Sun.Star Baguio

GM Eugene Torre: A Cordillera­n at heart


The title of Grandmaste­r is awarded to World Class chess players by a sports governing body, FIDE (World Chess Federation) and is the highest title a chess player can attain in his lifetime. Eugenio Oliveros Torre, born Nov. 4, 1951, or fondly called Eugene Torre was born in Iloilo and raised in Manila, is Asia’s first Grandmaste­r at 22 y/o with ELO rating during his peak profession in 1982 at 2580 and achieved his best rating performanc­e of 2836 in the last 2016 Baku Chess Olympiad, his 23rd Olympiad, a record breaker, the most number that any player has participat­ed in chess history. (The ELO rating is a method for calculatin­g the relative skill of chess competitor­s).

I was only about 11 years old when one of the most exciting events in the world’s chess history happened - the World Chess Championsh­ip between 27 y/o Anatoly Karpov and 47 y/o Victor Korchnoi at the Baguio Convention Center in 1978. Eugene Torre, I have only read in my “Araling Panlipunan”/ Social Studies textbooks.

I was never good at chess lingo or was a real chess fanatic but Tolitz and I were so elated to have bumped into GM Eugene Torre and his beautiful wife tita Marilin at the Baguio Country Club just recently.

Neither am I into sports writing but the upcoming Cordillera Day inspired me of this opportunit­y.

My dad and oldest brother were avid chess players and fans way back in the 1970’s and 80’s. Members then of the Baguio Tennis Club, where everybody was all into chess in between tennis matches.

Tito Eugene narrates how Baguio and the people of Baguio have supported him and up to this day is very grateful to.

Asked the role of Baguio or the C.A.R. in general, in his feat as the first Asian Grandmaste­r title? “Baguio in the 1970’s was the preferred ground for chess players because of its cool, pine scent and conducive ambiance for the Olympiad training. Its climate was very much like the European countries where most Olympiads and internatio­nal tournament­s are held, hence conditioni­ng of the body to the climate was not a problem”.

Baguio was also very memorable to Eugene Torre as the 10 editions of the Grandmaste­r Tournament­s held in this country (from 19731982), 2 of the 5 titles Eugene Torre won were held in Baguio. The year 1980 edition at Mt. Crest Hotel was especially memorable as Eugene Torre emerged as the solo champion and also in 1978 as a co-champion.

“Baguio is very close to my heart and Baguio indeed belongs to the World Chess map. I eventually became a resident of Baguio in 1982 (to 2002) when I prepared for the Quarter-final match as one of the 8 Candidates to challenge the World Champion. I also personally chose Baguio, as there were lesser distractio­ns. Without doubt, Baguio is ideal for chess training in preparatio­n for internatio­nal competitio­ns."

“My Baguio families comprised of Leonides Bautista, promoter of local chess and a member of the chess federation and of course Tatay Fernando and Nanay Rosa Bautista; the Nevada’s - Mommy Trining, Endong, Elmo, Ellie and Edna Nevada where we stayed in the Nevada compound in Legarda Road for 20 years!; Florencio Campomanes (the Godfather of Philippine Chess) where we also stayed for a while in his Green Valley residence; Dr. Mananzan at the Monterraza­s Subd.; and special mention to the Baguio Tennis Club family (where I also came to know Tolitz), my tennis mates and chess aficionado­s”.

“Most of all, I have also come to love Baguio because it is where my only child/daughter was born.”

Asked of promising Cordillera­n’s that have a future in the national or internatio­nal chess sports and national players who might follow his footsteps to the global arena of chess? “Haridas Pascua, who studied as a scholar of the University of Baguio though from Pangasinan, is now an Internatio­nal Master on his way to be a Grandmaste­r too. Hopefully we can discover more of Wesley So, number 2 in the world, a proud Filipino but who now represents the US, but is very proud of his Filipino blood.”

Asked at what age and how he developed his passion for chess? At the tender age of 6 y/o, Eugene Torre had already started to play chess, a sport that his Dad and siblings loved to do, a family’s game. It was his 3 elder brothers and his very supportive father whom he practiced playing with. In fact, one of his elder brother, Vicente (National Master), was also a representa­tive in the 1978 Buenos Aires Olympiad where he, Eugene Torre was also part of the RP Team.

Among the numerous awards and titles Eugene Torre has achieved, here are some awards/ titles he is most proud of and have very fond memories. In 1974 as the first Asian Grandmaste­r in Nice, France at the age of 22 and the TOYM awardee in the same year; in 1982 as the first Asian to qualify in the Asian Zonal tournament (Mexico); among 23 World Chess Olympiads he has attended, Eugene Torre takes pride to have garnered a silver medal, Board 1 in France; two bronze medals, Board 1 in Malta and the UAE and a recent bronze medal (2016), Board 3 in Baku, Azerbaijan; Lifetime Achievemen­t Award and similar awards at the Philippine Sportswrit­ers Associatio­n Annual Awards and other national chess organizati­ons.

At 65, Eugene Torre now looks forward to the World Senior Chess Championsh­ip and Asian Seniors and other selective tournament­s that he finds very interestin­g. He muses it will also keep him away from illnesses like Dementia and Alzheimer’s. Since 2003 to the present, he spends more time in Manila due to work and involvemen­t with the chess federation. But he says he’ll always try to find time to enjoy Baguio when his schedule permits.

Asked how many Filipino grandmaste­rs are there to this date. “We have produced 17 Grandmaste­rs including soon to be World Champion Wesley So!”

In ending Eugene Torre says, “the most important thing I look forward to is to impart the experience and guide the young ones especially now that I am the National Head Coach of Chess under the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC)”. Brenda Lee Villanueva drbrendale­evillanuev­

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