HO CHI MINH, December 9, 2003  (STAR) By Nelson Beltran (Via Globe Telecom) ó Most of the Filipinos here didnít know that the Philippine menís rapid chess team was headed to a disastrous finish versus host Vientnam Sunday night, but it fought back from impending defeat behind the heroics of GM Bong Villamayor.

Villamayor saved the team from imminent danger and subsequently delivered the gold-medal clincher in a performance that could well be considered a triumph of the spirit for the player denied of a chance to compete for the gold in the individual play.

The Philippines was 1-2 down when Villamayor squeezed out an impressive victory over Tu Hoang Thong on Board 3 to force a deciding blitz showdown.

And the Vietnamese were looking to force a sudden-death with Dao Thien Hai having toppled Joey Antonio on Board 1 and Thong and Pham Minh Hoang beaten by Mark Paragua and Jayson Gonzales on Boards 3 and 4 when Villamayor again pulled off a heroic job for the Filipinos, defeating Nguyen Anh Dung on Board 3.

"Natapat lang na ako ang hero," said the humble 36-year-old GM from Mauban, Quezon.

"Actually, hindi ko alam na kailangan ko talagang habulin ang panalo sa rapid dahil concentrated na ako masyado sa game, paubos na ang oras," added the Airman Second Class under Brig. Gen. Jaime Vieres Jr.

The infighting among the Filipino chess players was temporarily set aside as they pooled their talents together to deliver a second gold for the country in the chess event being played in the games for the first time ever.

"Kinamayan ako ni Eugene (Torre) kasi siya ang masisisi kung natalo kami," said Villamayor of Torre who was repulsed by Dao in the rapid. Torre took a rest in the blitz, replaced by Gonzales.

"Si Atty. (Sammy) Estimo nakangiti pero may ngiwi," he said of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines secretary general who serves as the team coach here.

Villamayor declined a draw offered by Thong earlier and wriggled out of a losing position, winning the rook-and-pawn endgame of their Dutch Defense encounter.

Villamayor outwitted Nguyen on a king-and-pawn endgame of their Bogo Indian game later on for the title clincher.

Next up for the talented Filipino chess players is the standard game which fired off with the opening of a nine-round Swiss system tourney yesterday.

"Mas malaki ang tsansa namin na i-sweep team and individual title dito dahil ang lakas lahat ng limang players natin. Hindi kagaya ng iba kagaya ng Vietnam na hanggang dalawa lang at Indonesia na isa lang," said Antonio, now an Army enlisted man.

"Baka gold-silver pa tayo sa individual. Hindi lang pwedeng sweep lahat ng medals dahil hanggang dalawa lang ang pwedeng ipanalo ng isang team sa isang event," Antonio added.

Joining Torre, Antonio, Villamayor and Paragua in the hunt for the standard chess golds is Ronald Dableo.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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