The Rise of Grandmaster Eugene Torre #1


Eugenio Torre (born November 4, 1951) is a chess Grandmaster. He is considered the strongest chessplayer the Philippines has ever produced during the 1980's and 1990's period, following the heels of Fischer era Filipino chess champions NM Ramon Lontoc, IM Renato Naranja, IM Rodolfo Tan Cardoso and the deceased GM Rosendo Balinas, Jr. Super GM Mark Paragua is currently the top Philippine chessplayer.

Torre has the distinction of being the first Asian player to earn the much coveted title of International Grandmaster. In a tournament in Manila in the 1976, Torre beat then reigning world chess champion Anatoly Karpov in a game that has become part of Filipino chess history (moves given in Algebraic chess notation(Sicilian Defense):

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bg5 e6 7.Qd2 a6 8.O-O-O Bd7 9.f4 b5 10.Qe1 Nxd4 11.Rxd4 Qb6 12.Rd2 Be7 13.Bd3 b4 14.Nd1 Bb5 15.Nf2 h6 16.Bh4 g5 17.fxg5 hxg5 18.Bg3 Nh5 19.Ng4 Nxg3 20.hxg3 Rxh1 21.Qxh1 Rc8 22.Kb1 Bxd3 23.cxd3 Qd4 24.Qd1 a5 25.Nh2 g4 26.Nxg4 Bg5 27.Rc2 Rxc2 28.Kxc2 a4 29.a3 b3 30.Kb1 d5 31.exd5 Qxd5 32.Nf2 Qxg2 33.Ne4 Be3 34.Nc3 Qc6 35.d4 Qc4 36.d5 e5 37.Qh1 Qd3+ 38.Ka1 Bd4 39.Qh8+ Kd7 40.Qa8 Qf1+ 41.Nb1 Qc4 42.Qb7+ Kd6 43.Qb8+ Kxd5 44.Qd8+ Ke6 45.Qe8+ Kf5 46.Qd7+ Kg6 47.Qg4+ Kf6 48.Nc3 Qf1+ 0-1

Torre qualified for the Candidates Matches for the 1984 World Championship. In that preliminary stage, the contenders play matches against each other to determine who will challenge the world champion. Torre was eliminated when he lost his match against Zoltan Ribli by a score of 6-4.

It is well-known that Torre is a friend of Bobby Fischer. He worked on Fischer's team in his 1992 rematch with Boris Spassky in Yugoslavia. Much later, Torre conducted interviews on Filipino radio with Bobby Fischer. Those interviews gained notoriety for Fischer, and despair for his fans. Torre continues to play actively in local and international tournaments.

His career, spanning almost 4 decades as of 2006, had seen him play in 19 consecutive Chess Olympiads breaking the old record of 18 consecutive held by Heikki Westerinen although still a shy of the record 20 non-consecutive appearances made by Hungary's Lajos Portisch. He had manned the top board for Team Philippines for a record 17 times already except in the 1970 and 2006 editions. He also has taken part in 6 Asian Chess Team Championships (1977, 1979, 1981, 1983, 1986, 1993) and once in the World Student Chess Team Championships (1969).

In 2006, Torre, along with Super GM Paragua, FMs Wesley So, Oliver Dimakiling and Darwin Laylo and IM Rolando Nolte, participated in the 2nd San Marino International Chess Open where he tied for 4th-11th places with 6.5 points in 9 rounds where he eventually placed 7th after the tie-breaks becoming the highest-placed Filipino in the said tournament. He had a performance rating of 2612 at the said tournament and won euro 1,000 for his 7th-place finish.

Eugenio Torre should not be confused with Mexican Grandmaster Carlos Torre.


The Rise of Grandmaster Eugene Torre


Like everyone’s success story, everybody has got to start somewhere. A career that began at the tender age of six, Grandmaster Eugene Torre’s straddle to the top is proof that a Mapúan can make it big in any chosen endeavor.

Indeed, it pays to start early. Eugene Torre first took hold of the chess pieces in kindergarten. His father taught him the basics of chess. Later on, as his father saw the potential in the him, the young Torre started to get into kiddie tournaments where he won in surprising fashion.

The little kid born in Iloilo City in November 4, 1951, quickly became a stalwart in the game, even when chess was not as popular as it is now. That early, his life evolved in the sport. Days when he should have been in the company of his mom were spent in training matches with his father and brother. But all these, he said, were fun times, for it brought him closer to his father, his mentor. Not only was he trained in the strategies of winning the game, but more importantly, he was taught the hard work and attitude involved in the game. And it made a difference.

Even so, Eugene never deprived himself of the simple joys every boy likes to do. He recalls his times when he would play trump with his friends or figure in a game of tumbang preso with the neighborhood kids. He describes his life as something that is extraordinary. A typical boy’s room would have action figures and posters all over, but his was different, unconventional. The walls of his room were adorned with medals, trophies and plaques. His action figures were the pawns, knights, rooks, kings and queens that he toys with. Even so, he persisted. He realized that chess would become his bread and butter and that he would go a long way.

