IT TAKES one to know one.
Grandmaster Jayson Gonzales believes Giovanni Mejia has what it takes to become a grandmaster himself.
Mejia, 14, was the youngest player to qualify in the 2012 National Open Chess Championships where he officially earned his national master title.
"He is an aggressive player who can only get better with experience," said Gonzales, also the executive director of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and longtime coach of powerhouse Far Eastern U chess team.
Gonzales has keen eyes for chess talents, a key factor in the sustained dominance of his team in collegiate chess competition.
In the event dubbed as the "Battle of the Grandmasters," Mejia played like one. He gave the established stars of local chess a run for their money and even defeated the tournament top seed GM Oliver Barbosa.
"His enthusiasm reminds me of a young Wesley So," observed Gonzales.
Gonzales witnessed firsthand the initiation of So in a national championship and benefitted from his gung-ho style of play.
The then 10-year-old So defeated International Master Chito Garma in the final round of the 2004 National Open to give Gonzales the last berth in the Olympiad that year.
NCFP chairman/president Prospero "Butch" Pichay is also impressed. "His confidence level is very high for his age," Pichay noted. "You can sense that he's not afraid of big moments."
Aside from Barbosa, Mejia also took the measures of GMs Rogelio Barcenilla, Jr. and Roland Salvador during his eventful first stint in the national championship.
He was named Most Valuable Player in the juniors division of the National Collegiate Athletic Association in 2011, a year after leading De La Salle Greenhills to its first league championship in three decades.