Europe-based Filipino Joseph Sanchez, the former coach of GM Mark Paragua, will become the country’s 11th GM in April. National Chess Federation of the Philippines president Butch Pichay Jr. made the announcement recently after FIDE released the titles it approved during its first quarter presidential board meeting last March 5-8 in Istanbul, Turkey.“I’m proud and happy to announce that we have a new grandmaster in Joseph Sanchez,” said Pichay. The 39-year-old Sanchez clinched his third and final GM norm by finishing third in Group A of the third International Open “Pierre et Vacances” in Cannes, France where he scored 6.5 points in nine rounds.
Sanchez was actually leading in the final round but lost to Moroccan GM Hichem Hamdouchi and settled for joint third with three others. Hamdouchi went on to tie for first with French GM Christian Bauer, whom Sanchez trounced in the third round. Sanchez will thus join the elite circle of RP chess players, including Eugene Torre, Joey Antonio, Bong Villamayor, Nelson Mariano II, Paragua, Wesley So, Darwin Laylo, Jayson Gonzales and John Paul Gomez and the late Rosendo Balinas Jr.Sanchez, who will also become the first Cebuano GM, is currently ranked 12th in the country with a 2461 rating and should jump inside the top 10 after he gained 21.6 points in the first quarter of the year. Two more Filipinos – Virgilio Vuelban and Kim Steven Yap – will also obtain their International Master titles when FIDE releases its new rating list and titles on April 1.