Born in Las Pinas to William and Eleanor So, and raised in Bacoor, Cavite, Wesley So is a Filipino chess prodigy who is the eighth youngest player to attain the Grandmaster (GM) title in history, achieving it at the age of 14 years, 1 month and 28 days. That made him the youngest GM in the world at that time.* He was the Philippines’ youngest ever International Master, youngest ever Grandmaster and the youngest ever National Champion.
So’s father taught him the moves at the age of seven. He started playing rapid tournaments when he was eight and was competing in junior tournaments at nine. The ferocity of his play in the latter attracted the attention of Rodolfo Tan Cardoso. * He was awarded the FIDE Master title in 2004 at age 11 and International Master in 2006 at 12. In 2013, he moved to live and study in the USA at Susan Polgar's chess academy in Webster University, and in 2014 he officially shifted his chess affiliation to the USA. He is now officially the USA's #2 player, as well as the #2 player in the Americas.
<Age> In 2003, So became the Philippines U10 Champion. He has competed in World Youth Championships in 2003 (19th in the U10 division), 2004 (14th in the U12 division) and 2005 (=1st in the U12 division). In the 2005 event held in Belfort, he finished equal first in his age group alongside Srinath Narayanan, Sanan Sjugirov and Samvel Ter-Sahakyan with Narayanan taking the title on tiebreak. On 9 May 2007, So won the National Junior Championship at the age of 13 years, 7 months, the youngest to do so until FM Paulo Bersamina won the 2010 edition of that event while still 12. So earned his 2nd GM norm in September 2007, shortly before he turned 14, at the World Junior Championship (2007) (his 1st GM norm being in Germany soon after he turned 13 – see below in the classical tournaments section) held in Yerevan, Armenia.
<National> So holds the record for the youngest National Champion of the Philippines, first winning the title in 2009 at the age of 15 years, 6 months. He also won the Philippines Championship in 2010 and 2011 after coming second in 2008 and first in the "Battle of the Grandmasters' event in 2008. Starting from 2009, the "Battle of the Grandmasters", previously a separate event, also became the national championship. He competed in the US Championships (2015), and despite losing four games, including one on forfeit, he finished outright 3rd behind the winner Hikaru Nakamura and runner-up Ray Robson.
<Continental> In September 2007 while still 13, Wesley played in the Asian Individual Championship (2007) that was held in Cebu and scored a par for rating 6/11, drawing against four GMs and losing to one. He scored a modest 6.5/11 at the 8th Asian Continental Chess Championship (2009) held in Subic Bay but came 2nd by a half point behind Ni Hua in the 9th Asian Continental Championship held in April 2010 to qualify for participation in the 2011 World Cup. He scored 5.5/9, placing =9th in the 10th Asian Individual Championships (2011) in Iran. In May 2012, he played in the Asian Continental Chess Championship (2012) scoring 6/9 and placing =4th (8th on tiebreak).
<World> In early 2007, he scored 5.5/9 at the Zonal 3.3, narrowly missing both a GM norm and qualification for the World Chess Cup (2007). After qualifying in early 2009 by coming 2nd behind Darwin Laylo in the 3.3 Zonal held in Ho Chi Minh City, Wesley made a splash at the World Cup (2009) by defeating Gadir Guseinov, Vassily Ivanchuk and Gata Kamsky in the first three rounds before falling to Vladimir Malakhov in the rapid game tiebreaker during the round of 16. He defeated Chinese GM Ding Liren in the first round of the World Cup (2011) but lost the second round in a hard fought rapid-game tiebreaker to then Russian number 1 and world number 5 GM Sergey Karjakin. So placed 2nd at the Asian 3.3 Zonal held in January 2013 and thereby qualified for the World Cup (2013) where he defeated the 2012 Junior World Champion, Ukrainian-Turkish GM Alexander Ipatov in the first round but lost to Russian GM and eventual semi-finalist Evgeny Tomashevsky in the second round. He qualified by rating to contest the World Cup (2015), where he defeated the young Iranian player Parham Maghsoodloo in the first round and Csaba Balogh in the second round to progress through to the third round where he defeated Le Quang Liem. In the Round of Sixteen (round 4) he lost to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and was eliminated from the event.
