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Wesley So: The Filipino Chess Grandmaster Taking the World by Storm

Discover the inspiring story of Wesley So, the Filipino-born chess grandmaster who has become one of the highest-rated players ever. Know about his rivalry with Magnus Carlsen and his journey to success.

Who is Wesley So?

Wesley Barbasa So, the Filipino-born chess grandmaster, is basically a big deal. He’s won all the major awards several times over and even became the youngest person to pass an Elo rating of 2600, a record previously held by chess legend Magnus Carlsen. It’s safe to say that these two have a bit of a rivalry going on. In fact, in a recent interview, Carlsen admitted that So is his “biggest opponent these days.”

So’s chess journey began on the streets of a village near Manila, where he grew up. After parting ways with his parents at 16, he moved into a squat and continued to hone his chess skills. Eventually, he won a chess scholarship to the US in 2012, where he was encouraged by a clean-cut, church-going American couple named Lotis Key and Bambi Kabigting. They even unofficially adopted him and gave him a place to live, which made all the difference in his playing confidence.

It’s worth noting that So’s family, including his sisters Wendelle and Wilma, had already emigrated to Canada, leaving him behind in the Philippines. This period of his life is something he finds difficult to talk about, but it’s clear that he’s come a long way since then.

Wesley So shows how far he has come from living in a squat


Wesley So’s chess career

Early days

So’s competitive career began in the Philippines by taking the title in the National Chess Championships aged just 9 years old, before going on to finish 19th in the U-10s World Youth Chess Championship in 2003, coming 13th in the U-12s the following year, and 4th in 2005. This rise through the ranks ably demonstrates how this promising chess prodigy rapidly gained playing strength, strategy, and confidence in his own ability. So took the chess world by storm.

Rise to the top

In the fall of 2005, So finished in 16th place at the Nice International Open, marking his debut into tournaments, and became the youngest Filipino to complete three International Master norms within an astonishing timeframe of four months. So then traveled to Italy in 2006 to appear on the reserve board at the 37th Chess Olympiad. In the same year, he scored an impressive 6/9 at the Masters in Singapore, and a year later qualified for the Chess World Cup. By April 2007, So’s FIDE rating stood at 2519, after increasing over 300 points in the previous year!

In a memorable championship, So, aged 14, achieved his third Grandmaster norm in 2007, becoming the youngest Filipino Grandmaster. The following years saw him increase his FIDE rating, winning the Dubai Open, with a score of 7/9, where he also finished third in blitz chess, and in Jakarta, beating Susanto Megaranto by four games to two, and by 2014, So was sitting in 12th place in the FIDE World Ranking, and about to hit the big time!

Representing the USA

In 2014, it was confirmed that So had transferred to the United States Chess Federation from the National Chess Federation of the Philippines. This was due to his family moving to Canada and his own plans to permanently reside in the United States. He believed that the move would help to boost his own career and enabled him to take part in the tournaments that he wanted rather than those that the Philippine Chess Federation deemed important.

Playing style

As a young player, So had an aggressive and tactical playing style that caught the attention of the Philippine chess champion International Master Rodolfo Tan Cardoso. However, in recent years his playing style has evolved to the more precise and risk-free playing style that we see today.

An epic show off between  Wesley So vs Caruana

How good is Wesley So?

So is a chess Grandmaster, the current, and inaugural World Fischer Random Chess Champion, and the current US Chess Champion, having also previously won the title in 2017. He also holds the Filipino Chess Championship three times over. In 2017 he was ranked as world number 2, and his ELO rating also made him the fifth highest rated player ever.

A recent, exciting blitz game between the Iranian prodigy Alireza Firouzja and Wesley So (played in the Paris Rapid & Blitz 2021 Chess Tour)

Has Wesley So ever defeated Magnus Carlsen?

So beat Carlsen 13 ½ – 2 ½ to become the winner of the inaugural FIDE World Fischer Random Chess Championship.


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A post shared by FIDE (@fide_chess)

Is Wesley So adopted?

Wesley So is not officially adopted, however, he was estranged from his parents at age 16 when they left him in the Philippines to emigrate to Canada. On his move to the States, he was taken in by an American family and now considers them his adoptive family.

Why did Wesley So move to the US?

In 2012 So moved to the United States to enroll at Webster University and to give himself a better future, and in 2021 became a US citizen.


How old is Wesley So?

Wesley So is 30 years old. Being born on the 9th October, 1993, the chess superstar falls under the star sign of Libra, well known for being serious and contemplative, which might account for his intense concentration under pressure.

What is the net worth of Wesley So?

Wesley So won over $246,000 from participating in tournaments in 2020. This has given him an estimated net worth of $1 million

Wesley So Photo Gallery




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