Person of day   -  4 NOVEMBER 2020

EUGENIO TORRE

EUGENIO TORRE

In 1970 at the Chess Olympiad in Siegen, the Philippine team, which had only one master, Renato Naranja, suddenly began to rival their English counterparts - who were roundly destroyed in the qualification stages - in the final of the “C” category. However, at the second board of the Asian team sat a young man with dark chair, who won match after match. Meeting his friends, the captain of the Philippines and the future President of FIDE Florencio Campomanes repeatedly said: “Look, this is our hope. His name is Eugenio Torre”.

Torre won national championships for juniors and adults and in the junior world championship, he split the 4th and 5th places with USSR’s Rafael Vaganian. In 1972 he won the Asian zonal championship and became an international master. In a formidable inter-zonal competition in 1973 in Leningrad, he ended up in the bottom half of the table, but won a memorable match against Mikhail Tal.

Eugenio led the national championship and became a real revelation during the Opening of the Olympiad in Nice in 1974. The Eastern favourite knocked out Portisch, Hort, drew with Korchnoi and took third place on the first board. Thanks to the success of their leader, the Philippine team played in the main final for the first time, while Torre became the first non-Soviet Asian grandmaster. At the moment, the master from Manila has performed 22 times in the Tournament of Nations, 17 of which were at the first board. Eugenio Torre is the absolute record-holder in this respect (he surpassed the achievements of Portisch) and entered the Guinness Book of Records. In 1988 the Philippines were even in contention for medals, but lost the deciding match to the Yugoslavs and remained in seventh place. Torre’s team won the Asian team championship four times, and its figurehead took first place in the leaders’ ladder each time.

Inspired by the successes of their star player, the Philippines organised a super-tournament in Manila in 1976 for prizes of the “Marlboro Company” in which, Anatoly Karpov, Walter Brown and Ljubomir Ljubojevic participated alongside the master of the national playing field. At that time Karpov was winning all the tournaments before him, but the results were once again sensational- Torre not only defeated the Soviet grandmaster by 1,5:0,5, but took first place by 1,5 points!

In 1982 Eugenio managed to pass the rigorous selection of the inter-zonal tournament at last- in Toluca he divided the 1st and 2nd places with Portisch, leaving Spassky, Polugaevsky, Jussupow and Balashov. Torre, who at that had a count of 2,5:1,5 against Tal, 2:2 against Petrosian, 1.5:2,5 against Smyslov and 3,5:5,5 against Karpov was viewed as a serious rival to the Soviet grandmasters in the upcoming Candidates Tournament. However, in the ¼ final he lost in a dogged battle against Zoltan Ribli. As Torre himself admitted, this match destroyed all his hopes and he never repeated his success; thus, after the next inter-zonal tournament he lost the additional match-tournament to Van der Wiel and Short. Nonetheless, the Philippine leader continued to perform successfully on a repeated basis, and in the Match of the Century of 1984 he played at the tenth board and won 2 points against Andrei Sokolov.  

In 1992, Torre was helping his old friend Robert Fisher in the rematch against Boris Spassky. It was known that Eugenio and Bobby were old friends, and years after Fisher renounced the pedestal, the match of the American genius with Karpov took place in the Philippines. Alas, it was while a guest of his friend that the world champion gave his infamous interview to the Philippine radio, which horrified his supporters…

In mid-1990s, Chinese grandmasters emerged on the Asian arena, and Torre was no longer selected from zonal tournaments. However, he continued to play at a high level and led his national team until 2004. Recently, in 2014, the 62-year-old grandmaster returned to previous form and won the Philippine Championship, which brought together the country’s strongest players.