So’s first foray into the international arena was at the 12th International Open held in Nice in 2005, where he scored 5/7, placing =8th (9th on tiebreak) and gaining 35 rating points. He finished 2005 at the Singapore International Masters Open, winning the award for the best U12 in the competition and gaining another 37 rating points. In April 2006, he earned his first International Master norm at the powerful 8th Dubai Open (2006) when he scored 5/9. A few weeks later, still 12 years old, he was selected to play in the 2006 Olympiad at Torino (see below). Wesley’s second and third IM norms followed in rapid succession at the 2nd San Marino Open (5.5/9) in June 2006, where he also won the award for the best player under 16, and in August 2006 at the 3rd IGB Dato Arthur Tan Malaysia Open Chess Championship in Kuala Lumpur (6.5/11), where he again won the award for the best player U16. At the age of 12 years, 10 months and 13 days, So became the youngest Filipino to achieve the IM title.
So achieved his first GM norm at the Bavarian International Open in Bad Wiessee, Germany in November 2006. Following an average performance at the 3rd Calvia International Open in October 2006, Wesley narrowly missed another GM norm at the GM Tournament in Manila the following month, but won the powerful Prospero Pichay Cup in December 2006. A few days later, Wesley competed in the 3rd Singapore Masters International Open, placing =10th with a score of 6/9, including wins against GMs Susanto Megaranto and Li Shilong. Following his relative success at the Zonal 3.3 – qualifying for the 2007 World Cup but narrowly missing a GM norm - in January 2007 (see above), Wesley performed on par at the Philippines International Open in Subic Bay in April 2007, then came second at the Selection Tournament for 2nd Asian Indoor Games held in Tagaytay in August 2007. So capped his year by earning his third GM norm, and the title, at the 3rd Prospero Pichay Cup International Open in Parañaque City, Philippines in December 2007, scoring 6/9, including five draws against his five GM opponents. When he earned his title, he became the seventh-youngest GM ever, and the youngest-ever Filipino GM.
The year 2008 began with a modest 4th at the 1st Leg of the ASEAN Circuit Tournament 2008 (GM Section A) in Kalimantan, he won the Mayor Allen Singson Open Chess Tourney in Candon City and then the Dubai Open (2008) in the United Arab Emirates with a score of 7/9 (TPR 2708), besting an international field that included 23 other grandmasters. In April, he won the “Battle of the Grandmasters” with 8.5/11 (including wins against Rogelio Antonio Jr and Buenaventura Bong Villamayor and a draw against Eugenio Torre) and a match against Susanto Megaranto (details immediately below in the matches section). In May, he came =2nd with 6.5/9 in the 1st Subic International Open, half a point behind Jayson Gonzales. In July 2008, he came second with 12.5/17 in the National qualifying tournament for the Dresden Olympiad held in November, represented Philippines in that Olympiad, placed =5th in the 4th Prospero Pichay Jr. Cup International played in Manila in September, and won the gold medal (+4 =3) for the top board playing for his club Tagaytay city in the Asian Club Cup. In 2009 he won Corus Group C (2009) with 9.5/13, one point ahead of fellow prodigy Anish Giri, but then had an average result of 5/9 at Aeroflot Open (2009) before scoring a stunning 9/11 in March at the Battle of the GMs held in Dapitan City. An ordinary 4.5/10 at the SPICE Cup (2009) in Lubbock, Texas was followed by his remarkable debut in the World Cup (see above). 2010 saw him securing a reasonably successful result at Corus Group B (2010) where he came 4th with 7.5/13 and at Aeroflot Open (2010), scoring =7th in a huge field of GMs and IMs. His success in the 9th Asian Continental (see above) was followed by winning the 3rd Battle of the Grandmasters in Tagaytay City with 7.5/11. His subsequent results during 2010 were average to ordinary by his standards, although he finished with good results in the preliminary rounds of the Asian Teams Championship in November.
