GRANDMASTER Mark Paragua, a former child wonder and first Filipino to breach the 2600-barrier in Elo rating, can finally call himself a national champion.
"It's a dream come true para sa akin. Matagal ko 'tong hinintay," said Paragua, after beating reigning national juniors champion FIDE Master Haridas Pascua in the 15th and final round of the 2012 National Open Chess Championships at the Cabagnot Training Center in Old Buswang, Kalibo Aklan. He finished with 23.0 points.
Paragua, also a triple gold medal winner during the 2003 Vietnam Southeast Asian Games, virtually claimed the title on Tuesday when he defeated FM Roderick Nava and drew with GM John Paul Gomez while co-leader International Master Oliver Dimakiling dropped his matches against GMs Julio Catalino Sadorra and Rogelio "Joey" Antonio.
Sadorra finished second with 20.5 points following his conquest of IM Emmanuel Senador while Dimakiling and GM Eugene Torre shared third place with 20.0 points.
In the final round, Dimakiling topped GM Rogelio "Banjo" Barcenilla while Torre streaked to his fourth straight win by beating GM Richard Bitoon.
Dimakiling earned the third and last outright seat to this year's World Chess Olympiad with a superior tiebreak over Torre.
Top Filipino player GM Wesley So is already assured of a slot while the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) headed by chairman/president Prospero "Butch" Pichay, Jr. has the option to pick the fifth player of the men's team.
GM Darwin Laylo bowed to Gomez in the final round to kiss his bid of nailing a ticket to the Olympiad goodbye. He finished with 18.5 points.
In the distaff side, Woman International Master Catherine Perena's 23.0 points also proved to be the winning score. She was followed by Woman National Master Janelle Mae Frayna's 21.0 points and Jedara Docena's 17.5 points.
The three earned outright seats to the women's team that will compete in the Olympiad.
Bernadette Galas barely missed a top three finish with 17.0 points while Woman FIDE Master Rulp Ylem Jose, WFM Cherry Ann Mejia and WNM Jan Jodilyn Fronda shared fifth place with 15.0 each.
Supporting the tournament dubbed as "Battle of the Grandmasters" are the Boracay Chess Club, Aklan Gov. Carlito S. Marquez, Lone District of Aklan Rep. Florencio T. Miraflores, Club Paraw owned by Malay Councilor Hon. Wilbec M. Gelito and Willy's Beach Resort owned by Gen. Manager Rochanie G. Gadon, Kolai Mangyan owner Mr. Lowell Gucilo and Tawhay Condotel owner Arwen Barrios.