Super Grandmaster Wesley So officially ended the hopes of those who wished to see him represent the Philippines again when he became a U.S. citizen earlier this year.
“I want to give back to a country that has been so good to me,” So told the US Chess Federation. “From the moment I landed here, I was encouraged and enabled to become better than I was. I like this attitude and the tremendous generosity of American culture.”
Under a different flag: So, the first World Fischer Random Chess Champion, received his citizenship documents on Feb. 26, ABS-CBN reported.
- The 27-year-old originally represented the Philippines in international competitions until he immigrated to the U.S. in 2014.
- Following his transfer to the United States Chess Federation, So moved to Minnetonka, Minn., to live with his adoptive parents, Renato Kabigting and Lotis Key.
- Key assumed the role of a momager — a mom and manager — to So about eight years ago.
- “I handle all the logistics of holding an elite player’s life together,” she told ANCX in an interview. “You would not believe how much effort that takes. It’s an ever-increasing multitude of little things piled one on top of another, needed to keep an elite athlete in business.”
Chess prodigy: So became the youngest player to pass a 2600 Elo — skill rating system for players in zero-sum games — in October 2008, breaking the record previously held by Magnus Carlsen, the current No. 1 chess player and World Champion. Other players have since broken the record.
- So made his Olympiad debut at age 12, representing the Philippines during the Turin Olympiad in 2006. He has so far competed in five Chess Olympiads.
- In 2012, So won the Philippines’ first-ever gold medal in the Summer Universiade in Russia but was deprived of the incentives usually awarded to Filipino athletes, The Manila Times reported.
- So said he decided to become an American citizen to have opportunities that he couldn’t get in his country of origin.
- “You are not held back by your color, lack of connections or the amount of money you have,” So was quoted as saying. “If you work hard, you have a better chance of making it here than anywhere else in the world. I came here ready to work hard, and it turned out just as I dreamed.”
Currently, So is ranked 9th in the FIDE (International Chess Federation) Standard. He defeated Carlsen to win two events at the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour: the Opera Euro Rapid in February and the Skilling Open last November, Yahoo reported. On Monday, Carlsen defeated So to win the FTX Crypto Cup event.