The start of 2011 saw him place =4th in the Tata Steel Group B (2011) with a creditable 7.5/13, a point shy of the lead, while his subsequent participation in the Aeroflot Open (2011) was cut short after six rounds due to his withdrawal from the event because of exhaustion. Despite that, he achieved excellent results in the blitz event held after the tournament and in the 17th Asian Cities tournament held in Jakarta a few months later (see below in Team Play). In June 2011, he came =1st alongside Giri and Hans Tikkanen at the 19th Sigeman & Co Chess Tournament (2011) in Sweden. His results thereafter, until the 2012 Quebec Open (see below) essentially maintained parity with his rating, including 5/10 at the Airports Authority of India (2011) in New Delhi also in June, 9/13 at the Philippine Championship (although he placed first), 6.5/9 in the Indonesian Open, 2nd at the 26th SEA Games 2011 in Indonesia, his drawn match in Illinois against Meier (see below), and his 6/9 at the Asian Continental Chess Championship (2012) where he just missed qualifying for the 2013 World Cup. He scored outright first at the Quebec Invitational Open 2012 with 7.5/9 (TPR 2789), a half point clear of Cuban GM Lazaro Bruzon Batista. In July 2012, he maintained rating parity by placing =3rd (3rd on tiebreak), behind Dutch GM Ivan Sokolov and US GM Alexander Shabalov in the World Open held in Philadelphia in the USA and by winning the 2012 Toronto International Crown. His 5/10 at the SPICE Cup (2012) was basically par for rating. Several months later, an excellent =1st (2nd behind Pavel Eljanov), with 8/10 at the powerful Reykjavik Open (2013) enabled So's rating to surpass 2700 for the first time. In May 2013, So won the 2013 Calgary International Chess Classic with a round to spare with a final score of 8/9 after winning the preliminary blitz bout with 9/9. In June 2013, So participated in and placed =1st (winning on tiebreak) with 5/6 in the 2013 Las Vegas International Open alongside Alejandro Ramirez Alvarez Webster colleague and Mexican #1, Manuel Leon Hoyos Jaan Ehlvest and Varuzhan Akobian. In July 2013, Wesley So won the gold medal at the Universiade (2013) and in October 2013, he won the 6 round DRR category 18 Unive Crown Group (2013) with a round to spare. In April 2014, he was =1st at the 2014 Bill Wright Saint Louis Open.
So's inaugural participation in a super tournament was at the category 20 Tata Steel (2014). He finished with a solid 6/11 (+3 -2 =6), placing =4th behind Levon Aronian, Anish Giri and Sergey Karjakin respectively, and 6th on tiebreak behind Fabiano Caruana and Leinier Dominguez Perez. His next super tournament participation was a stunning success when he won the category 19 49th Capablanca Memorial (2014) outright with 6.5/10, a clear point ahead of second placed Lazaro Bruzon Batista, notching a 2829 TPR. In June, he secured 2nd place behind Ivanchuk at the Edmonton International with a score of 7.5/9, a roughly par-for-rating outcome. The following month in July 2014, he participated in the category 17 round-robin ITT ACP Golden Classic tournament, in Italy, winning by a clear point with 4.5/6, thereby lifting his standard rating to an all time high, while in October he won the Millionaire Chess (2014), pushing his rating and ranking to another all time high. He continued his upward trajectory in January 2015 when he participated in the Tata Steel (2015), placing =2nd with 8.5/13, half a point behind the winner Magnus Carlsen, and ultimately placing 4th on tiebreak behind co-runners up in scoring, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Anish Giri. This last result elevated him to #1 player in the USA and the Americas in FIDE's February 2015 rating list. Several months later in April 2015, So participated in the category 21 Gashimov Memorial (2015), and after leading in the early stages of the tournament finished on =3rd with 5/9 alongside Fabiano Caruana and behind Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand respectively. In July 2015, So placed equal second with 4/7 behind Caruana and alongside Liviu Dieter Nisipeanu at the category 19 Dortmund (2015)
At the Japfa Chess Festival 2008 held in Jakarta in April 2008, So played the six-game Japfa Match (2008) against Indonesian GM Megaranto and won by 6-4 (+3 =3). In March 2012 in Skokie, Illinois, USA, he played and drew a four-game match (=4) with German GM Georg Meier. In June 2015, he won the Cez Trophy in the Czech Republic when he won the So - Navara Match (2015) by 3-1 (+2=2).
