CHESS is a game of creative genius. It accentuates innovation and at times sheer courage, often manifested in the audacity of a player’s moves.
Moves on a chessboard are akin to a symphony orchestra where every instrument or piece contributes to an overall harmony that ends in a crescendo, reflective of the ultimate triumph in a game of chess.
The recent Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan was indeed a celebration for Philippine Chess as its first international grandmaster Eugene Torre had the rare distinction of winning an unprecedented bronze medal, even in the midst of a disappointing performance by our team, which finished 58th compared to its 46th-place finish two years ago in Tromso, Norway.
Torre a gentleman of uncanny class, who reflects the old school values of the Filipino in an era that has regrettably passed us by and diminished the traditions and the character that were outstanding traits of that time.
Aside from Eugene, the other Filipino sportsman, who consistently reflected what the Filipino truly was in terms of traditional values and consummate decency, is Rafael “Paeng” Nepomuceno, undoubtedly the greatest bowler of all time, who straddled three decades as a champion against the very best in the rest of the world.
A six-time World Bowling Champion, Paeng won the World Cup of Bowling no less than four times beginning in 1976 and ending 20 years later in 1996, with the prestigious Bowlers Journal International naming him “The Greatest International Bowler of All Time.”
Paeng was a master of the lanes just as Eugene was a master of the boards.
Indeed, Torre’s closing tally of 10 from 11 is regarded as extremely rare for a 64 year old. His bronze-medal finish behind Wesley So, the much younger Filipino grandmaster who, as a result of a monumental blunder by our so-called sports leaders, left the country to represent the United States, where chess authorities openly welcomed the young genius, is another reflection of the tragedies that continue to hound Philippine sports under a leadership that lacks caring and is devoid of vision.
Torre, as far as we know, depended on his innate strength of will to persevere in a sport where he has brought our country numerous honors, just like Paeng whose successes were guided by an affectionate and caring father, who just didn’t hone his unquestioned skills as a bowler but together with Paeng’s mother, the former Teresita “Baby” Villareal, molded his character on the anvil of the traditional values and virtues of a Filipino.
There was a time when Eugene was regarded as a possible future world title challenger after a sensational victory in an incredibly strong four-man tournament in Manila, where he finished ahead of world champion Anatoly Karpov of the then Soviet Union, becoming the first player to finish ahead of Karpov since the Russian became world champion.
Torre was a close friend of the ultimate chess genius Bobby Fischer and was one of the American’s seconds in his 1992 rematch with Boris Spassky in Yugoslavia.
The Manila Standard reported that Israel’s Emil Sutovsky, whose performance rating was broken by So, said Torre provided “a truly inspiring example from the player who became grandmaster before all other top scorers were born. Hats off!”
We can only hope, most fervently, that our young athletes of today in various sporting disciplines will learn from the heroes of our time and move forward into a renaissance in sports because surely, it’s time for change. And change must come sooner than later if we are to survive and progress.
Our admiration, respect and indeed affection for Eugene and Paeng are manifestations of our own sense of valuing men of substance who, to the glory of God, reflect the sporting genius and ultimate sportsmanship, sense of fair play and decency of true Filipinos.