CAGAYAN de Oro woodpushers once again proved that they're indeed among the country's best.

Mayor Jaraula Cup champion Levi Mercado of Barangay Patag and fellow National Master Rustum Tolentino of Barangay Balulang both showed masterful chess moves in the 2nd Kidapawan Chess Open Championships concluded Sunday at the Convention Center in Kidapawan City.

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The Oro bets, who braved the long journey to Cotabato region to pit wits with the country's rising talents today, finished the seven-round Swiss system tourney in a tie with International Master Oliver Barbosa of Manila at six points each.

Barbosa, a veteran campaigner in the US chess circuits, however, prevailed in the Bucholz tiebreak to notch the first place trophy. Mercado, Tolentino and the other six-pointer in Harrison Maamo of Davao City occupied second, third and fourth places, respectively.

"Kami lang duha ni Tumtum sa Cagayan de Oro. Grabe kakusog ang field maayo na lang wala `ta nawala sa top 3," said Mercado who yielded the championship trophy but just the same received an equal share from the combined prizes for the top four winners.

Cotabato City pride NM Sarip Roger gained fifth place with 5.5 points, while 10 players, including dethroned defending champion NM Edgar Reggie Olay, scored five points to share sixth to 15th places in the three-day event organized by the Kidapawan Chess Club Inc., in cooperation with the City Government of Kidapawan and Batch 85-Notre Dame of Kidapawan Boys and Girls HS Alumni Association Inc.

Misamis Oriental's Jhonnel Balquin, Davao City's Peter Tidoy, Koronadal City's Cesar Apalla, Digos City's Lito Laput, General Santos City's Ric Portogalera, Panabo City's NM Cedric Magno and Henry Lopez, Surallah's Ferdinand Leysa, and Kidapawan City's Bob Salanga all finished with five points.

Dr. Ted P. Calica, Kidapawan City Chess Club Inc. president, and city sports coordinator Ramil Deldo led the awarding of trophies, medals and cash prizes to the winners.

Kidapawan City's Philip John Leyson Jr., 2009 Shell Active Chess national finalist, was awarded the Best Junior Player of the tournament after scoring 4.5 points.

Special awards were also given to Davao City's John Ray Batucan as Best Kiddie Player with 4.5 points and Nikki Erica Yngayo as Best Female Player with four points. They also received medals and cash prizes.

The major cities in Mindanao were well-represented in the Kidapawan Open Chess Championship as rated and non-rated players from Davao, Cotabato, Digos, Malita, Panabo, Cagayan de Oro, Koronadal, General Santos and the host city participated in the tournament, which ushered the city's celebration of its founding anniversary.

About half of the 74 participants came from Kidapawan City. Aside from Olay, Salanga and Leyson, Garry Carcalas, Felipe Leyson, Eddie Resurrecion Jr., Edwin Dua and Roy Calica all of Kidapawan City fared well in the tournament by scoring four points each.

Dr. Calica extended his gratitude to all the participants and sponsors of the Kidapawan Open Chess Championship, which is expected to become an annual event. (With Sunnex reports)