The Record Holder: Eugenio Torre

by Johannes Fischer
9/10/2016 – Eugenio Torre from the Philippines, Asia's first grandmaster, is a phenomenon. In Baku he plays his 23rd Olympiad, more than any other player in chess history. Torre, who once qualified for the Candidate Matches and at his peak was number 17 in the world, gave his olympic debut in Siegen 1970 and since then has won three bronze medals for his results on board one. He is 64 years old, but still very strong. In Baku he plays on board three for the Philippines and started with 6.0/7 and an Elo-performance of 2712. A short tribute.

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GM Eugenio Torre from the Philippines.
Baku is his 23rd Olympiad (Photo: David Llada)

But even if Eugenio Torre had not played a single game in Chess Olympiads, he would still be a chess legend. Born on 4th November 1951 in the Philippines, Torre is Asia’s first grandmaster, paving the way for many more to come. He won the title in 1974, when he was 22 years old. Two years later, 1976, Torre created a sensation in the chess world. In the Marlboro-Loyola Kings Challenge Chess Tournament, a four-player double round-robin in Manila, he started as an outsider and as lowest-rated player, but finished clear first with 4.5/6, 1.5 points ahead of reigning World Champion Anatoly Karpov.

In one of their two games Torre beat Karpov in entertaining fashion with Black.

 

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The Sicilian family is big but the Sicilian that puts most pressure on White’s centre is the Classical Variation – Black quickly develops both knights to their most active squares. Now the English Attack, a dreaded weapon against Najdorf- and Scheveninger variations, is completely inoffensive. Moreover, the Richter-Rauzer Attack, a traditional main line in the Sicilian, does not give White the irrational attacks he might try against other Sicilians. The system of defence and counterattack recommended on this DVD leads to positions where strategic elements are at least as important as tactics. Against the positional systems Black has a relatively wide choice, including transpositions to peaceful Dragon and Scheveninger variations. But the most typical setup for the classical Sicilian is the Boleslavsky system (...e7-e5), examined on the DVD. This DVD offers Black a complete repertoire against all weapons White may employ on move six. The recommended repertoire is not as risky as other Sicilians but still offers Black plenty of counter-play. It is an ideal system for players who want to enter the wonderful world of the Sicilian.

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After the tournament in Manila people talked about Torre as potential World Champion Candidate, but though he continued to play on a very high level and was part of the top twenty in the early eighties, he did not make it to the absolute top. In the Interzonal Tournament 1982 in Toluca he tied for first with Lajos Portisch from Hungary and qualified for the Candidate Matches but was eliminated in the quarterfinals after losing 4-6 against Zoltan Ribli from Hungary.

After this loss Torre played less and less but did a lot for chess in the Philippines. He hosted Chess Today, a daily one-hour show on TV that helped to make chess more popular in the Philippines. And in the 1992 match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in Sveti Stefan, Torre worked as a second for the American.

However, as impressive as these achievements are, it is in the Olympiads that Torre really shines. The Olympiad in Baku 2016 is his 23rd Olympiad and that is a record – no other player in the history of chess has played in more Olympiads.

Torre played his first Olympiad in 1970, in  Siegen, Germany, and celebrated his debut with a first round win against Ridhu Belkadi from Tunisia.

 

From 1970 in Siegen in Germany to 2014 in Tromso, Norway, Torre played 252 games in the Olympiads, scoring 155.5/252 (91 wins, 119 draws, and 42 losses). 1974 in Nice, 1980 in Malta, and 1986 in Dubai, Torre won the bronze medal for the third-best individual result on board one.

In Baku Torre plays third board for the Philippines and after seven rounds has the impressive score of 6.0/7 (five wins, two draws, no losses), that amounts to an Elo-performance of 2712.

At the Olympiad in Baku Susan Polgar used the opportunity to interview the grandmaster for the official website of the Olympiad.



Johannes Fischer was born in 1963 in Hamburg and studied English and German literature in Frankfurt. He now lives as a writer and translator in Nürnberg. He is a FIDE-Master and regularly writes for KARL, a German chess magazine focusing on the links between culture and chess. On his own blog he regularly publishes notes on "Film, Literature and Chess".