Lifestyle, Profiles, Stories

CHY List: Wesley So, the Passionate Chess Grandmaster

Sketch by Lexter Ang

With the arrival of 2021’s Year of the Metal Ox, CHiNOY TV has put together its inaugural CHY List, which aims to annually celebrate the achievements of 10 Chinoys who have all accomplished great things, inspired others, and made significant contributions to their respective fields and beyond. 

We will also be releasing individual features to highlight the accomplishments of each of this year’s CHY List honorees. Today, we turn the spotlight to world-class chess grandmaster Wesley So. 


An Early Rise

Wesley So first learned how to play chess when he was just six years old. It was evident even then that So had developed a deep love for the game, having gone so far as to explore his neighborhood streets to look for people he could play against. With the level of natural intuitiveness that So had displayed, joining the local competitive chess circuit was simply inevitable. 

So’s path to success began in 2003, when he won his first major tournament — the under-10 (U-10s) age division of the Philippine National Chess Championships. Since then, there was no stopping him. Over the next few years, So added a long list of accolades to his name as a child prodigy: So became the youngest ever Filipino International Grandmaster (2006), the youngest National Junior Open Chess Champion (2007), the youngest titleholder of The Sheikh Rashed Bin Hamdan Al Maktoum Cup in the Dubai Open Chess Championships (2008), and the then youngest player in the world to break the 2600 Elo barrier (2008). 

The Elo rating system is the most common rating system in chess and is employed by the International Chess Federation (or its French acronym, FIDE). 

In 2009, So became the world’s strongest chess player in his age group, including players born in and after 1993. In addition to several wins in major international tournaments, So also claimed the Philippines’ first-ever gold medal in a Summer Universiade during its 2013 edition in Kazan, Russia.  


Transfer to the United States

On the advice of his coach, as well as for better access to opportunities, which included a scholarship to Webster University and a proper training system, So officially transferred to the United States Chess Federation in 2014. 

Since he started representing the United States, So has also won many other competitions. Notable feats include his current status as a two-time US Champion (2017, 2020) as well as the inaugural and reigning World Fischer Random Chess Champion (2019), the latter of which is a title earned from his victory against the world’s top-ranked player Magnus Carlsen.


Wesley So, winner of the Euro Opera Rapid in the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour. Source: Wesley So’s Official Facebook page


Last February 15, 2021, So trumped Carlsen again in the Euro Opera Rapid of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour as his latest achievement. As of this writing, So is now ranked ninth in the world, according to FIDE. 

“Chess is life,” wrote So on his social media page following his victory over Carlsen. “One day you are up, one day you are down, so I will enjoy this UP moment and start by giving thanks! To my Lord and Savior, AMDG.” 


Curious about the other CHY List honorees? For the complete inaugural CHY List, check out the article here.


In addition to celebrating the achievements of the Filipino-Chinese, CHiNOY TV also actively supports the Chinoy creative community. This year’s CHY List photos have been produced in partnership with Chinoy sketch artist Lexter Ang. For more of his works, check out his Facebook page Sketch with Lex!

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