So won a Team Silver Medal and an Individual Gold Medal in the 6th ASEAN Age-Group Chess Championship held in 2004 in Vung Tau in Vietnam. He also won an Individual Gold Medal at the 7th ASEAN Age-Group Chess Championship held in 2005 in Pattaya in Thailand. In August 2007, he won the gold medal for first board for the Philippines at the World Under-16 Olympiad with a phenomenal score of 9.5/10. In 2006, at the age of 12 he became the youngest ever member of the national men's team to participate at the 37th Chess Olympiad (2006), scoring a creditable 3/5 on the reserve board. In March 2007, So won the gold medal playing board 3 after scoring 7.5/9 for Tagaytay – which came second in a field of 18 city teams - in the Asian Cities Team Championship held in Tehran, Iran.** In 2008, he played board 2 for the Philippines at the Dresden Olympiad (2008) and in 2010, board 1 at the Chess Olympiad (2010). In 2009 Wesley played for the Bank of Qingdao team in the Chinese Chess League, scoring 4 points out of the 5 rated games he played. In the 19th Asian Cities Championship held in Jakarta in 2011, Wesley won silver playing top board for his fourth placed (out of 24 city teams) Tagaytay team. So again played board 1 for the Philippines in the 40th Chess Olympiad (2012), scoring 6.5/11 (+2 =9; TPR 2710) and helping the team win bronze in Rating Category B. In December 2013, he played board 3 for Webster University in the PanAm 2013, winning all six games and helping his team to top place to qualify for the College Final Four playoffs. These were held in New York in April 2014, and he helped his team win the event.
Blitz and Rapid Play
So won individual Gold Medals in Rapid Chess in the 6th and 7th ASEAN Age-Group Chess Championship held in 2004 in Vung Tau, Vietnam and in 2005 in Pattaya, Thailand; other awards he won at these two events were a Team Silver for Rapid Chess in 2004 and an Individual Gold Medal for Blitz in 2005. Although his classical score at Calvia in 2006 was average, he won the award for being the best U16 blitz player in the event held immediately afterwards. Toward the end of 2007 after he gained his GM title, Wesley So won the Christmas Invitational Blitz Tournament from a powerful field of IMs and GMs. In addition to winning the international open at Dubai in 2008, he also took third place at the sidelight blitz tournament of that event. Despite withdrawing from the main tournament at Aeroflot 2011, So competed in the blitz event held as a sidelight, placing 5th, 1.5 points behind the winner Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. In the 2011 SEA Games held in Indonesia, So secured the only gold chess medal for the Philippines, winning 9-0 in the blitz event. In 2011 and 2012, he won the ACC Blitz Championship in Ho Chi Minh City, finishing 1st on tiebreak in 2011 and outright first by half a point in 2012. In July 2012, he scored 9/10 to place =1st and share the prize money with Robert Lee Hess at the Blitz Championship held at the World Open Championship in Philadelphia. Later that month, he defeated Ray Robson 23-9 in Chess.com's 7th Blitz "Death Match". He contested the 2nd Noel Skelton Open, which took place from 31st August to 1st September in Minnesota, and easily won the event with 5/5. In June 2014, he won the 2014 National Open Blitz held in Las Vegas.
Wesley So is one of the most formidable blitz players on the internet, his best rating on the ICC website clocking in at 3604. His original handle was Wesley16 which he eventually changed to foster-.***
So’s favorite chess books are Nimzovich’s My System and various books by Mark Izrailovich Dvoretsky. His favorite player is Magnus Carlsen (2009 interview). He is a former member of the Webster University chess team, under the SPICE Program run by GM Zsuzsa Polgar.
Rating and Ranking
Wesley So was the youngest player ever to cross the 2600 rating mark, 9 days before his 15th birthday, until 2013 when Chinese prodigy Wei Yi achieved the mark at the age of 14 years 5 months 23 days. On 1 March 2013, So's rating crossed over to 2701 (the 92nd player to achieve 2700).
So's highest official standard rating to date was 2788, achieved in February 2015. He reached an unofficial ("live") rating of 2794.3 during the 2015 US Championship.
Live rating: http://www.2700chess.com/
Interview in 2009 with William Stewart: http://www.onlinechesslessons.net/2...; FIDE tournament records: http://ratings.fide.com/hist.phtml?... ; Pinoy Chess; http://ctisoyzchess.blogspot.com.au/ ; * World's Youngest Grandmasters: http://chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp... and World's Youngest GM: article by IM Cardoso: http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail... ** http://asianchess.net/wp/?p=257; http://www.gmwesleyso.com/; http://regin-janice-jana.blog.frien... and http://www.rootyhillchess.org/so.html; *** http://www.cs.utu.fi/~juhkivij/ches...
Wikipedia article: Wesley So