INTERNATIONAL Master Harridas Pascua is taking his first step in becoming a full-fledged Grand Master as he competes in the World Rapid and Blitz Championship in Dubai on June 15-21.

Two months after acquiring his IM rating, Pascua will be competing in the first among three standard qualifications to become a GM, possibly the 18th among the long line of Filipino greats.

The Information Technology senior eyes at least five international competitions this year and follow the footsteps of his friend and former teammate, Wesley So.

The 20-year-old Pascua hopes the GM norm would be reached within two years.

“I hope to get it in two years,” said Pascua, who is a few months senior of So.

The two chess wizards practically grew up together, with Pascua, usually in second, takes serious time improving in the sport as the equally talented So moved up to top the ranks in junior chess outings in the past.

Pascua, a University of Baguio student, is now the 15th best in the world with an ELO rating of 2,700 plus, the highest for a Filipino ever.

ELO rating, named after its creator Arpad Elo, is a method of calculating skill level of players in competitor-versus-competitor games such as chess.

If financial resources will be available, Pascua will also see action in the Malaysia Chess Festival on September 12-21 in Kuala Lumpur, the Hongkong International Chess Open Sept 30-Oct 6, PSC Chairman’s Cup on Nov 14-22, the PSC-POC International Chess Open on Nov 23-30 and the Penang Heritage City Chess Championship slated Dec 7-12 in Penang, Malaysia.

The Baguio based woodpusher recently acquired his third and final norm last month into becoming a bonafide IM after being rated with an ELO rating of 2,418.

Pascua earlier sought for financial assistance of 165 Euros to pay his IM certification in the FIDE (Fédération Internationale des échecs or World Chess Federation) in Switzerland, and received generous help from a Middle East based architect who provided the monetary help needed.

In August 2010, he took his first norm in the 6th Pichay Cup held in Manila where he earned 4.5 points in the nine round tournament where he sketched with three Grand Masters and drew with then IM Ronald Dableo, who is now a GM candidate after getting three GM norms.

In October 17, 2011, Pascua capped his second norm when he made 5.5 points in nine rounds of the 2nd Indonesian Open Chess Championship where he beat two GMs, Cao Sang of Vietnam and compatriot Mark Paragua.

Last month, Pascua took his third IM norm by finishing strong and within the top five in the Dyth Raja Dr. Nazrin KL International Open where he scored 6.5 points of a possible nine.

Pascua recorded five wins, three draws and a single loss to India’s RR Laxman. He registered a win over Bangladeshi GM Murshed Naz and drew with Indian Neelophal Das.

More than a month after his success, he still has to formalize his new title, the second Baguio and UB lad to ever do so. The first was the late Andronico Yap, who died in 1990.