FAST FACTS: Who is Wesley So?
MANILA, Philippines – Wesley So made history by ruling the first ever World Fischer Random Chess Championship after pulling off a shocker over world No. 1 Magnus Carlsen in the finals on Saturday, November 2 (Sunday, November 3, Philippine time) in Norway. (READ: Upset complete: Wesley So stuns No. 1 Carlsen, bags world title)
Here are some facts on the 26-year-old chess whiz:
1. So represents the USA, but grew up in Cavite
Wesley So was born on October 9, 1993 in Bacoor, Cavite. His father, William, was a businessman. His mother, Eleanor, was an accountant for De La Salle University Hospital in Dasmariñas. He is the second of 3 children. The eldest is Wendy and the youngest is Wilma.
Wesley studied at the Good Shepherd School and St Francis of Assisi in Bacoor where he finished high school, before his family migrated to Toronto, Canada around 2010. But due to estranged relations with his family, Wesley later moved to the US after accepting a chess scholarship.
2. So started playing chess at a young age
At 9 years old, So swept the under-10 division of the Shell Active Championship in 2002. His quality of play surprised many, with one master saying So should be playing in an older age group.
At that time, So played mainly with computer chess engines and didn't have a formal coach. His father later decided to enter him in the executives' chess tournaments, where mostly businessmen joined, for practice games.
In one event in 2007 at the Pearl Plaza Mall in Baclaran, Dari Castro saw So and asked his father if he would like to meet Castro's friend, a chess-loving businessman named Reggie Tee. From then on, So gained more theoretical knowledge on the sport through Tee's help.
3. It did not take long for So to rise through the ranks
So became the youngest Filipino International Master at the age of 12 years and 10 months in 2006. In the same year, he also became the youngest member of the Philippine chess team that competed in the Olympiad in Turin, Italy.
In 2007, So became the world’s ninth youngest Grandmaster at 14 years, 1 month, and 28 days.
So’s streak continued and by October 2008, earned a 2610 Elo rating that made him the youngest player to break the 2600 barrier – smashing the record held by world No. 1 Magnus Carlsen.
In 2017, So’s world ranking skyrocketed to No. 2 as his Elo rating also peaked at 2822 – an incredible feat as only a dozen players in history have soared past 2800.
4. So defeated veterans as a teenager
So had pulled off many upsets against veteran players and among the highlights of his teenage run came in the 2009 World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. There, he eliminated Grandmaster Vassily Ivanchuk in Round 2, a major upset that drove the veteran Ukrainian to consider retirement.
In the same tournament, the then 16-year-old Filipino shocked defending World Cup champion Gata Kamsky of the US in Game 1 of Round 3. Chess magazines played up the feat in their pages.
5. With his impressive play, So received collegiate offers
In 2011, Texas Tech, under former world women's champion Susan Polgar, offered So a scholarship and he accepted. When Polgar transferred to Webster University in 2012, Polgar brought So and some players with her. Webster then became the top collegiate chess team in the US. (READ: Wesley So leaves Polgar, turns pro)
6. So transferred federations in 2014
Although So was studying in the US, he would return to play for the Philippines and still received allowance from the Philippine Sports Commission. In 2013, he won a gold medal in the World Universiade Games in Kazan, Russia – in what would turn out to be the last time he played for the Philippines.
In a shock move in 2014, So decided to join the United States chess federation after getting frustrated with local sports politics – which culminated when he got denied a P1 million incentive after winning a gold medal in the World Universiade Games.
In the US, So met former actress Lotis Key and her husband, former cager Bambi Kabigting. So stayed with them in their Minnesota home and the couple later became his adoptive parents.
7. So unique among elite players
So would rather turn to computers to sharpen his chess skills than train with a coach. As his former mentor, Vladimir Tukmakov, wrote in his book "Coaching The Chess Stars," that trait makes So different from many elite players.
Tukmakov said it's an approach similar to the late chess legend Bobby Fischer, who worked alone in the pre-computer era, going through tournament bulletins, chess magazines and books, and analyzing games. – Rappler.com