Thursday, December 24, 2015

Pestaño: Felixberto Balbona—pure chess lover

FELIX, 56, was a soft-spoken man and in all the years we have been together, I’ve never heard him raise his voice. I admired him because he was kind, generous and he was a pillar of strength to our club.
Not once did he refuse my request for financial assistance to some of our tournaments and I’ve never heard him complain about anything. In fact, he was one of only a few members, who received an award in our Silver anniversary, despite not being a founder nor a past president of the club.
I met him 25 years ago when I organized a team tournament with the help of the late National Master Ben Macapaz, who was the tutor of all his children on chess.
The team tournament was composed of players of the same profession and Felix was the leader of the CPAs together with another Cepca member, now based in the USA, Susan Itaas. My team of chemical engineers included Bob Inocian and Pablito Argamosa. I also recall two lawyer teams composed of Alex Tolentino, Damaso Uy and Bebs Andales (presently a councilor of Cebu City).
Felix raised all of his children to be chess players like him because he had the firm belief that playing the game on a regular basis from early childhood will improves the learning, thinking, analytical power, and decision-making ability of the child and it is extremely helpful in brain development.
He has been proven right. All of his children—Jessa, Felix Shaun, Marq Gabriel, John Francis and James Andrew—are scholars, disciplined, well-behaved and confident. Jessa is also a CPA like Felix. She graduated cum laude and is presently connected with the prestigious accounting and management firm Sycip, Gorres and Velayo.
Felix’s life was taken away from us too soon and it is hard to understand why tragic things like this happen to such good people. However, this is a question without an answer and we should not dwell on the loss of our dear friend, a husband and father. Even though he may be gone, his memory will live on in all the members of Cepca and all the chess players in Cebu forever.
It is incredibly sad that his life ended so soon and I cannot put into words how much I will miss him. Felix, I appreciate your friendship and will never forget you.
Our esteemed president, Jerry Maratas says, “I am deeply saddened by his sudden passing. He was a pure chess lover that even with his last breath, he was playing the sport that he really loved. But more than that, he was such a good and humble family man. He was a great loss to Cepca. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his bereaved family,”
Jun Olis also said, "He was just playing the game he cherished and loved most, when suddenly death appeared uninvited and in a most shocking fashion, struck with blinding swiftness. Just like a thief in the night, catching everyone unaware and unprepared, We have lost one of the club's pillar of strength - a kind, generous, unassuming and dedicated family man." 
If you visit an on-going big chess tournament, you can immediately feel the tension in the air. A study of top level chess shows that the players have elevated blood pressure and experience a lot of stress.
Felix is not the only one nor will he be the last. Vladimir Bagirov (64), Efim Bogoljubov (63), Jose Capablanca (53), Ed Edmondson, Forry Laucks, Paul Leonhardt (57), Frank Marshall (67), Cecil Purdy of Australia (73) , Vladimir Simagin (49), Johann Zukertort (44), Gideon Stahlberg (59), and Herman Steiner (50) all died while playing chess or just finishing a chess game. NM Ben Macapaz that I mentioned earlier died while on a chess simul exhibition last year at Timex, Mactan.

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