1988 chess team makes best move
- Joey Villar () - July 28, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Twenty-three years ago in the Greek city of Thessaloniki, a Phl team headed by a lone grandmaster and a couple of international masters provided one of the most memorable moments in local sports in the last 25 years.

Eugene Torre led a squad that held its own against the best teams in the world – the best effort by the Filipinos in the history of the Chess Olympiad.

“It was indeed a memorable Olympiad because it was the country’s best finish since our 11th place performance in 1974 in Nice, France where I earned my GM title,” Torre, who is turning 60 this November, fondly recalls.

“We were total underdogs there, we’re facing all-GM teams while we only had one GM, two International Masters and three untitled players,” he added.

Torre was referring to the gutsy bunch of IM Rico Mascarinas and another IM, the late Ruben Rodriguez, who occupied the second and third boards, and the troika of then untitled Joey Antonio (board 4) Eric Gloria (board 5) and Banjo Barcenilla (alternate).

The Filipinos wound up with 33 points and the highest Buccholz tiebreak score to edge China, Cuba, Argentina and Israel for seventh place behind eventual runaway champion Russia with 40.5 points and England (34.5), Netherlands (34.5), United States (34), Hungary(34) and Yugoslavia (33.5).

Torre was a class of his own with the best score of nine points on six wins, six draws and two losses on Board One and highest performance rating of 2620.

Antonio, who went on to become a GM, had an impressive 8.5 points but lost his final game against Yugoslav GM Petar Popovic in a slambang game that could have gone either way.

All in all, the Filipinos won over Uganda, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Spain, India and Indonesia, drew with the Netherlands, China and England and fought hard and lost to Russia, East Germany, US and Yugoslavia.

The 1988 feat was also then the best effort by any Asian team before China officially emerged as a chess powerhouse with a strong second place finish in the 2006 Turin Olympiad behind eventual winner Israel.

ARGENTINA AND ISRAEL BANJO BARCENILLA BOARD ONE CHESS OLYMPIAD CHINA AND ENGLAND EAST GERMANY ERIC GLORIA EUGENE TORRE INDIA AND INDONESIA INTERNATIONAL MASTERS JOEY ANTONIO
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