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Pinoy five-year-old chess prodigy makes waves as the youngest player at NCR Palaro 2023 regionals

By John Patrick Magno Ranara Published Jul 17, 2023 3:30 pm

When Julius and Mary Ann Constante welcomed their son into the world, like any loving parents, they knew their child was going to be special. But little did they know that he would be a genius at chess at just the tender age of five. 

Meet Marius Constante, a chess whiz who made waves at the regional chess competition of the National Capital Region (NCR) Palaro 2023 for being the youngest player to join. At only five years old, he impressed the crowd with his skills and intelligence at the classic board game.

Despite the sport being considered difficult to master because of its hundreds of patterns, concepts, and strategies, it was no sweat for the blooming prodigy, having only learned it in just a few months.

Sharing Marius’ story with PhilSTAR L!fe, Julius and Mary Ann said that their son’s love for chess started a few days before his fifth birthday.

“When Marius first saw a chess board, a few days away from turning five years old, he was immediately curious about the game and asked us how to play it. He started watching video tutorials and asked us if we could get him a chess coach,” Mary Ann said.

“Now that I think about it, it felt like Marius was naturally interested in the game from the moment he saw a chess board,” she added.

Marius’ extreme interest in the game came off as rather peculiar for them, as neither of them have ever been chess players. But they were overjoyed upon discovering their son’s hidden talent, especially when a lot of people told Mary Ann and Julius how amazed they were by Marius’ performance at his age. 

Becoming a chess whiz

Most newbies become adept at playing chess within three to six months, and Marius accomplished that in a short span of just four months. Like many prodigies, he proved that he was born a natural at the sport. 

He won his very first tournament in September last year, where he was similarly the youngest out of the 110 players. All of his opponents were twice his age, but this did not deter him from scoring two wins and one draw out of his seven games, eventually leading him to rank at the 86th place.

“In that tournament, Marius lost his three games before he scored a win. We remember he was so happy after winning the match,” his parents recounted.

And he accomplished this using only his own knowledge.

“Marius’ tournament was on Sept. 10, and he met his personal coach only on Sept. 5. So actually, he didn't have formal training when he first joined a tournament. He only played according to his own understanding of the game and from what he learned by watching YoutTube videos,” Mary Ann revealed.

She continued, “We did not have any training routine or strategies yet. We only joined to see if Marius would enjoy playing with other kids since he doesn’t have chess playmates at home and in our area.”

Dominating the competition

Since then, Marius made his mark in more chess competitions, such as the Mayor Darel Dexter T. Uy National Age Group Chess Championships (U10 Boys), where he managed to make it to the grand finals and get seventh place at standard and sixth place at blitz.

He also achieved victory at the North Private Schools Association of Caloocan Chess competition, which led him to qualify for the NCR Palaro 2023 regionals.

There, Marius continued to make a name for himself as the only five year old to compete against other players aged seven to 10.

During the tournament, things started out rough for Marius as he had two consecutive losses during the first day. However, he managed to steer the wheel into victory when he won all of the succeeding rounds, earning him fifth place in the individual category.

His parents credit hiring a chess coach as one of the factors that helped Marius become the skilled player he is today.

“One of the very first things that we did was to find him a chess coach. We only know the basics of the game so it helped a lot that there are others that are guiding him,” Mary Ann told L!fe.

But more than that, it also took dedication and an eagerness to continuously improve, “Marius is also a very hardworking kid. His coaches told him that Marius is naturally talented in chess, but he would also spend a lot of time playing and studying.”

Currently, the young chess genius has two teams of online coaches, with his main one being Jaypee Bolado from The Chess Castle Philippines, a Cavite-based online chess tutorial. He also attends once-a-week online group classes held by coach Roderick Nava, an international master at chess, under the Kamatyas Training Program. 

Hope for the future

Despite not being able to qualify for the NCR Palaro 2023 nationals, Marius’ future in the world of chess is still shining bright, and his parents ensured that they will be there for him every step of the way.

“We hope that he will succeed and continue to enjoy whatever field he chooses. Marius said he wants to be an engineer when he grows up. His father and I are both engineers, so there is probably that influence, and a grandmaster (the highest title awarded in chess) at the same time,” Mary Ann said. 

“However, we do not want to force him with anything. If later he decides he wants to have a different career, we will support him,” she added.

Aside from chess, Marius is also adept at playing piano and is sensational at math. The whiz kid easily understood complicated topics such as exponents, factorials, and prime factorization in algebra and more at just the tender age of four. He is indeed a Filipino boy genius like no other.

For parents who also have a talented kid like Marius, Mary Ann only has one simple advice on how they can bring out the best in their child: “Continue to guide and support your kids. If it’s possible to get professionals to help them hone their talents, consider doing it. Also, try to balance their activities and let them explore other things.”