Cebuano Richard Bitoon, Barbosa earn final norms; Bitoon becomes Cebu’s second GM

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Saturday, September 10, 2011


CEBU got its third Chess Grandmaster when IM Richard Bitoon finally got his third and final norm after finishing joint second to compatriot IM Oliver Barbosa, who won the DYTM Raja Dr. Nazrin Shah Invitational Masters Chess tournament held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia yesterday.

Their achievements made them the country’s 15th and 16th chess grandmasters.

It, however, still needs to go through a confirmation in the next Fide Convention in November.

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“Sir, I won my last round assignment and I got my third (GM) norm. Thanks a lot,” Bitoon texted Cebu chess patron Boojie Lim.

It was a dramatic victory for Bitoon, who was on the verge of losing another chance to become a full-fledged GM when Barbosa got his third and final GM norm after winning his Round 7 match against Vietnam IM Nguyen Van Huy last Friday.

Coming into the final Round 9 with 5.5 points and facing a formidable opponent in GM Tahir Vakhidov (2485) of Uzbekishtan, Bitoon was facing a win or bust situation as he played his favorite black piece.

But his determination and focus parried the pressure as he came out victorious after throwing everything he had against the Uzbek GM to win the game and bag his final GM norm after finishing the tournament with 6.5 points.

“May the other aspiring Cebuano chess players follow in the footsteps of our newly-crowned grandmaster Richard Bitoon,” Lim continued.

It was only last July, during the National Men’s Open Chess Tournament – Battle of Grandmasters in Manila when Bitoon and Barbosa collected their second norms—the norm that had eluded the Cebuano master since 2009.

Bitoon is the third Cebuano to become a GM.

France-based Joseph Sanchez became a GM in 2008, while the US-based Rogelio “Banjo” Barcenilla got his third and final GM norm in 2009.

Another aspiring Cebuano IM Kim Steven Yap, is also getting in a good position for becoming a GM following his latest exploits in the DYTM Raja Dr. Nazrin Shah International Open also in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Yap finished the 9-Round Swiss System tournament with 6.5 points to tie for the 2nd to the 7th places with compatriots IM Oliver Dimakiling, NM Edgar Reggie Olay, IM Yves Ranola, IM Tirta Chandra Purnama of Indonesia and IM Qingnan Liu of China.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 11, 2011.

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