siblings as a varsity player (for La Salle from 2008-11 and where she also coaches the women’s teams today), but she also took her father’s motivation for teaching chess to a higher level.

If her father used sports — Susan also played tennis, volleyball, and taekwondo — and chess as a means to make his children forward thinkers and as a way to get an education, the daughter has used the sport as a means of public service.

“Chess and sports are used as means to give the kids more than a hobby. They can be means of staying out of trouble and getting an education that will unlock more doors. In women’s case, it helps give them something to aspire for so we can avoid teen pregnancies, abuse and depression,” Neri enthuses with a lot of conviction.

“The game for me isn’t just a passion, it’s a mission.”

And that mission has gone to a higher level with the formation of the Palawan Queen’s Gambit team that will be competing in the Professional Chess Association of the Philippines.

I was initially supposed to work with the Cordova team, but I couldn’t resist the idea of joining Palawan,” disclosed the coach. “Na-entice because it’s a team of all women. It allows me to continue my advocacy to work and do something for women especially for chess.”

“Losing my father not too long ago has been difficult more so he left behind a lot of unfinished business,” Neri reflected. “The responsibility he left behind is big (as he was also provincial sports coordinator for Aklan). I don’t know if I can replace him as I still have a lot to learn. But maybe God has a better plan. Akala ko I’ll just be doing university coaching and teaching.”

“But it’s also exciting. While I may be nervous, I will remember his words… ‘Whatever happens you have to be brave.’”

Coach Susan and the Palawan Queen’s Gambit begin their PCAP campaign when the country’s first professional chess league fires off in January 2021.