In old elementary school subjects of “Sibika” (Civics) from the 1980s on, when discussing famous Filipino athletes there might be a mention, among track stars like Lydia de Vega or basketball giants like Robert Jaworski, the name of Eugene Torre. His sport, chess, is not physically demanding or visually exciting; but for chess aficionados Torre was a true pillar for the Filipinos. He was the first Filipino Grandmaster. He once defeated World Champion Anatoly Karpov of the Soviet Union, and was a close personal friend of another chess legend, the American Bobby Fischer. Recently he represented Filipinos and Asians as the first of both in the Chess Hall of Fame.
It was on April 20 that the World Chess Federation (FIDE), which oversees the Chess Hall of Fame, approved the inclusion of Filipino chess grandmaster Eugene Torre to its ranks, one of three inductees for 2021. After this supreme honor in his sport, which puts his name next to friend Bobby Fischer and one-time opponent Gary Karpov, what is coming next for the now-aged 69 grand old man of chess in the Philippines? According to CNN Philippines, that would be searching for the next Filipino chess champion, in hope he wins honor for the country.
“There is no doubt that Filipinos are very talented in chess,” Torre tells the news network. He gives one example in a young Filipino-Chinese genius of the board, Wesley So. Born 1993 in Bacoor, So quickly became a chess elite since 2005. With his family moving to Canada, Wesley transferred his FIDE nationality to the US in 2014, and resided there since. His current world ranking is 9th, but at one point was ranked 2nd.
While Eugene Torre tends to be remembered in Filipino general trivia as a chess player, he also wants those who take up the sport, especially from the country’s youth, to be able to grow beyond just chess. In fact, Torre muses that lessons from chess can be applied in everyday life too. “Translate the good moves in life, that is what I like,” says Torre of this view. “But of course, the best is for you to be champion in chess and champion in life.”
Highlights in Torre’s chess career are his 1974 stint at a Chess Olympiad in Nice, France, where he was awarded the highest title of Grandmaster for his silver medal win. Another is the Marlboro-Loyola Kings Challenge tournament in Manila, 1976, where he met the Soviet world champion Anatoly Karpov and defeated him. His friendship with Bobby Fischer was memorable; the latter lived with Torre at Baguio from 2000 to 2002.
Image from Philippine Star