Great White Hope

Philsports Arena
April 30, 2015
Great White Hope

It started with just four.
And, bless their hearts, it’s now 12.
Twelve brave souls have answered the call. There were more, but not everyone made it. Some decided to just hide in the dark. Maybe it’s not their fault. Probably scared of evil forces trying to ruin the team. A couple begged off and decided to play beach volleyball instead in paradise island Boracay. Some flatly said no.
Whatever.
The most important thing is we have a team we can call our own. They’re named Philippines or Pilipinas. Not any funny-sounding names that bored, uniamginative people invented just to be cute. They’re not.
And these 12 deserves special mention.
Alyssa Valdez.
Ria Meneses.
EJ Laure.
Jia Morado.
Jaja Santiago.
Gretchel Soltones.
Bea de Leon.
Myla Pablo.
Tin Agno.
Jhoanna Maraguinot.
Rissa Sato.
Ella de Jesus.

u23
Special mention to Elaine Kasilag and Alyssa Eroa, who were there but for some unavoidable things, they couldn’t make the team. Not that they don’t want to. They did. They were just victims of circumstances. So for me, they’re still part of the team. So kudos to you both.
And these girls overcame some obstacles.
Some laughed at them when, on Day One of training at the Blue Eagle Gym in Loyola, only four showed up. And then others followed. Nevermind that there were no sponsors. They spent their own money and time just to get that chance to represent the country. And then the t-shirts came with that small patch of our flag on the chest. And the team endured all that. All for flag and country.
Now the real battle begins as our girls, coached by Roger Gorayeb, Tai Bundit and Edjet Mabbayad, face off with the best the region can offer in the Asian Under-23 Women’s Championship unfolding on May 1. Whether or not we win, these girls are already winners. Heroes to each and everyone of us. So let’s go to the Philsports Arena and support them. And by heavens, they need us. Let’s reciprocate their sacrifice by cheering for them. They deserve our support.
And oh, wear white.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

u23a

(Photos courtesy of Volleyball Photo Album PH)

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Game Seven for the Ages

Smart Araneta Coliseum
April 29, 2015
Game Seven for the Ages

I’m voting this one as the best Game Seven I’ve seen in basketball.
I mean, it has everything. Name it, it has all the ingredients of a classic. Drama? Check. Clutch performances? Check. Overtime? Check. Second Overtime? Check? Suspensions? Check. Ball-throwing? Check. Jersey-grabbing? Check. Hellboying? Check. Flagrant fouls? Check. Blood? check. Word wars? Check. Referee-bashing? Check.
We’re all lucky to have witnessed it. A series going the distance. A decider that went not just one OT, but two. And it almost went to three if Ranidel de Ocampo hadn’t interceded.

rdo
By the way, Talk N’ Text beat Rain or Shine, 121-119, to wrap up their PBA Finals series, four games to three. De Ocampo explodes with a career finals best 34 points including five straight in one key stretch in second OT that sealed the deal. Castro also played well. He toyed with a triple-double and perhaps finished with one. Ivan Johnson brought hell and won the war of attrition that Yeng Guiao and the Elasto Painters brought to him. Harvey Carey didn’t pad the stats that much but the intangibles he brought was MVP-like. Larry Fonacier made some key shots also. Jong Uichico is back to his championship winning ways.
So congrats Talk N’ Text.

tiu
Congrats also to Rain or Shine, which lost the series but ended up winning hearts, including yours truly. Wayne Chism made it a series and would have added another trophy–Finals MVP–to his cabinet next to his Best Import plum if his team had won. Paul Lee is Paul Lee, of course. Chris Tiu had his moments. Jeff Chan too before he got injured. Raymond Almazan owned Game Six. Jireh Ibanes and JR Quinahan lost some money to fines with their antics but, lets admit it, they spiced up the series. Beau Belga is conspicuously kind in this series. Jericho Cruz should be a household name after this. Who would not thank Yeng Guiao and his fire-breathing mouth?
And this, my friends, were what made this Game Seven a classic.
Or we can call it a Game Seven for the ages.

P.S.

Congrats to my boy for winning his first ever PBA title.

kev

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

pba

(Photos courtesy of Kevin Alas, PBA and Rivals.ph)

