YOUTHFUL politician Jaime Joshua Frias II was telling friends the night before that he will win again in his third-round match with Mindanao's top non-master Johnnel Balquin.
"But Balquin was also busy telling his own followers that he's all set for revenge in what he called, the Rematch of the Century," shared Frias, adding "but I'm going to beat him again, I'm very sure of my victory, just watch out".
Monday morning, the grudge rematch between two friends yet bitter chess rivals began at 8 o'clock in the morning as part of the many matches in the ongoing Misamis Oriental Chess Cup 2010 at the Provincial Capitol ground in Cagayan de Oro.
Handling the black side of the Catalan Opening, the Barangay 23 chairman pondered long in his first few moves while Balquin had confidently hopped from one board to another, flashing a big grin as he seemingly made Frias' early warning-- the butt of a joke.
"Iya daw kong pildehon, pero guboton nako ni sa ka complicated among dula," said Balquin in a good-natured ribbing with some equally-interested kibitzers.
Less than an hour, however, it was Balquin who was left alone on their board assignment, locked in serious analysis with face seemingly stifled in deep agony.
"Siya na pud ang naghinuktok karon. Unknown to him, we are following a line played between Topalov (Veselin) and Kramnik (Vladimir) which is favorable for black," Frias said, while taking a breather of in the green facade of Vicente de Lara Park.
Hobbled with one pawn down wrought by the disadvantage of Bishop versus Knight end game, it did not take long for Balquin to extend a hand in resignation.
"Mora'g ga apil lang ni siya sa tournament nga ako ra iyang gi-misyonan," complained Balquin, now 4-0 against Frias in their latest tournament encounters.
Just to defeat him?
Balquin may have been right. For in the following round, Frias made a premature sacrifice to go down in defeat at the hands of Oro compatriot John Vincent Cayaba.
"Nahurot akong kusog kang Balquin," Frias later justified his loss.
Frias, however, rebounded with a methodical win in the 5th round as he outmastered the veteran National Master from Iligan, Fernandito Pialan.
Still, Frias and 12 other 4 pointers (including Balquin, Cayaba, Fami Fazon, NM Levi Mercado, Brian Jose, Henry Lopez, Eutemio Coquilla, Jason Salubre, Ramel Sayaboc, Lyndon Lumancas, Jeriel Manlimbana and JoKorn Maestrado) are lagging by a full point behind solo leader, Fide Master Christopher Castellano of Manila at 5 points.
National Master Rustum Tolentino of Cagayan de Oro occupies second place with 5 points to show.
It's now Tolentino's turn to test Castellano's mettle on the top board with four more rounds to go in this three-day chessfest, staking over P60,000 cash prizes plus trophies.
"I'll try my best, though oks lang sa ako ang draw. Castillano is a tough player. Pag walay chance na maka-atake, sa last three rounds lang ko mobanat," Tolentino told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro.
Over 100 woodpushers from all over the country came to see action in the Open category, which will be followed by the kiddies (14-under) rivalry on Sept. 4-5 at same venue.
"Instead nga Sept. 8-9, among gi-adjust ang playdates sa kiddies para dili sila ma-absent sa klase," said Capitol Chess Club president Memen Moreno.
"At least, maka-relax sila gamay before sa pinakadako nga torneyo sa mga bata in Mindanao," added National Master Roly Tan, referring to the Cagayan de Oro leg of the National Shell Youth Active Chess (20-below and 14-below) on Sept. 11-12 at the fully-airconditioned City Tourism Hall.