Port Area, Manila
June 9, 2014
So Long Wesley So
National treasure lost.
On what was a sunny Sunday, Sportsmaryosep ran into a scoop and broke the news in The Philippine STAR that Filipino chess grandmaster Wesley So has turned his back on our country after baring in a letter to National Chess Federation of the Philippines president Butch Pichay that he has applied for United States citizenship last year.
This is sad news for not just for Philippine chess but Phl sports in general considering that we just lost someone who has a strong chance of becoming world champion someday. For the uninitiated, So is now ranked 15th in the world based on the recent monthly rankings released by international chess federation FIDE thanks to his spectacular victory in ultra-strong Capablanca Memorial in Cuba last month. If he keeps it up, he could be challenging for the world title currently held by Norweigan Magnus Carlsen, who happens to be So’s contemporary. And he is just 20 years old.
So offered to play for the country one last time in the World Chess Olympiad in Tromso, Norway this August. But Pichay obviously has other things in mind and continue to resist So’s offer. It will mean So, who is now based in the US being a Webster U standout, will have to shell out 50,000 euros or a whoping equivalent to about P3 million. If he can’t, it will mean So will have to sit out for two years as required by FIDE for chessers shifting federations. If it happens, he will be barred from participating in all FIDE-sanctioned events like the Olympiad and the World Championship.
Here are all the details of the So story that was posted in the blog sit of Susan Polgar, his coach. So read on.
“I was about to board a flight when I made this post. Therefore, I had to keep the explanation short. I just added a few more things to make more sense for Wesley’s fans and supporters.
Below is the letter from Grandmaster Wesley So to the President of the NCFP. Wesley offered last year to represent the Philippines one last time at the upcoming Olympiad in Tromsø if the NCFP consents for him to switch federation immediately after the Olympiad.
This offer was not accepted (ignored). Therefore, Wesley had to follow proper FIDE procedures by filing the necessary paperwork, and not competing in official FIDE events for 2 years. Because of this, he will not be able to play for the Philippines in Norway.
Wesley made no deal with the U.S. Therefore, there can be zero expectation that the US will pay the 50,000 euros to the NCFP. He definitely could not afford to pay this fees from his own pocket as a full time college student. He also heard nothing from the NCFP President, even though the deadline to register for the Tromsø Olympiad was June 1, 2014, more than one week ago.
This was an agonizing personal decision for Wesley. But it had to be done. He really wanted to represent the Philippines one last time. But it was not meant to be as he did not receive the green light from the NCFP in consenting the switch. Now that the deadline has past, it is too late. Wesley went on to make other chess commitments.
Wesley takes his chess very seriously and he cannot afford to let his career flounder without any communication or direction from his national federation. Because of this, he told me that a move had to be made. By writing this letter, Wesley hopes that the NCFP will not stand in the way and delay his progress toward the top 10. For his sake, I hope so too.
Dear Cong Pichay,
I would like to share my thoughts about changing federations. I hope you have the time to read my letter. I appreciate your understanding in advance.
First of all, I would like to thank you for your past support. I am proud to be Filipino, and I will always be a Filipino at heart. I will never forget where I came from.
However, circumstances have changed. My family has permanently moved to Canada. 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.
I have filed the paperwork to switch federation to the US last year. I respectfully ask that you grant me this opportunity and consent my transfer.
If you choose not to approve my transfer request, I have no way of paying the 50,000 euros fees to the NCFP. Therefore, I will have no choice but to sit out another year to fulfill my full two year waiting period so no transfer fees are needed. This will not benefit the NCFP at all. However, it will severely slow down my progress by not being 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.
Because of the 2-year waiting period rule of FIDE, I am not able to compete in the World Rapid and Blitz Championships in Dubai next week. I will also not be able to compete in the upcoming Olympiad in Norway.
This is not an easy decision. But it 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.
Again, it’s sad.
I can’t judge Wesley nor blame Pichay and the country’s other sports officials for this bleak news. But it dawned on me that the So case is the irony of all ironies. Because please pray-tell me why can we afford millions to pay American basketball player Andray Blatche and not a national treasure like So?
Follow Sportsmaryosep on Twitter: @JoeySVillar
(Photos courtesy of Wesley So)