‘Distracted’ So skips US National Open chess

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Filipino Grandmaster Wesley So has withdrawn from the United States National Open, saying the controversy over his transfer to the US Chess Federation is too much of a distraction.

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“I withdrew from the National Open to focus on finalizing the federation transfer process. This situation is taking a big toll on me. I hope to finish everything shortly. Then it is up to the NCFP [National Chess Federation of the Philippines] to sign off on it or not,” So told his Hungarian coach Susan Polgar.

He was preparing to defend his triple crown at the US Open, which began last Friday in Las Vegas, Nevada. He begged off at the last minute because media people were hounding him to ask about his transfer from the NCFP to the US Chess Federation.

The confusion even became more evident after NCFP President Prospero Pichay said in an interview that the federation was yet to receive the formal transfer request from So, the Philippines’ brightest hope for a world chess championship.

Pichay added that So has to first write a letter to USCF seeking membership. The American federation would then inform FIDE, the world chess governing body, which in turn will inform NCFP.

If NCFP refuses to give its consent, So can choose to pay the £50,000 (P3 million) transfer fee. But he said he cannot raise such a big amount.

If he cannot pay the fee, he cannot play in any FIDE-sanctioned tournament for two years.

Polgar said So made the right decision to forego the US Open. “He needs to clear his head, then refocus on his chess. This is too much of a distraction,” she added.

In the 2013 Las Vegas International Chess Festival, So won the US Game/10 Championship, National Open Championship and National Open Blitz Championship, a feat no other chess player has achieved since the tournament began in 1965.

Pichay seems reluctant to let go of So. He said the grandmaster continues to receive his P40,000 monthly stipend from the government.

So clarified that he is not renouncing his Filipino citizenship and was merely transferring his affiliation to another federation.

The controversy gets more complicated because the NCFP has submitted So’s name as one of its players in the World Chess Olympiad in Tromso, Norway.

So claims he was never invited to play in the Olympiad.

But he is going to Tromso anyway, not as Philippine player, but as official coach of the US delegation.

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