As odd pairings go, Terrence Romeo and chess may seem like a mix that isn't supposed to make sense.
But the fiery San Miguel guard, known for his occasional outbursts during games, will be the first to tell you that chess is the one game he always turns to every time he wants to recalibrate his mindset and experience a reinvigorating sense of balance and peace.
"Malaking tulong kasi yun ang pinaka-libangan ko kapag wala akong ginagawa," says Romeo, adding it has helped him keep his temper in check over the years. "Nakakakalma sobra.”
His discovered chess by accident, Terrence recounts, years ago when he was just in the third grade. And although basketball has afforded the shifty and streaky star with considerable acclaim years later, his passion for chess has never waned.
He still remembers how he stopped by a barbershop on his way to track and field practice and found himself charmed by this neighborhood joint peopled by regulars whiling the hours aways with colorful discussions about the news and, of course, sports. In one corner, he spotted two players trying to outthink one another in a friendly match of chess.
That was all the moment Terrence needed to witness to feel hooked.
“Nagsimula ako na nagustuhan ko siya talaga Grade 3 ako," he says. "Grade 6 ako noong naramdaman kong gumaling na ako compared doon sa nag-umpisa ako. Yun nga lang pag varsity player na kalaban, wala pa rin ako. Ibang level naman kasi ‘yung husay ng mga varsity.”
Terrence, who has been photographed recently playing with Pinoy grandmaster Eugene Torre, has always sought out the chance to play with top-caliber chess players. Back when he was still an FEU Tamaraw, Terrence would usually play chess against younger varsity players in between games to gauge how much his game had improved.
The fashion-forward guard says it was always humbling facing chess stars who would habitually put him in his place.
“Naalala ko dati sa FEU noon may nakalaban ako na varsity ng chess, bata lang siya," says Terrence. "Ako noon 17 na tapos siya 12, pero tinatalo niya ako. Hindi talaga ako manalo, five games yata. As in every night naglalaro kami sa dorm hindi ako nananalo.”
All these defeats have shaped Terrence into the chess enthusiast that he is today. He's obviously still wild about the game to the point that he recognizes its calming powers now.
If he could channel the highs he would feel while playing chess in his game in San Miguel's ongoing Finals showdown with TNT, Terrence might just be the guy the Beermen needed to unleash their full offensive firepower just in time to turn this series into the tight colossal battle pundits and fans have billed it to be.