Asia's first GRANDMASTER Eugene Torre has broken new ground as a Philippine chess team member in the ongoing 37th World Chess Olympiad in Turin, Italy.
The 53 year old Torre joined the record books when he made his 19th consecutive appearance in the Chess Olympics and moves just one short of tying the all-time record for most appearances held by the legendary Lajos Portisch of Hungary.
Portisch achieved the feat between 1956 and 2000, while Torre has been to every Olympiad since 1970. On the other hand, Torre also surpassed the record of Paul Westerinen of Finland for most number of consecutive Olympiads played.
Torre spearheads the Philippine team in Turin for the three-week long Olympiad. The chess tournament is held every two years.
Torre first saw action in the Olympics at the age of 17 in 1970 in Siegen, Germany, playing board two behind the now-retired International Master Rodolfo Tan Cardoso.
Two years later, Torre assumed the top board in the Skopje Olympiad, a position he held until two years ago in Mallorca, Spain.
In an Olympic career spanning nearly four decades, Torre has compiled a record of 85 wins, 104 draws and 34 losses.
His 137 points is fourth in the all-time list of most points scored behind Portisch, Miguel Najdorf of Argentina and Svetozar Gligoric of Yugoslavia.
Third on the list of most matches played – 223, Torre is just eight matches shy of equaling the record held by Portisch.
Torre credits his durability to physical fitness and his insatiable appetite for the game.
"I will keep on playing as long as I remain useful to the team," said Torre who has fought some of the biggest names in the Olympiad: Garry Kasparov, Anatoly Karpov, Viswanathan Anand of India and reigning world champion Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria to name a few.
After 34 years of playing the top board, Torre is now on board two in deference to current No. 1 Mark Paragua, the first and only Filipino GM who has breached the elite 2600 ELO barrier.
"It's time for the new breed of players to take over. I’m confident Mark is up to the challenge," said Torre.
GM Joey Antonio, the most experienced member next to Torre, is playing board three. He has not dropped a single match in the last two Olympiads.
Darwin Laylo, the reigning national champion, will be making his second straight Olympic stint, manning the fourth board.
FIDE Masters Oliver Dimakiling and Wesley So, the other survivors of the rigorous elimination matches, have made their Olympic debuts at board five and six, respectively.
At 12, So is one of the Olympiad's youngest participants.
In 2004, the Philippines toppled former Olympic champions Hungary and Serbia Montenegro (formerly Yugoslavia) in the last two rounds to barge into the Magic 20.
The women's team, handled by ex-Olympian Cesar Caturla, is made up of Woman International Master Sheerie Joy Lomibao and Beverly Mendoza, WNMs Catherine Perna and Sherily Cua.