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Why Grandmaster Eugene Torre is in the World Chess Hall of Fame

In the Philippines, Eugene Torre is a household name. Everyone knows that he plays chess and that he is a grandmaster.

But, only a few people realize that he is even more famous in the international chess circuit. In fact, just this weekend, he was officially inducted into the World Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis, Missouri, in the United States. Here is the official interview.

Still blazing the trail

Grandmaster (GM) Eugenio “Eugene” Torre is the first Filipino chess grandmaster. And not only that—he is the first Asian grandmaster. He got his GM title in 1974 at the age of 22 when he won a silver medal in the World Chess Olympiad in Nice, France.

Eugene Torre
With co-inductee Miguel Najdorf, 1980

Now, at 70 years old, he is the first-ever Filipino, and the first-ever Asian to have been inducted into the World Chess Hall of Fame. He was inducted along with other greats in the sport.

With Torre, the Hungarian Judit Polgar was also inducted, arguably the strongest female chess player in history. In addition, Polish-Argentine Miguel Najdorf was also included, a chess player so brilliant they named a chess opening after him. To say that these individuals are legendary is an understatement.

Eugene Torre
Torre in 1984

A professional chess player who wishes for a great career should look at GM Torre. His influence extends further than the 64-square chessboard.

Apart from playing excellent chess consistently, he has also been an excellent ambassador of the game. He is always invited by many countries to talk about the benefits of chess and to advocate for it.

The paragon of consistency and excellence

Eugene Torre was 22 when he won a silver medal at the 1974 21st World Chess Olympiad, which is essentially the Olympics of chess. He then played board one for the Philippines in 17 consecutive olympiads, which happen every two years.

He has been the top woodpusher for a very long time—that’s literally decades of consistency and excellence. 

Torre “taking names” during the 2016 WCC in Baku, Azerbaijan

In 2016, when he was 65 years old and chess had changed from a classic game to one played by supercomputers, Torre did something insane. He went undefeated in the 42nd World Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan. He played 11 games, winning nine and drawing two.

It is remarkable to note that these days, chess is a young man’s game, as shown by the likes of Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, and even the young prodigies of India. But Torre, 21 chess olympiads after that one in Nice, France, is relentless. He took those young guys to school.

Birds of the same feather

The popular Netflix show The Queen’s Gambit accurately showed the public what the life of the chess player was before computers arrived. In the past, you needed to have friends who were very good at chess if you wanted to be competitive internationally, usually referred to as ‘seconds’.

In these circles, it is common knowledge that GM Torre was the favorite second to the ‘Greatest of All Time’, former world chess champion Robert James “Bobby” Fischer.

Eugene Torre with Vassily Smyslov
Torre with former World Champion Vassily Smyslov
Eugene Torre with Bobby Fischer
Torre with former World Champion Bobby Fischer

Moreover, GM Torre also has the respect of his peers. He was friends with world chess champions. In fact, he even beat them. Here’s a game of chess where GM Torre beats the world champ, Anatoly Karpov. This game was dubbed “E.T. Phone Home.” 

A chess player’s dream of the future

Apart from all of his countless accolades, trophies, and medals, Eugene Torre’s greatest contribution is his advocacy: that the rudiments of chess be taught to children as early as possible.

Torre in 1981
Torre in 2019 at International School Manila

Chess, one of the oldest games in existence, has persisted because the “meta” has never gone stale. And instead of exactitudes, principles are instead followed, thereby making the game an excellent way to teach good decision-making. This is a value sorely needed in modern society.

Torre as head coach to the Philippine Team in Chennai, India, during this year’s World Chess Olympiad (L-R – GM Paragua, GM Gomez, GM Laylo, IM Bersamina)

Now, inducted into the Chess Hall of Fame, his legacy is sure to live on.