CAGAYAN de Oro's Johnnel Balquin proved that he's now one of the country's best chessers in the rapid event when he finished ahead of Grandmaster Darwin Laylo in the 7th Atty. Jong Guevarra Cup Open chess tournament held recently in Toril, Davao City.
The talented Balquin was defeated only once by eventual champion National Master David Elorta of Manila, drew with GM Laylo and won the rest of his matches to place a solid fourth in the prestigious tourney that drew the participation of the country's best woodpushers.
Balquin is tied with NM Edsel Montoya and Fide Master Austin Jacob Literatus at 6.5 points, but Montoya and Literatus clinched the second and third spots with better tiebreak results.
GM Laylo of the Philippine Team placed solo fifth with 6 points, while FM Christopher Castellano, Samson Lim Jr., John Christian Lesaca, AGM Henry Roger Lopez, Vince Angelo Medina, Fide Master Nelson Mariano III and Aglipay Oberio shared six to 12th places with 5.5 points, respectively.
"Dili basta-basta ang performance ni Balquin sa Toril. I think he has a good chance against the "human machine" Elorta kon sa standard time control (one hour and 30 minutes) sila mag-engkwentro," commented Cagayan de Oro-based national arbiter Lorenzo "Jun" Cuizon.
Among the victims of Balquin's tactical prowess were Women's International Master Christine Rose Mariano, John Rey Batucan, Allen Mirano, Norman Longjas, Oberio and FM Castellano.
Balquin's 15-year-old compatriot Christian James Aquino from Misamis Oriental General Comprehensive High School (MOGCHS) had also a monster start, defeating in succession ASEAN paralympics gold medalist AGM Henry Lopez and National Master Macacuna Macala before losing steam in the remainder of the eight-round Swiss System tourney.