Wesley So… the next Asian Tiger?

Wesley So at 2012 World Open.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

The year 2014 was a momentous year for Wesley So of the Philippines. The chess world knows him as one of the most phenomenal talents to come out of Philippines and Asia in general. He became one of the world’s youngest GMs at 14 years old and rose quickly in the Filipino ranks. Known primarily as a raw, but unrefined talent, he was then recruited to Webster University by Susan Polgar and began his studies in 2012. He was initially roommates with fellow-GM Ray Robson and enjoyed the camaraderie of his teammates, who were also fellow GMs.

After having enduring a tumultuous battle to switch his affiliation from the Philippines to the U.S., he settled down to continue his education at Webster University. He has credited Polgar and Webster with providing him the guidance and environment he needed to improve his standard. While at Webster he improved his Elo rating by more than 100 points and currently sits at #10 on the FIDE rating list.


Interview with Wesley So @ Millionaire Open!


While So contends that he is proudly Filipino and gives credit to his country, he made a rather tough decision to switch federations. He then may another tough decision to leave Webster to pursue professional chess. This decision was motivated by his winning the strong Capablanca tournament in Cuba and most notably the inaugural Millionaire Chess Open.

After his historic victory at the Millionaire Chess Open, Wesley So moved to the #10 position on the LIVE rating list. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

He has added another feather in his cap by winning the North American Open in Las Vegas this past December. Next he will play in the Tata Steel Masters (Wijk aan Zee), perhaps the strongest test he has had in his career. He looks to improve on last year’s tally of 6/13 and cement his status as a top 10 player. There are so many young talents knocking on the door of Magnus Carlsen and So is one of them.

What does this mean for So who is now in the top 10 on the FIDE Elo list? It means that he has to map a plan to get to the next level. As a full-time professional, he will enlist the help of a trainer and perhaps has enough funds to schedule a strong circuit of tournaments. What a magnificent story this is and the chess world will be ready to see how he will fare against the Tata field including Carlsen.

All the best GM Wesley So!
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Daaim Shabazz

Daaim Shabazz is the founder of The Chess Drum, while serving as a tenured faculty member of Global Business & Marketing at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. He holds a B.S. Computer Science from Chicago State University, an MBA in Marketing and a Ph.D. in International Affairs & Development, both from Clark Atlanta University. He has served the journalist community for more than 30 years and still competes in tournaments occasionally.

3 Comments

  1. GMs Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So had a very interesting blitz match at chess.com with three formats… 5-minutes, 3 minutes and 1 minutes all with one second delay. The games were very exciting throughout with bruising tactical battles, but Nakamura showed his raw talent and speed in both the 5-minute and 1-minutes formats. In the post-match interview, So made mention that Nakamura is not only fast, but his technique is very good. So acquitted himself better in the 3-minute format winning consecutive games at one point. During the 3-minute format, Nakamura disconnected and lost a game on time in a winning position. Nevertheless, he ended up +10 overall.

    5-minute: 6½-2½
    3-minute: 4½-4½
    1-minute: 10½-4½

    Nakamura will play at the Gibraltar Masters in February and So will be at the Tata Steel in a week.

  2. It is just my perception but unlike many GM’s who seem to rely on tactics , theories and calculations, So seems to be blessed with a raw talent of creativity. I would not suspect he would fair well against Naka in speed chess but in normal time control I think it would be an interesting heavyweight fight.

    1. So r u suggesting its the time control? I was on there yesterday for the match saw the 5min session, hadda lotta laughs and alotta fun, Krushie-krushie was funny and Gm Hess! lol Everytime he said WESLEY i said So!!! LOL kind funny huh?

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