EUGENE Torre said he understands fellow Grandmaster Wesley So's plan to switch allegience to the United States of America Chess Federation and no longer represent the Philippines in international competition, saying the young GM is only after his goal of becoming one of the top chess players in the world.
Torre told Spin.ph on Monday that So’s decision to relinquish his status as a Philippine chess player has a lot to do with his desire to reach his full potential as a chess player.
“Nakita siguro ni Wesley na ang kanyang dream or goal ay makukuha niya doon as a US citizen, kaya siguro siya nag-decide ng ganun. Naiintindihan ko naman ‘yung naging position ni Wesley,” said the 62-year-old Torre, Asia's first grandmaster.
So, 21, has written the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) about his decision to change federations as he becomes an American citizen and represent the United States in international competition.
If the NCFP refuses to give him a clearance, So will be forced to pay 50,000 euros to the national chess body if he pursues his plan to play for United States or sit out for two years and not compete in Fide-sanctioned tournaments.
Torre said he will bat for So to be given the release by the NCFP, but added it will be better if he competes for the Philippines one last time in the 41st World Chess Olympiad in Norway this August as his ‘swansong’ as a Filipino chess player.
“Alam mo, when you represent the country, ang importante ‘yung galing sa puso niya na gusto niyang i-represent. Kung ganyan na pilipitin, hindi na kanais-nais. Hindi maganda ‘yung ganun na pipilitin. At least ‘yung Olympiad, nandyan pa rin si Wesley tapos let-go na siya,” Torre suggested.
So is currently coached by Susan Polgar at Webster University in the United States. Torre said playing for the United States will boost So's career since he is under the tutelage of Polgar, one of the greatest women’s players in the world.
“Nakita niya na maraming malalakas na tournament ang masasalihan niya. Malalim din ang connection ni Susan. Makakakuha siya ng full support kung US citizen si Wesley. Mas madali sigurong makakuha ng suporta dahil ‘yung mga supporters, siyempre gusto nilang suportahan ‘yung American citizen,” Torre said.
At the same time, Torre urged fans not to hastily judge So for his decision.
“Mahirap i-judge ‘yung action niya. Unang-una, hindi naman natin alam ‘yung alam niya, kung anong benefits ang makukuha niya that will help him attain his goal,” Torre said.
Torre said the practice of national federations tapping foreign chess players is no longer new, mentioning the likes of Russian Gata Kamsky and Japanese Hikaru Nakamura who are now American citizens.
That is why even if So becomes an American citizen, Torre believes the Filipino chess community should continue to support the young GM.
“Ang importante, bilang Pilipino, suportahan din natin siya. Ang goal niya siguro is maging world champion. Nakikita niya na mas maaachieve niya ‘yun kung nandoon siya (sa US)," said Torre.
“Hindi naman maaalis sa record ‘yan na dito pinanganak si Wesley. Ang nanay niya, Ilongga, hindi mapagkakaila na Pilipino siya. May dugong Pilipino pa rin naman siya. Suportahan din natin ang desisyon niya,” said Torre.