64: There’s a new kid in town
By Zaldy Dandan Variety Editor

ONE of the chess players who will be awarded the grandmaster title by FIDE next year is from the Philippines — Wesley So, who is only 14.

Born on Oct. 9, 1993, So secured his final GM norm at a recently concluded international tournament in Manila to become the seventh youngest GM in history. He was 6 when his father taught him how to play chess and was 9 when he started joining junior active chess tourneys where his aggressive style of play caught the attention of former Philippine champ IM Rodolfo Tan Cardoso: “The young lad…would sacrifice a queen or any other pieces in his arsenal to get a winning attack.”

At 13, So had already won the national tournament for 14-under, the national juniors for 20-under and the national open. In 2005, So tied for first in the World Youth U12 Festival, ahead of prodigies GM Negi Parimarjan of India and WGM Hou Yifan of China. The following year, So qualified for the Philippine national team and became the youngest Filipino Olympian in history. On board six at the Torino Olympiad, he won two games, drew two and lost only one — to a Romanian GM. Before the end of the year, So got his first GM norm at a tournament in Bad Wiessee, Germany where he scalped German GM Michael Prusikin in a game whose creativity was praised by Russian commentators.

According to Cardoso, So does not have the full sponsorships enjoyed by the other chess prodigies. “He cannot afford a decent training given by well known GM-coaches and has to rely on his pure talent, diligence and, of course, the Fritz programs before competing.” But So’s chess prowess cannot be denied. In September, he got his second GM norm at the world juniors in Armenia. Last month, he participated in another international tournament, this time in Manila where he won his first three games and drew with six GMs to nail his third and final GM norm. So finished with a 6/9 score and a rating performance of 2620 to share fifth place behind the tournament champion, GM Ni Hua of China.

So’s parents are accountants and he goes to school at St. Francis of Assisi College System in Bacoor, Cavite, a province south of Manila.

Here is the full story.

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