Wesley So, the Philippines’ brightest star in chess, will no longer represent the country in future tournaments.
So has written Prospero “Butch” Pichay, president of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP), asking that he be allowed to transfer to the United States of America Chess Federation.
The 20-year-old grandmaster cited several reasons for leaving NCFP. He said his family “has permanently moved to Canada,” which is very near Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri.
So, a sophomore majoring in Finance, has an athletic scholarship at Webster, the top chess university in America today.
He is one of the school’s top players.
“I now live and attend school full time in the United States [at Webster University]. I plan to reside permanently here. This is where I will have the opportunity to improve my chess, and make a decent living as a professional player. I want to be able to play in top-level tournaments . . . to get to the next level,” he said, implying that his chess career in the Philippines will not advance because of lack of big tournaments and government support.
So started to process his transfer in the middle of last year.
He asked Pichay to allow him to represent the Philippines one last time at the Chess Olympiad in Tromso, Norway, in August, after which he will transfer to the US federation.
Pichay turned down the request, which means So must follow proper FIDE procedures by not competing in official World Chess Federation events for the next two years.
So can skip the two-year hiatus if he pays NCFP £50,000 or about P3 million as transfer fee.
The chess phenomenon said he will remain a Filipino at heart.
He also expressed worries of a slack in his game since he will not be able to “play in official FIDE events such as the World Cup, World Blitz and Rapid Championships, etc. I will be forced to miss the next World Championship cycle.”
But So said he believes the move to the US chess federation “is the best decision for me to have a chance to be a top 10 player in the world, and perhaps one day fight for the World Championship crown.”
“I hope you will support my decision and allow me to make this change immediately so I can have a chance to chase my dream without losing more valuable time at this very important age.”
This is not the first time that a highly rated chess player sought transfer from one national federation to another.
Fabiano Caruano has dual citizenship, American and Italian.
He has the option to play for the US or Italy but he chose to carry the Italian flag.
Caruano is number three in the world chess live rankings with 2801.2 rating. So is at number 15 with 2744.
Once So completes the transfer, he will join Hikaru Nakamura, number 7 in the world with live rating 2779.3 and Gata Kamsky who is number 36 with 2712, as players who opted for other chess federations.
Hikaru was born in Japan but his family transferred to the US when he was in his early years. Kamsky originally played for Russia but decided to pursue higher education in America.
So is scheduled to play in two tournaments this month—the US National Open in Las Vegas from June 7 to 10 and the 9th Edmonton tournament in Canada from June 21 to 29.
He has also signed up for the ACP Golden Classic Tournament in Bergamo, Italy, from July 12 to 20. These are the tournaments where So will still carry the Philippine flag.