Webster University Star Wins Millionaire Chess Tournament
By BRIAN JERAULD
Las Vegas will do just fine if it never sees Wesley So again. The brand-new adult celebrated his 21st birthday in the right city, but he did it in all the wrong ways.
He didn’t pull a single slot, didn’t throw a single die. And he never once relied on the hilarious notion of luck during a week-long visit in a town that banks off the very idea. He was not spotted out late, stumbling around the Strip any night — and to the contrary: The work So put in each morning is circumstantial proof that he achieved bedtime at an hour likely outlawed in the City that Never Sleeps.
He made just a single bet — on himself — and took down a score 100 times that amount. And even worse for Sin City: The house took away no rake from his winnings, instead only watched every penny of it walk away.
Said Vegas: Don’t let the screen door hit you on the way out, Mr. So.
The Webster University Grandmaster was this week’s big winner in the Millionaire Chess Open, featuring both amateurs and professionals battling for a $1M prize fund that was far and away the largest ever seen in the history of open chess tournaments. The diamond-encrusted event was the long-hyped innovation of GM Maurice Ashley, finally reaching fruition over Columbus Day weekend by pulling in more than 550 players from 44 different countries — all of whom laid down a $1,000 entry fee to put their skills to the test.
So — recently voted by the Riverfront Times as St. Louis’ Best College Athlete of 2014, albeit one who still maintains the rights to his own name as a professional (read: LOLNCAA) — entered as the Millionaire’s top-seed and did not disappoint, staying undefeated all the way through the 139-player Open section to its $100,000 top prize.
And though perhaps not one celebrated by late-night escapades featuring the standard degenerate binge of Vegas, the Millionaire will likely go down as one hell of a coming-out party for the young Grandmaster. Statements on So’s place in the chess world were made on several levels.
On the collegiate level, chess teams from around the nation received the news as a double-dose of sobriety: So, a junior at Webster majoring in (what else?) finance, has already led the university to back-to-back national titles and clearly shows no signs of slowing down, especially considering this latest result came during his “off season.” He claimed to have decided on the Millionaire “at the last minute” and attended without preparation, though his current streak of 30-plus professional games without a loss seems to dull the magic from that particular statement.
Worse for collegiate hopefuls is So’s best friend, roommate and Webster teammate GM Ray Robson participation alongside him at the Millionaire, where they even had the chance to play each other — in the finals.
Both So and Robson cruised through the four-day, seven round Open section of the event scoring 5/7 apiece, each earning a seat outright in the four-player “Millionaire Monday” playoff — while four other players had to fight through a playoff-for-the-playoff’s final two seats on Sunday night.
Forget college. Ultimately, Millionaire Monday featured a Webster University-versus-China showdown, as the other seats were claimed by Yu Yangyi and Ziou Jianchao — two players who led their country to Chess Olympic gold this past August. They both lost, however, and played each other for third place. Robson was the last to man to fall, but not before admitting his record versus So was not very good, and won $50k for second place.
This is not fair that Webster players are winning everything. They should share some of their titles.