MANILA, MAY 30, 2006 (STAR) The Philippines, showing the real stuff it is made of, stunned 27th-seed Iceland, 3.5-0.5, Sunday in a seventh round victory that revived the Filipinos’ hopes for a top 10 finish in the men’s division of the World Chess Olympiad at the Olympic Village in Turin, Italy.

GM Mark Paragua, feeling the pressure of playing on the top board in the early rounds, finally settled down with his game and essayed an impressive 22-move victory over GM Hannes Stefansson in their Spanish game to spark the Filipinos’ romp over a squad ranked eight rungs higher than them.

GM Joey Antonio also came out strong from a series of drawn matches and whipped former world championship candidates super-GM Johann Hjartarson in 44 moves of a Nimzo-Indian defense while FM Oliver Dimakiling upended GM Throstur Thorhallsson in 47 moves of their Queen’s Pawn opening game.

Darwin Laylo earlier failed to stun GM Henrik Danielsen but succeeded to keep the team’s head above water with a 51-move draw in their English game on board 3.

The victory, which came on the heels of RP’s 3-1 rout of Ecuador Saturday, lifted the Filipinos from joint 30th to a share of 14th place with 18 points in the company of some of the world’s powerhouse teams, including second seed India, Bulgaria, Belarus, Greece and China.

"This is proof that we mean business although the crucial rounds will still be during the last three days of the Olympiad," said RP team captain Sammy Estimo. "Iceland has never been beaten this bad in this tournament, not even by the Russians."

The rout should give the Filipinos the right motivation to re-assert their mastery over the all-GM Chinese squad, three of whom tote over 2600 ratings, when they clash in the eighth round Monday.

"China is fielding in its full team against us. But the last time we played them in 2000 in Istanbul, we beat them, 2.5 1-5," added Estimo, who will keep the foursome of Paragua, Antonio, Laylo and Dimakiling against the 12th-ranked Chinese.

The Filipinos are just three points behind Armenia, which toppled the Netherlands, 3-1, to seize the solo lead with 21 points. Russia is in second with 20 while the 18th ranked Cuba jumped to third with 19.5 points after beating Indonesia, 3.5-0.5.

Capping the Philippines’ big day was the RP ladies’ 2.5-0.5 romp over Finland with Catherine Perena and Sherily Cua prevailing over WIM Tanja Rantanen and Laura Savola, respectively, and top board player Sheerie Joy Lomibao halving the point with Niina Sammalvuo.

The 60th-seeded Filipinas now have 11.5 points for a share of 35th place with Croatia, Indonesia, Czech Republic, Moldova, Denmark and Iran, their eighth round opponent. — Dante Navarro

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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