CHESS:  MARK PARAGUA  EYES  HIS  PLACE IN PHILIPPINE CHESS HISTORY

MANILA,  September 8, 2004  (STAR) With his second grandmaster norm safely tucked under his belt, International Master Mark Paragua now eyes a place in Philippine chess history.

The 20-year-old Paragua beat IM Elina Danielian of Armenia in the 14th and penultimate round to seize the solo lead in the Alushta GM Tournament in Ukraine.

He now has 10.5 points, half-a-point ahead of IMs Yuriy Kuzubov of Ukraine and Roman Ovetchkin of Russia and at least two points clear of his other pursuers.

Kuzubov, tied with the Filipino after 13 rounds, got stalled by a draw by GM Ramil Hasangatin of Russia while Ovetchkin shocked top seed GM Vladimir Malaniuk of Ukraine to stay in the hunt for the title and a GM norm.

A victory would make Paragua the first Filipino player since the late GM Rosendo Balinas Jr. to win a closed tournament in a former Soviet Union republic. Balinas did the trick in the Odessa tournament in 1976, earning him the GM title in the process.

"Malaking bonus na para sa akin kung ako ang magtsa-champion dito (Alushta GMT). Ang talagang target ko lang sa pagsali sa ganitong event eh ’yung GM norm," said Paragua.

When informed of the opportunity to accomplish a rare feat, Paragua said it just made him more determined to win.

"Lalo akong na-motivate para manalo," he said while admitting that he’s not aware of that prospect before.

Paragua will face FIDE Master Evgeni Kobylkin of Ukraine, who is tied at eighth to ninth places with 6.5 points, in the final round.

One thing going for Paragua is that his closest pursuers — Kuzubov and Ovetchkin — are not expected to go all out in their last outing.

Kuzubov, who will meet Malaniuk, and Ovetchkin, who will go up against Nino Khurtsidze of Georgia, tallied 10 points heading into the last round, just .5 short of the required score to clinch a GM norm.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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