No Mercy

Rizal Memorial Coliseum
April 29, 2015
No Mercy
We love basketball.
I love it. You love it. Filipinos love it.
So when we send our national team, which we all have grown used to calling Gilas Pilipinas, to do battle in the international stage, our expectations should always be sky high. Especially now that we’re at a point that our teams are making it to the worlds, not just the Asian stage, in impressive regularity. I mean you probably know that our beloved Gilas made it to the World Cup in Spain and stared eye to eye with the best of them. Our Batang Gilas too. We also have a our three-on-three teams playing ball against the best the planet can offer. Heck, we have a world under-18 slam dunk champion in Kobe Paras.
Pardon Gilas coach Tab Baldwin, the Philippine Basketball Associaton and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas if they decided to send a team of college players plus an insurance in Marcus Douthit instead of an all-pro team to the 11th Southeast Asian Basketball Association Championship in Singapore. We mean no disrespect to our SEA neighbors. It’s just the big boys are busy right now.
But make no mistake about it, our boys–Kiefer Ravena, Ray Parks, Earl Scottie Thompson, Mac Belo, Jio Jalalon, Kevin Ferrer, Glenn Khobuntin, Troy Rosario, Almond Vosotros, Russel Escoto and Norbert Torres–will get the same result. They will not only get one of the three slots in the FIBA-Asia Championship this year and win SEABA, they’re there to win the SEABA by a mile.
And so far, our Gilas cadet team is doing it right by bringing the basketball apoclapyse straight Singapore with a pair of devastating victories–a 92-36 rout of Indonesia and a 124-37 destruction of Laos.
Malaysia and Singapore, you’re next.
We’re asking your forgiveness in advance. But mark our words, we will accord you respect by playing our game and decimate you both. You accorded us the same respect in football, your sport, so we’re doing it to you in the sport that we Filipinos consider a religion–basketball.
So guys, search and destroy.
P.S.
Thank you Indonesia for giving Mary Jane Veloso a chance.
Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar
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(Photo courtesy of abs-cbn sports)

Zugzwang

Luneta Chess Club
April 13, 2015
Zugzwang

What is happening with Wesley So?
First, he’s on top of the world after zooming to as high as No. 5 to start the US Chess Championships in Saint Louis, Missouri. After that six-move, ninth round forfeiture loss to GM Varuzhan Akobian, So has quickly fallen. Perhaps in quicksand. And sinking deeper. He has responded by winning his last two games against GMs Gata Kamsky and Kayden W Troff to salvage a third place finish.
But his most important battle on the personal front remains.
It has come into the open that Elanor So, Wesley’s mother, and Lotis Key-Kabigting, the one who is claiming to be his foster parent, are waging a war for control of the 21-year-old Wesley. Whoever wins, get’s Wesley. Including his assets.
And I will just post the stories that came out at chessdailynews.com and chessdom.com concerning about the raging So tug-of-war and let you decide on it.
Read on:

WESLEY SO’S MOTHER SPEAKS OUT

Wesley So and Leny So

Interview with Leny So, Wesley’s So Mother, by Chessdom – The agreement is that the interview would only be published after the start of the final round not to distract Wesley’s play.

Wesley So was forfeited in round nine of the 2015 U.S. Chess Championship for making notes on the paper under his scoresheet.

The arbiter’s decision has caused an avalanche of comments on the social networks.

Mike Klein, who is present at the event in Saint Louis, hasposted a useful timeline of the facts.

But an article in Star Tribune sparked further controversy:

“As the shock over the forfeit reverberated at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, the Minnetonka family that So lives with said it was time to explain publicly what has been behind his poor performance in the event.”

Daaim Shabazz of @thechessdrum posted: “Paul Truong speaks out on the So incident”

Chessdom.com contacted Wesley’s mother Eleanor So to learn more than just what has been behind his performance in the event.

Chessdom: Thank you for taking your time under stressful circumstance to clarify what took place. In the past 24 hours, you are being accused by a Lotis Key of sabotaging your son Wesley So’s chess career. Is that true?

Leny So: First, let me say that I had not agreed to do any interview so far because I wanted to protect my son. I love him and nothing changed that. But now that my family and I are being smeared by Lotis Key in the media, I have no choice but to set the record straight. I am confident that your readers will understand the whole truth after this.

Wesley So, Leny So, and Susan So Leonard

Please let me start from the beginning. After Millionaire Chess, Lotis Key and her family drove to St Louis to visit my son. She took my son out of school to stay with her for nearly a week in a rented place.

As a student on a chess scholarship, he had obligations with the chess program, even during the winter break. He did not have permission to leave school and ignored his obligations. He lost his chess scholarship.

At the period that Lotis became involved with my son, his behavior changed. He became cold and distant to his friends and family. For the first time, he did not even call or wrote me on my birthday. This is not like him at all.

But the worst came late in January 2015 during Tata Steel Chess, when my husband got into a very serious accident. His life could have ended. But I did not tell Wesley because I did not want to disturb his tournament.

William So-001

I waited until after the tournament. He did not offer to fly to Toronto to visit his father. He showed very little concern. He instead went with Lotis and her family to Manila. There was a big incident there which I just recently found out but that is for another day. All he could talk about is to take all the money which he asked us to keep for him under his name in Canada and transfer it to Minnesota. I could not freely talk to my son anymore.

My family and I discussed this matter at length and we decided since someone is blocking us access to our own son, we had to try to see him in person to help him.

After many weeks of discussing this in the family, I asked my sister in law to accompany me on the trip to visit Wesley in St. Louis. She is the sister of my husband, and Wesley was also very close to her. This is the only tournament in the near future for Wesley in the US.

