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Baguio City and Chess: A Visit from the Russian Ambassador

Last January 6, 2021, the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Philippines, H.E. Marat Pavlov, visited Baguio City with his wife and Attache, Nina Prakapovich. Their visit was assisted / arranged by Trip Quest Travel and Tours.

Upon arriving in Baguio City, the Ambassador and his wife were escorted to the triage center at Camp John Hay where we welcomed them. They went through the city's entry protocols. No special treatment here.

After going through triage, we proceeded to The Manor where we met with Mayor Benjie Magalong. This year will be the 45th anniversary of establishing Russian-Philippine diplomatic relations. Baguio City is well-known in Russia as the place where a historic match for World Chess Championship took place in 1978. It would be such an honor for the City of Baguio to be involved in a joint cultural and sport initiative.

The 1978 World Chess Championship in Baguio City

The World Championship of 1978 was held in Baguio City. You are probably wondering how Baguio City was chosen to host such a prestigious event in the midst of Marshall Law.

In 1975, the Philippine Chess Federation put in a bid to host the 1975 World Chess Championship and won. However, the tournament did not push through because Bobby Fischer, the reigning champion, had an issue with the tournament format to be used in Manila. He resigned in June 1974 and the title was inherited by Anatoly Karpov.

In 1976, a Zonal match was held in Manila. It was a momentous victory for the local chmapion, Mr. Eugenio “Eugene” Torre. He was the only one to beat the then-reigning World Champion Anatoly Karpov in a chess game and has become part of sports history.

In 1978, the Philippines Chess Federation made a bid again to host the World Chess Championship, offered Baguio City as a venue. and won. Construction of the Baguio Convention Center has already started in 1977 and was the perfect stage for the tournament.

The Baguio Convention Center was inaugurated in 1978, just in time for the World Chess Championship. It was purposefully built for the Karpov-Korchnoi match. It could accommodate up to a thousand people and was equipped with the latest lighting and sound system.

When we toured the Ambassador and his wife around Baguio City, he specifically requested to see the venue of the 1978 World Chess Championship.

Who exactly is Eugene Torre?

Earlier in the day, we had heard that Eugene Torre was in Baguio. Since someone we know also knows him personally, we immediately tried to set a meeting with him and the Ambassador. Russian Ambassador + Eugene Torre, the first person to beat Anatoly Karpov + Baguio City. The timing and place was extremely perfect.

Baguio City has a conducive ambiance for chess players. The climate is similar to Europe where tournaments are usually held. Thus, adapting to the climate won't be a problem. Eugene Torre became a resident of Baguio in 1982 during which he prepared for the quarter-final match for the World Championship.

Eugene Torre learned chess at a very young age. At 22 years old, he became the first Asian to qualify for the title Grandmaster. Almost five decades after becoming Asia's first grandmaster, he made history anew on April 20, 2021, after becoming the first Asian male to be inducted in the World Chess Hall of Fame by the World Chess Federation (FIDE).

It was a great privilege to have met the Ambassador and to have been an instrument in bringing forth bilateral relations with the City of Baguio. Getting a commendation from the Ambassador himself was the icing on the cake.

I am not a chess enthusiast. When I was young, I learned how to play chess from my grandfather, aunties, and uncles. We would play chess as a pastime. Walking along Malcom Square and Igorot Park, I would find numerous people playing chess. I now understand why. I did not even know how profound chess was to the Russians until I watched the Queen's Gambit on Netflix. I also did not know how big of a deal Eugene Torre was until I heard about the history of Baguio Convention Center. I guess my biggest regret was not taking a photo with him when I met him.

Interested in discovering a different side of Baguio? Let me know, I might give you a tip or two.

Anatoly Karpov Plans to Visit Baguio

Update as of March 20, 2021

"Efforts are already underway to bring former world chess champion Anatoly Karpov to Baguio City, a place where the Russian fought one of the most controversial world championship matches in his career.

Grandmaster Eugene Torre confirmed this plan Saturday, March 20, saying that the Russian embassy and Baguio City headed by Mayor Benjamin Magalong are eyeing to have Karpov in the country in November.

Torre said he was present in the meeting and officials are hoping that the pandemic situation in the country improves so that the Russian chess legend can visit the country."

*Except from Manila Bulletin


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