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Filipino Chess Grandmaster Wesley So Wins World Title, Topples No. 1 Magnus Carlsen

Mark Andrew

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  • Originally from the Philippines, 26-year-old Wesley So made history after defeating Magnus Carlsen in the World Fischer Random Chess Championship.
  • The young chess grandmaster said “politics” pushed him to leave the country and move to the United States.

He’s merely 26 years old and he’s now officially one of the best chess players in the world. In fact, he recently defeated Magnus Carlsen in Norway at the World Fischer Random Chess Championship with four wins and two draws.

Wesley So has indeed brought great honor to the United States, the country he’s been representing since 2014. Apparently, the chess grandmaster is originally from the Philippines.

Wesley So made history by becoming the first official champion of FIDE World Fischer Random Chess.

In his victory against Carlsen, an evidently happy So shared “It’s my favorite type of chess, and it hasn’t been popular until the last couple of years,” humbly adding he would have easily been defeated by his opponent had they played regular chess.

Born and raised in Cavite, Philippines, So once played for his home country and was even named the youngest Philippine chess team member in 2006. He has been winning local tournaments since he was 9 and he eventually represented the country in international events. By age 12, he was already recognized as the youngest chess grandmaster in the country.

So why did he eventually move to the US? He didn’t like the lack of support and the fact that he was denied certain privileges – like a million peso incentive – despite winning gold at the World Universiade Games held at Kazan, Russia in 2013.

“Because of a quarrel between the kings of the sports bodies, ” So said, “not only did the country refuse to acknowledge my efforts, they refused to give me the P1 million promised to athletes who bring home a gold medal.”

Frustrated by what happened, he almost quit playing chess. Eventually, he decided to move to the US instead when he was offered a chess scholarship. He now lives in Minnesota after he was adopted by actress Lotis Key and her husband Renato “Bambi” Kabigting, a former basketball player.

So while he still considers himself a “true Filipino,” he feels sad for talented athletes from the country who are deprived of opportunities because of “endless cycles of corruption.”

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