Torres got the nod to start ahead of Samuel Eto'o and the £50 million man repaid Jose Mourinho’s faith with five minutes gone when he stooped to head past Timo Hildebrand at a corner.
Having taken the lead, Chelsea were willing to sit back and soak up pressure before looking to hit their hosts on the break but the home side grew in stature as the half progressed.
And they would have been level had it not been for the fine reflexes of Petr Cech and a last-ditch César Azpilicueta challenge to deny a Roman Neustadter header and a Julian Draxler volley respectively as the half drew to a close.
Having been in the ascendancy as the game reached the interval, the hosts failed to replicate that performance level in the second-half and failed to muster any real chances of note bar a Benedikt Howedes header that whistled past the post.
Torres, who looks to have regained some of his old swagger, thudded a header against the post from a Frank Lampard free-kick before adding a second on 68 minutes when he finished off a rapid break involving Oscar and Eden Hazard.
Schalke continued to pour forward and, in the ultimate professional performance, the Blues broke again at pace to score a third with 87 minutes gone after Ramires had released Hazard, who skipped past a flailing challenge and slotted home with aplomb.
Pre-match – Torres starts ahead of Eto'o – big call from Jose Mourinho but would it pay off? Well, yes and in a big way.
5 - GOOOAL! Torres with the header at the back post – the corner is whipped into the near post and Ivanovic flicks it on for Torres to head in from close range.
26 -Uchida gets in behind both Azpilicueta and Schurrle but the German manages to get back to get a challenge in that forces the full-back to take the shot on sooner than he would like and he fires wildly over.
38 - Boateng picks up the loose ball and stings the palms of Cech from 25 yards.
52 - Torres heads the centre from the free-kick against the bar from the edge of the box. Great effort.
67- Jones leaps well to head the corner back across the box but Howedes heads it just wide – that was a big, big chance.
68 - Hazard steals the ball on the edge of his own box before skipping past two players to see Oscar, Torres and Hazard in a three-on-one situation. Hazard passes to Oscar who holds off Jones before squaring for Torres to double his side’s advantage.
87- Chelsea break in a two-on-one situation. Hazard used the run of Torres to create space and finish coolly past Hildebrand.
Coach Jose Mourinho wins his first ever away match in Europe against a German team. He lost all previous six (Infostrada).
Fernando Torres has now scored exactly as many CL goals for Chelsea as for Liverpool: 8. (Infostrada).
Fernando Torres has now scored four goals in his last five Champions League appearances for Chelsea (Opta).
TALKING POINT: Can Frank Lampard still dictate games as he once did? The midfield maestro looked a little off the pace for much of the match but his performance level increased dramatically after the introduction of John Obi Mikel. Maybe the sitting role does not suit him - only time will tell.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Fernando Torres (Chelsea) – He scored two good goals but his general play was also superb – unlucky not to get a hat-trick.
Schalke: Hildebrand 6, Uchida 6, Höwedes 6, Matip 5, Aogo 6, Neustadter 6, Jones 5, Clemens 6, Meyer 6, Draxler 7, Boateng 6. Subs: Szalai 6, Kolasinac 6, Goretzka 5.
Chelsea: Cech 6, Ivanovic 6, Cahill 6, Terry 6, Azpilicueta 6, Ramires 6, Lampard 5, Schurrle 6, Oscar 7, Hazard 7, Torres 8. Subs: Eto'o 5, Mikel 5, David Luiz 5.
THE MATCH IN A TWEET