CAGAYAN DE ORO ace Lennon Hart Salgados made a big move in the ongoing 2010 National Age-Group Chess Championships at NCCC Mall Atrium in Davao City.

The 16-year-old Salgados, standing as the youngest among the country’s top juniors vying for the premier 20-under boys crown, shocked reigning UAAP (University Athletic Association of the Philippines) MVP Sheider Nebato of Far Eastern University with the black pieces.

Salgados, who played alongside Nebato in the Asean Youth Chess Championships last year in Hue, Vietnam, employed the Queen’s Gambit defense in meeting the latter’s d4 opening that rewarded him a methodical win.

“I’ve come to know this old-fashioned opening during my occasional encounter with National Master Levi Mercado at the Capitol Chess Park in Cagayan de Oro. I have a negative score with Nebato in our previous meetings but the moment he played… confidence just keeps building inside me,” Salgados, who just graduated from Corpus Christi high school, told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro via text messaging.

Agreeing to a quick draw with Misamis Oriental hopeful Richelieu Salcedo III in the fifth round, Salgados is back on the top board battling with last year’s 18-under champion Mari Joseph Turqueza of La Salle when games resume at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

“Oks lang ang draw kay usa lang ang nag lead and the competition is a nine-round Swiss,” said NM Roly Tan of the Misor province’s coaching staff.

Now Salgados, the 2007 National Shell Active kiddies champion, is up for another tough mission: CDO-Misor compatriots are pinning hope on him to stop solo pacesetter Turqueza on his track.

Turqueza whipped Zamboanga native Joey Albert Florendo of the University of Santo Tomas to grab the solo lead at 4.5 points.

FEU varsity players Antonio Chavez Jr. and Alfredo Rapanot Jr. of Cagayan de Oro, meanwhile, both bounced back in contention with equally stunning victories over National Shell junior titlist Nelson Mariano III and Adrian Acas, respectively.

With 4 points each, Chavez and Rapanot face the inevitable task of battling each other in Round 6 on the second board. While Salcedo takes on Erwin Tubog, the other 4-pointer, on board 3.

“The 18-under rivalry practically serves as a prelude to next week’s national junior championship. And it’s very refreshing to note nga atong mga pambato sa Cagayan de Oro pulos nakasaka sa taas,” said coach Lorenzo “Jun” Cuizon.

Equally impressive is Barangay Bulua pride Vincent Salcedo who shares the lead in 10-under boys level with a perfect 4 of 4 performance. Just breathing on his neck are Kennard Troy Ibaoc of Corpus Christi Grade School and Adrian Othniel Yulo of Xavier University Grade School with 3 points apiece.

Kennard’s older brother Tristan Frech Ibaoc is also strongly contending for the top honors in 12-under boys category with 3.5 points to show after four rounds.

NCFP executive director Willy Abalos said the top-three finishers in each category will represent the Philippines in the 11th Asean Age-Group Chess Championships on June 4-13 at Subic Bay in Olongapo City.

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