Eugene Torre, Asia's first grandmaster, proud of induction into World Chess Hall of Fame

Almost five decades after becoming Asia's first grandmaster, the Philippines' Eugene Torre made history anew on April 20 after becoming the first Asian male to be inducted into in the World Chess Hall of Fame by the World Chess Federation (FIDE).

FIDE met virtually to induct Torre, along with Polish-Argentine GM Miguel Najdorf and Hungarian women's GM Judit Polgar, considered the best female woodpusher ever.

He became the second Asian ever to enter the Hall of Fame, two years after Chinese women's GM Xie Jun was conferred the honor.

"I am very proud as a Filipino. Since especially we became the first male Asian inductee. Being the first, this will stay forever with the Philippines," Torre told ESPN5.com in a phone interview.

"We are very proud that we started the popularity and the acceptance of chess not only in the country but the rest of Asia," he added.

A 22-year-old Torre made history in the 1974 Nice Olympiad in France by clinching the board 1 silver medal to become the continent's first grandmaster. He also holds the record for most Chess Olympiad appearances of 23 from 1970 to 2016.

In 1982 Torre and Lajos Portisch of Hungary topped the FIDE Inter-zonal Candidates Tournament held in Toluca, Mexico which qualified him for the World Chess Championship Candidates Matches. However, he lost to Portisch's compatriot Zoltan Ribli in the first round of a 10-match duel in Elicante, Spain.

He recalled during his first years in participating in international competitions, the Asians were not as good in the mental indoor sport compared to their American and European counterparts.

"Even India and China were not as good then. We used to beat India regularly, but eventually, they found an appreciation for chess. We are happy for them because we played a role in helping propagate the sport to Asia," mentioned Torre.

The 69-year-old was informed a few months ago by Toti Abundo, member of the FIDE Historical Committee. There was supposed to be a grand induction ceremony in the United States, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced to change plans.

At present, there are 37 inductees in the World Chess Hall of Fame, with the first entrants being Jose Raul Capablanca of Cuba, Bobby Fischer and Paul Morphy of the U.S., Emmanuel Lasker of Germany, and Wilhem Steinitz of Austria in 2001. The list has since expanded to accommodate the likes of Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov, Boris Spassky, and Mikhail Tal.

Torre, who had a peak FIDE rating of 2580 in 1983 and was once ranked as high as 17th in the world rankings, continues to display his skills in the recently-established Professional Chess Association of the Philippines, where he was drafted first overall by the Rizal Towers in December 2020.