Sooner than expected, Eugene established himself as the Philippines’ rising star in chess, someone who would bring honor to his country. Medal after medal, trophy after trophy, he set his sights on becoming a grandmaster, a feat that no man in Asia has ever achieved at that time.

His winning ways continued through his college years, benchmarked by his stint as National Junior Chess champion at age 16. His love for Math brought him to Mapúa. But his life in the Institute was somewhat rocky; he found it too difficult to focus on academics and the sport at the same time. During his time, the campus was still in Doroteo Jose. There he first took up Commerce then shifted to Business Administration in the now defunct School of Business Administration. Sadly, one had to give in. Student Eugene Torre only made it until his third year. He had to give up school because some of his tournaments were held outside the country. And it is one decision he regrets. Nevertheless, Eugene Torre grins whenever he remembers his college days. He recounted his experiences with inconsiderate instructors, who gave him no preferential treatment, but taught well. Until now, he still has high respects for Mapúa graduates, for he has proven that in Mapua, no one can cheat his way through college. Instead of sulking at his demystifying college life, Eugene moved on and focused on becoming a full-time chess master.

It was clear that Eugene Torre was headed to the top. His game improved and he eventually made his way to chess Olympiads where competition is at a brain-breaking level. He sat alongside opponents like Garry Kasparov, Anatoly Karpov, Viswanathan Anand, Mikhail Tal, Boris Spassky, Viktor Korchnoi, Lajos Portisch, Ljubomir Ljubojevic, Florin Gheourgiu, among others. In 1974, 22-year-old Eugene Torre became Asia’s first grandmaster by winning the silver medal at board 1 in the World Chess Olympiad in Nice, France. By the end of the year, he had reached an ELO (the performance level by which chess players are graded) Rating of 2520.

GM Eugene Torre made headlines when his overall performance for 1982 earned him a spot at the prestigious World Candidates Chess Championships, pitting him against the likes of the legendary Zoltan Ribli. Add that up to his perennial inclusion in the World Chess Olympiad, where he struts his stuff at board one, which he has been manning since 1974. By 1985, his ELO rating ballooned to 2602. In 1986, during the peak of his career, GM Torre was ranked 40th in the world with an ELO rating of 2619. Using his favorite Torre Attack, or sometimes the Sicilian Defense, he surprises his opponents by playing novelty moves so that he can effectively execute his attack. One of his memorable matches was in 1972 when he defeated former world champion and contemporary Anatoly Karpov in their game in Skopje, Yugoslavia. He utilized the Queen’s Gambit Declined Slav Exchange in attacking the pawn-less defense of Karpov. Because of this, GM Eugene Torre was regarded as the next super grandmaster. He has virtually traveled the world to represent his country in tournaments. He has been in such diverse countries such as Iraq, Albania, Madagascar, Russia and Vietnam. Indeed, GM Torre has achieved a lot not only for himself but for his country as well.

Even now that GM Torre has mastered almost every move and strategy in his sport, he still takes time out to practice. Staying in his quiet abode in Baguio City, he never tires of the sport that gave him his life. He insists that in order for one to really excel in this sport, practice has to be the main routine. Currently having a 2520 ELO rating, his dream of becoming the topnotch chess player in the world is his motivation to pursue greater challenges.

Unlike other great sportsmen like Efren Reyes, who doesn’t bathe before a game, GM Torre has never held such beliefs. He never had an amulet, he never drank a special soup, he never prayed over eggs. He says that the only way to win a game is to focus and believe that you can do it. He also added that the elements to a good game are practice, ample sleep and prayer.

His popularity catapulted him to other fields of practice. At present, he is one of the board directors of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines, the governing body of the sport in the country. His present position may sound too arduous but he loves it. It is his duty to take care of the welfare of the thousand chess players in the country and to discover new talents that would take his place some time in the future. This is his way of giving thanks to the sport that placed him where he is now.

For Grandmaster Eugene Torre, life is how we make it. Throughout his career as a chess player, he learned that the love for the game is the key to making it big in any endeavor. His character, built upon his attitude and determination, brought the best in him. He says that in life, like in the game of chess, every move is crucial.

Eugene Torre has nothing more to prove. He is one man who dreamed big by doing the thing he does best. He is not only Mapúa’s pride but the Philippine goldmine as well. All told, the secret to GM Torre’s secret to success is his character. To him, one can and will excel if he puts his heart into it. The sport of chess brought out the best in him. And the rest is history. Regarded as a living-legend in his chess-mad homeland, Torre won the first of his many national titles in 1970 at the age of 19. He has dominated the Philippines chess scene for over three decades now, failing only twice (1990 and 2000) not to win championships he played in. (Angelito “Ace” T. Yutuc, Jr., The New Builder 2001, Mapua Institute of Technology)