INTERNATIONAL Master Oliver Barbosa took the early lead along with two others in the Kidapawan Open Chess Championship at the Kidapawan City Convention Center in Kidapawan City.

Barbosa, the country's 13th ranked woodpushers, has four points after four games to share the lead with Cagayan de Oro's Jhonnel Balquin and Davao City's Henry Fajardo.

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Barbosa bested Kidapawan youngster Archie Butal in the first round, crushed Ben Polao in the second and scored wins over NM Master Sarip Roger and Maamo Harrison in the third and fourth rounds.

Banquin and Fajardo have made a surprising run in this tournament by also recording a perfect score of four points. Fajardo scored the tournament's biggest upset by defeating defending champion Reggie Olay in the second round and Panabo City's Henry Lopez, who is ranked 10 in the tournament, in the third round. He earlier bested Palmerola Shanice in the first round and Peter Tidoy in the 4th.

Banquin led the Cagayan de Oro charge by upending Edwin Dua, Sinangula Jomong, NM Cedric Magno and Cesar Apalla in succession. He upset NM Magno, who just won the Mati Rapid Chess Open in January 2010.

Two other woodpushers from Cagayan de Oro City are closely pursuing the leaders with 3.5 points on three wins and a draw each. They are NM Rustum Tolentino and NM Levi Mercado. Mercado recently topped the Mayor Jaraula Chess Tournament in Cagayan de Oro in December 2009.

Olay stayed in contention by recording two straight wins in the third and fourth rounds.

"The final three rounds were to be played Sunday also at the Kidapawan City Convention Center.

"Bringing together the top rated players in the Kidapawan Chess Open this year is our biggest achievement," Kidapawan Chess Club president Dr. Ted P. Calica said.

A total of eight national masters throughout Mindanao arrived in Kidapawan City for the event. Other non-rated participants seeing action in the three-day meet were from Davao City, Cagayan de Oro City, Digos City, Cotabato City, General Santos City, Koronadal City, Panabo City, Tagum City, Malita City and the host city.