Next Move, Grandmaster: Megan Paragua sets sights on chess elite

The 11-year-old chess prodigy and Consul General Mangalile played an 8-minute game of chess at the Sentro Rizal. AJPress photos by Momar G. Visaya

Young chess prodigy shines with double gold at FIDE World Cadet Rapid & Blitz Championship

AT just 11 years old, Megan Paragua has etched her name in the annals of chess history, emerging victorious with two first-place trophies from the prestigious 2024 World Cadet Rapid and Blitz Championships in Durres, Albania.

Hailing from a lineage of chess aficionados, with her uncle Mark Paragua distinguished as a grandmaster, Megan’s meteoric rise in the world of chess has captivated the game’s enthusiasts.

Megan Paragua’s choice to pursue chess over traditional sports stems from her recognition of her strengths, acknowledging that physical athleticism isn’t her forte. Her pre-game routine involves relaxation and mental preparation, reflecting her strategic approach to the game.

Megan’s chess journey commenced at the tender age of five, under the tutelage of her father, Jan Vincent Paragua. Encouraged by her family’s passion for the game, Megan embarked on her maiden tournament at the age of six.

Recounting her early forays into chess, Megan reminisced, “I liked the feeling when I first joined; I was excited, and I continued playing after that.” Her tenacity bore fruit early on, clinching her first podium finish at just her third tournament—a milestone that instilled in her a profound sense of pride and determination.

Balancing rigorous training sessions with school obligations, Megan exemplifies dedication, commitment, and discipline. “I wake up early around 6:30 to prepare to go to school,” she shared, shedding light on her daily routine. She goes to school at the Columbia Grammar Preparatory School in New York City where she is currently in fifth grade.

Post-classes, Megan immerses herself in the intricacies of chess, honing her skills under her father’s watchful eye. “My dad coaches me, and I started beating him around eight years old,” Megan quipped, a testament to her rapid progress and competitive spirit.

Looking ahead, Megan’s sights are set on scaling greater heights in the world of chess, harboring aspirations of attaining grandmaster status, like her uncle Mark.

Megan with her proud parents – dad Jan Vincent, a full-time chess coach and her mom Jennifer, a dialysis technician, with Consul General Mangalile at the Kalayaan Hall Annex of the Philippine Consulate General.

“My blood is Filipino; I was raised by Filipino parents,” she affirmed, underscoring her deep-rooted connection to her heritage. With plans to visit the Philippines this summer, Megan seeks to pay homage to her roots while inspiring future generations of Filipino chess enthusiasts.

During a recent courtesy call on Consul General Senen Mangalile of the Philippine Consulate General in New York, Megan engaged in a spirited chess match, demonstrating her prowess on the board.

Consul General Senen Mangalile congratulates Megan for her achievements such as securing impressive victories and titles in major international youth chess competitions, earning double gold medals in the rapid and blitz events at the 2024 FIDE World Cadet Championships.

Reflecting on their encounter, Consul General Mangalile commended Megan’s remarkable achievements, hailing her as a beacon of hope for young Filipino Americans. “We’re very proud of what she has accomplished,” he remarked, emphasizing the community’s support for Megan’s endeavors.

For Megan, chess is more than just a mere game—it’s a vehicle for personal growth, problem-solving, and forging meaningful connections. “Chess has helped me a lot,” she affirmed, highlighting its transformative impact on her life.

Her journey in chess is not just about winning titles but also about embracing her unique strengths. Despite not considering herself strong or physically athletic, she finds joy in the intellectual challenge of the game. Ahead of her matches, she adopts a calming routine, taking time to rest, draw, and clear her mind.

On her recent double win at the World Cadet Championships, Paragua emphasized the importance of confidence and preparation, attributing her success to both her mindset and rigorous training regimen.

Reflecting on her recent triumphs at the World Cadet Championships, Megan credits her success to a combination of confidence and diligent preparation. As she aptly puts it, “It was not easy definitely. I had confidence and I knew I had a chance. The training helped a lot.”

In August 2023, she placed first at the 33rd Pan-American Youth Chess Festival 2023 in the girls U12 (Under 12) category, where she received the Woman FIDE (International Chess Federation) master title as a result of her performance. The Woman FIDE Master title (WFM) is officially given by the FIDE to female chess players. After the Woman Grandmaster (WGM) title and the Woman International Master (WIM) title, it is the highest-ranking title that the FIDE gives exclusively to women.


Momar G. Visaya

Momar G. Visaya is the Executive Editor of the Asian Journal. You can reach him at [email protected].

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