The story of this young Filipino master is a tragic one. But let's start with the chess part first.
Andronico Yap talents was given a chance to shine at the 1979 Marlboro Chess Classic in Manila. He was a helper at the event, operating those huge demonstration boards in the days when such things were still done manually.
When one of the participants was unable to show up in time, Yap was picked to take his place - apparently because he was the strongest chess player amongst the staff. So from being a board operator he ended up as one of the participants in a major grandmaster tournament! At that time he was still unrated so his final score - six wins ,five losses and a draw can be considered a wild success. Among his wins are those over the Russian grandmaster Dorfman, fellow Filipinos , Maninang , IM Bordonada and IM Mascarinas, Indonesian IM Bachtiar and Australian master Shaw.
For an unknown , it was certainly a dream debut. At the time, he was widely considered to be the next Filipino grandmaster after Eugene Torre.
I first met Yap when he was in Malaysia for the Asian Junior. He was short and physically small for his age with a round almost angelic face. He looked a good 3-4 years younger than his real age, which I later found out was only three years younger than me. Yet at the time, I thought he was perhaps fifteen when he should already be in his late teens.
I noticed he hardly spoke and only smiled when I asked him questions about himself. I thought he was just shy but I remember the way he behaved which was rather inapproriate. Perhaps this was a manifestation of his disturbed mind which again I only found out much later.
The story was that one day his parents took him to Rizal Park. This is a famous and popular park in Manila. On week-ends you can find thousands of foreigners and visitors there. At the park both of his parents were killed by robbers right in front of the boy. The damage to his mind is unimaginable.
Orphaned at this early age, he had to work variously as a dishwasher, shoeshine boy and even as a jaga kereta (someone who watches your parked car for a fee).
Yap eventually became and international master but the grandmaster title eluded him. He did make a first norm but his chess started deteriorating. By the age of twenty-nine he was dead - drowned in the sea. Speculations were that it was a suicide.
When I was informed by my Filipino friends of his death by drowning. I immediately suspected that he had killed himself. Personally, I believe he was mentally unstable all his life, due to the tragedy that happened to him as a child. One does not overcome something like this without professional help and I do not know if he received any. Another reason could be that he never succeeded in his career. He never managed to achieve the grandmaster title even though he had many chances playing in the USSR and Europe. Going through his games, I found many well-known chess names -Romanishin, Inkiov, Tal, Bagirov, Smagin, Speelman, Sax, Balashov, Tukmakov, Dorfman , Keene and so on. It did not help that at that time, Philippine chess was going through a dark age after Campomanes became FIDE president.
It is quite a cautionary tale for those who choose chess as the only career in their life. You need a fallback in case the chess don't work out so if you think education does not matter as long as you have your chess, think again.