MANILA, June 14, 2004
By Dante Navarro (First of 2 parts) -  It was not by pure chance that Nelson Mariano II has achieved a mind-boggling result as a chess player over the weekend. It was an "accident" waiting to happen.

While many of his peers have considered him a has-been, Mariano, who went into some kind of a limbo after obtaining his first GM norm in Singapore in 1995, drew up a plan for his long-delayed GM title bid, including a fitness program, and with the help and support of GMs Joey Antonio and Bong Villamayor resumed his quest for chess honors without much fanfare.

And Mariano’s remarkable performances the last three months in Dubai and Bangkok ended his long and arduous search for prominence even as he proved his detractors wrong by clinching the last two norms to become the country’s newest grandmaster.

Never mind if he still lacks some points on the required minimum of 2500 for one to become a GM with Mariano expecting his Elo rating to reach 2475 when the new FIDE ratings is released in July.

Never mind too if his GM title has yet to be submitted to and confirmed in the next Olympiad during the FIDE Congress in October.

For as long as he has completed the three norms leading to a GM title through sheer hardwork, determination and sacrifices, Mariano can always be proud of his singular achievement.

Like he was a day after he arrived from Bangkok Saturday.

"I didn’t expect it but I was warmly welcomed and greeted by my vendor-friends when I went to the market Sunday," said Mariano. "Siempre, proud na proud ako."

For good reason.

Mariano’s feat was a realization of a decade-long struggle of a player who broke into the national consciousness when he ruled the Asian Juniors in 1994, the same year he nearly won the World Juniors if not for a sputtering windup that dropped him to joint third.

But his cling to fame proved short-lived as lack of tournaments and support — not to mention married life — stood in the way of his bid to join the likes of Eugene Torre and Antonio in the elite circle of Filipino GMs.

Having been a noted ward of the old chess organization, Mariano was also caught in the crossfire of a raging power grab between two groups until parenthood forced him to momentarily bow out of the chess scene in the late 90s.

And his dream remained just that — a dream.

But it was not until last year when Mariano felt and realized that he had an unfinished business to do as far as his chess career is concerned.

"Nung sinamahan ko si Elo at nakita kung maraming highly-rated players doon at hindi kailangan magpakalayo at gumastos ng malaki. Nabuhayan ako ng loob, na puwede pa pala ako. At naisip ko kung sila Kuya Joey and Kuya Bong they clinched their GM title in their 30s, puwede pa rin ako," said Mariano, referring to his younger brother’s stint in the U-16 category of the 2003 Dubai Open.

"So since that time, I put that mission-vision before me that within next year (2004), I should go for the title," said Mariano.

He did 20 days before he celebrates his 30th birthday.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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