Person of day - 9 OCTOBER 2023
Wesley So started his career at the foremost wunderkind of the East. He was born in the Philippine town of Bacoor and learned to play when he was six. His parents were accountants who hoped that their son would follow in their footsteps, so they treated chess as a child’s temporary interest. However, in 2003, Wesley won the Philippine U10 championship and the Asian classical, blitz and rapid championships for the same category.
A mere two years later, So became the youngest international master in his country’s history and was already playing for his national team at the Olympiad. In 2007, Wesley’s rating surpassed 2500 and the 13 year-old qualified for the World Cup through the Asian zonal championship. When he was 14 years and 2 months old, he became a grandmaster- the seventh wunderkind to do so.
He has won two Olympic bronzes with his country’s national team, winning the first board both times. He also came second in the Asian team championship.
In 2009, he was one of the heroes of the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk, where he knocked out Gadir Guseinov, Vassily Ivanchuk and Gata Kamsky. After that, he won his country’s national championship three times in a row. In 2012, he began to study at St Louis University at the invitation of Susan Polgar, beginning his affair with his new homeland.
In the future, So’s rating surpassed 2700 and he won the 2013 Summer Universiade in Kazan, where he defeated Zaven Adriasian in an additional match. Immediately after this, he began his rapid ascent: fourth place in Wijk aan Zee, victory at the Capablanca Memorial, first place at the Millionaire’s Open and, as a result, a place in FIDE’s 10 highest-rated players.
In 2013, the American chess federation began its attempts to transfer Wesley So to American colours. They succeeded in this endeavour a year later, despite protests from the Philippines. So made his debut for the American team at the 2016 Olympiad in Baku. America’s strongest team ever consisted of Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So, Samuel Shankland and Roy Robson won gold medals. Shortly before the Olympiad, Wesley So won a super tournament in St Louis, overtaking his countrymen Nakamura and Caruana.
The famous Philippine player and trainer Rodolfo Cardoso, who fought against the genius 11thworld champion many years ago, wrote about Wesley So: “The young talent is not afraid to sacrifice a queen or any other piece in an attack- in this, he is similar to Fischer. In his youth, Wesley could not afford to hire a celebrated grandmaster for a trainer- he always relied only on his own abilities!”
Wesley So performed wonderfully at the 2017 World Cup, where he knocked out Francisco Vallejo, Baadur Jobava and Vladimir Fedoseev, but he lost to Ding Liren in the semi-final. Wesley also won the 2017 US championship.
In 2018, Wesley So made his debut in the candidates’ tournament, but he did not perform well and came last. In the same year, he also won an Olympic silver with the American national team.