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Sanchez is RP’s 11th chess Grandmaster

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.