By Ed Andaya
DON'T look now but the Philippines, the same country which produced Asia´s first GM in Eugene Torre during the 1974 Olympiad in Nice, France and the world's youngest grandmaster in Wesley So in Manila last year, has a new chess grandmaster.
His name? John Paul Gomez.
Gomez., a 22-year-old mechanical engineering student from De la Salle University, earned the elusive GM title after drawing with GM Viktor Laznicka of the Czech Republic during the ninth round of the 38 th World Chess Olympiad at the International Congress Center.
He became the 10th grandmaster of the home country of FIDE honorary lifetime president Florencio Campomanes, joining the elite club of Torre (1974), the late Rosendo Balinas (1976), Rogelio Antonio Jr. (1993), Buenaventura "Bong" Villamayor (2000), Nelson Mariano II (2004), Mark Paragua (2005), Darwin Laylo (2007), Wesley So (2997) and Jayson Gonyales (2008).
Gomez is also the fourth player to earn his GM title under the watch of National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCF) president Prospero "Butch" Pichay, who took over as head in 2006.
"John Paul will not be the last player to become a GM under my watch. There will be many more players to come and they will all be players to watch ," vowed Pichay.
Like Campomanes before him, Pichay is making chess a very popular sport in the country again.
And to back up his claim, Pichay is hosting no less than five major international chess tournaments in the Philippines next year, beginning with the Asian Men's and Women' s Chess Championship, which has a combined prize fund of US$65,000.
With such handsome guarantee, Pichay is ready to roll out the red carpet for more Filipino world-class players.
To foreign players wishing to challenge their Filipino counterparts in Manila, it's your move.