MANILA,  September 7, 2004  (STAR) GM-candidate Mark Paragua held top seed GM Vladimir Malaniuk of Ukraine to a draw in the 12th round then trounced IM Nino Khurtsidze of Georgia in the next to obtain his second grandmaster’s norm in the International Chess Title Tournament Alushta Autumn 2004 in Alushta, Ukraine Sunday.

"Sa wakas nakuha ko rin, siguro mga limang beses ko ring na-miss tong GM norm (At last I got it after five misses for a GM norm)," said Paragua, who raised his output to 9.5 points to likewise gain a share of the lead with fellow IM Yuriy Kuzubov of Ukraine heading into the last two rounds of the tough round-robin tournament among 16 players.

Under FIDE rules, a player can obtain a GM result provided he scores at least 8.5 points in 12 rounds and plays at least three GMs and no less than five players from different federations. Based on Paragua’s performance, the field is ranked category IX with an average rating of 2460 which requires 8.5/12 games.

"I am hesitant to offer Malaniuk a draw because he is a big name in Ukraine chess circuit. But I felt na gusto niya rin ng tabla so after 10 moves he suddenly offered his hands signaling the truce," said Paragua, the 1998 World Rapid under-14 champion.

Kuzubov posted back-to-back victories against GM Sergey Kalygin of Russia and IM Dmitry Tishin of Ukraine, respectively to join the ace Filipino chesser at the helm.

Meanwhile, National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) president Rep. Mat Defensor expressed optimism of Paragua’s chances to become a full-pledged GM in the next few weeks.

"Mark will come home a fully-titled GM. That’s what he promised to NCFP before he left for Europe. I am confident we will have a new GM before the year is over. And we have to thank the FG Foundation headed by Atty. Jose Miguel Arroyo for his full support to Philippine chess," said Defensor.

If he plays true to form and completes his GM title bid, Paragua will join the country’s elite circle of GMs, which includes Eugene Torre, the late Rosendo Balinas, Joey Antonio, Bong Villamayor and Nelson Mariano II.

"One more to go and I will finally get my GM title. I hope na makuha ko yong isa sa next tournament ko. I hope this will inspire the youth back home," said Paragua.

Paragua, who notched his first GM norm after finishing tied for first in the 2001 Mondariz International Swiss tournament in Mondariz, Spain, faces IM Elina Danielian of Armenia and FM Evgeni Kobylkin of Ukraine in the last two rounds, respectively.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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