CEBU’S young chess wizard Jerish John Velarde remained spotless after six rounds to virtually clinch the boys’ Under-14 title in the record-breaking National Age Group Chess Tournament Visayas Leg 2019 at the SM Seaside Cebu on Saturday, Jan. 5.

The 12-year-old pride of Lapu-Lapu City remains a force to be reckoned with despite moving up in a higher class division. He won the first six rounds in the seven-round tournament sanctioned by the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP).

Velarde of Maria Ernestine School escaped Kristan Estrella in the first round before asserting his dominance over James Ian Vega, Richard Gohetia Jr., Jervy Villarin, John Lester Belano and John Aaron Resma in the second to sixth rounds.

Velarde was set to play Joel Lawrence Hoy in the final and seventh round as of press time.

The event’s chief arbiter Wildredo Neri told SunStar Cebu that this regional event surpassed the record in terms of number of participants.

“There are more participants in this Visayas Leg compared to the Grand Finals; this is the record for the tournament,” he said adding that the accessibility of Cebu is the top reason why it’s easy for the players from Luzon and Mindanao to come over.

“If I’m not mistaken, we have around 261 players for this leg. Cebu is the center of Luzon and Mindanao so it’s easy for the players to come here. Also I think this is because of the early preparation of our local organizers,” he said.

Though it is the Visayas finals, it is not exclusive to players from the region.

The qualifiers in the Visayas leg will move on to the National Age Group Chess Tournament Grand Finals set in March in Zambales. The top three in every division in the grand finals will be tapped to represent the country in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean)+ Age Group Chess Championships in Myanmar in June.

Neri said the Asean trip will be an all-expense-paid travel courtesy of NCFP and the Philippine Sports Commission.

Velarde is one of the mainstays in the Asean+ Age Group Chess Championships having been part of the event for six times already.

“He played in the 14-Under this time because of the cutoff age, he will turn 13 years old this year. Actually he had to adjust with his new age group. In the first round, he was having a hard time but it was a good thing he was able to find a way in the end game,” said Edilberto Velarde Jr. of his son Jerish John.

Meanwhile, Neri said that he expects Cebu to be a host of more chess events like the Philippine Open and various international tournaments.