Why Chess Genius Wesley So is Representing the US and Not the Philippines

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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.

Featured Image via Euku (left), Chess24 (right)

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