Friday, February 12, 2016

Pestaño: PSC eyes Karpov vs. Torre match

THE big news now is the proposed match between Eugene Torre and Anatoly Karpov.
The Chairman of the Philippine Sports Comission, Richie Garcia, had an interesting meeting recently with Russia’s ambassador to the Philippines Igor Anatolyevich Khovaev. The Russian ambassador suggested having former world champion Anatoly Karpov in an exhibition match with our Eugene Torre. In addition, Russia will also bring in their athletes in basketball, where they excel.
Although this might be a sensation to this basketball-crazy country, we are more interested in the chess matchup. Most of the current chess players today are not familiar with these two gentlemen as their best achievements were more than 40 years ago. Here are some enlightenment.
Karpov had over 160 first-place finishes. He had a peak Elo rating of 2780, and taking into consideration that ratings have inflated by 100 to 150 points since the 70s, Karpov now would be rated close to 2900.
In fact, the late Florencio Campomanes told me that Bobby Fischer was afraid of Karpov and their championship match did not push through in 1975 although the Philippines offered the then unheard prize of $5 million. This is equivalent to probably $20 million today as President Marcos was eager to place the Philippines in the world map.
Though a world championship match between Karpov and Fischer was highly anticipated, those hopes were never realized. Fischer insisted that the match be the first to 10 wins (draws not counting), but that the champion would retain the crown if the score was tied 9–9. Fide refused to allow this proviso, and after Fischer’s resignation of the championship on June 27, 1975, Fide declared that Fischer forfeited his crown.
Spassky thought that Fischer would have won in 1975 but Karpov would have qualified again and beaten Fischer in 1978. Garry Kasparov said that Karpov would have had good chances, because he had beaten Spassky convincingly and indeed had higher quality games, while Fischer had been inactive for three years.
Karpov is on record saying that if he had the opportunity to play Fischer for the crown in his twenties, he could have been a much better player as a result. Karpov’s “boa Constrictor” playing style is solidly positional, taking no risks but reacting mercilessly to any tiny errors made by his opponents.
Eugene Torre is no pushover in this match. In 1974, then 22 years old, he became Asia’s first Grandmaster by winning the silver medal in the Chess Olympiad held in Nice, France.
In a tournament in Manila in 1976, Torre beat then reigning world chess champion Anatoly Karpov himself.
He qualified for the Candidates matches in 1982 but lost to Zoltan Ribli. Had he qualified in the Candidates, he would have played against Karpov, who was the reigning champion then.
In 1988, Torre captained the Philippine team to its best-ever seventh-place finish in the Chess Olympiad in Greece.
In June 2014, Torre won the National Chess Championships - Battle of GMs – in Manila. In so doing, Torre became the oldest Filipino chess player to win a national championships at the age of 62. Torre also has a record 22nd appearance in the Olympiad, the most by any player.
The Philippine Sportswriters Association name him “athlete of the millenium” besting the late Caloy “the Big Difference” Loyzaga, Felicisimo “Mighty Mite” Ampon who wowed the crowd at Wimbledon in the 40s and Gabriel “Flash “Elorde.
I invited Eugene to dinner in our house a long time ago, to meet my late father, who was utterly delighted being also a chess player himself.

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