We contacted Mr. Paul Truong, former coach of Wesley at Webster University, about the US Championship since it is held in St. Louis. He told us that he did not know the exact details of the US Championship and he has not spoken to Wesley since after Wesley left St. Louis in October.

But he gave us the official link www.uschesschamps.com. We got all the information from that website and booked our trip accordingly.

I also asked that while in St. Louis, can my sister in law and I visit SPICE and Webster University, the place which helped my son went from #98 in the world to the top 10. Mr. Truong graciously said of course, but his time is very limited since 3 of his students are competing in the US Championships and he has to help them.

When we arrived to St. Louis, we met Wesley the night before the Opening Ceremony. He was very happy to see us. The only person who looked not happy was Lotis Key. She was visibly upset when she saw me and my sister in-law.

Leny So & Wesley So

Here are some important facts:

Fact 1.

This woman is claiming that I am sabotaging my son. Please think about the logic of this. I am a mother, I have no reason to want to sabotage my son. More importantly, for the entirety of Wesley’s career, I have never done a move that sabotaged or harmed him. On the contrary, I have always helped him pack his bags, arranged his tournaments, do his taxes, etc.

Anyone can judge from a long past record that I have never been a stage mom who interfered with my son’s career. Why would I start sabotaging my son now? There is no motivation for sabotage. There is no past behavior for sabotage. More importantly, there is not even a shred of proof for a supposed sabotage.

While on the contrary, by making this accusation, this woman is implying that she is protecting my son from a ‘sabotage’ from us. Now I have to ask myself: what kind of behavior is this woman manifesting by labeling Wesley’s mere contact with his mother and aunt through visitation a ‘sabotage’? What motivation could this woman have, for being someone he only met in September 2013, to suddenly spend so much of her time by Wesley’s side and being so ‘protective’ of his ‘welfare’? Perhaps further facts below will help explain this.

Fact 2.

Wesley met Lotis Key and her family again after winning first prize and monetary award in the Millionaire’s Chess Competition, and right after, he started actively exhibiting behavior that led to the revocation of his university scholarship and surprising, sudden transfer of residence with Lotis Key’s family in Minnesota.

Specifically, he left school without permission, ignored his contractual obligations with the university chess team, and refused to meet with his coaches to discuss his issues.

During this period, Lotis Key also sent me and my son emails saying that I was ‘emotionally blackmailing’ my son because I encouraged my son to stay in school, or at least discuss his issues with his coaches, friends, or university officials before making a final, life-changing discussion.

She labeled it as an issue of an independent young man who is not allowed to ‘make his own decisions’ for ‘his needs’, who is being ‘crushed’ because we are ‘forcing him to fulfill (our) dreams’.

Let me reiterate that I have never been a stage mom who pushed Wesley to pursue chess. Merely a mom who encouraged him to open a dialogue explaining to us why he wanted to leave a promising education, in a world where a college degree is recognized as necessary. We did not do this in a forceful manner and we have all the emails.

In any case, this argument is moot, as the person supposedly helping Wesley pursue independence accompanies him everywhere, sleeps in his own hotel room, involves herself in the minutiae of his affairs.

Fact 3.

Lotis Key started claiming on several media articles that she was Wesley’s Mother, not mother-in-law, or some kind of invented mother title. Mother! It is already curious that this woman should suddenly be so central to Wesley’s media appearances in the first place.

Yet even Filipino journalists who knew Wesley’s real parents started to circulate the false information to the world: Eliseo Tumbaga: “…Wesley’s Mom told the senators that if ever he gets the financial incentives that he expected to get from the Philippine Sports Commission for winning the gold at the Universiade…”

It was mentioned in other places that Lotis’ husband is Wesley’s father.

Various organizers were told that Lotis Key is his Mom. A number of chess players were also told that she is his Mom. Many people were very confused as they knew who I was. I felt that my identity was stolen.

When Wesley went to the Philippine Senate to be personally recognized for his gold medals, this woman did not inform us. Yet she posed in the pictures with the Senate with him in the place of recognition. There was no explanation provided as to what capacity she is serving to deserve his media spotlight. There is no contract that stipulates her as his manager, or any professional capacity.

More concerning, at the U.S. championship, Lotis stayed in the same room with my son, the room which was provided by the organizer, and he was not even allowed to have his own key to his own room.

Fact 4.

Wesley’s aunt, whom he has long held in high regard, and I went to visit him in his US Championship because we were really troubled by the seriousness of the situation. Upon our arrival, Wesley happily met us before the Opening Ceremony and won his first two games.

There was absolutely no issue. For more hard proof, we also attach here pictures showing me, his aunt and Wesley. You can clearly see how happy Wesley was.

Leny So and Wesley So

After his first game, we invited Wesley to spend a few hours of alone time with me and his aunt. We asked him how he is doing. He said that he missed us. We told him that we care for him and worried about his welfare. We came with an open mind, but all observations, there is something wrong. This is not about school. We understand about him going professional and we support it.

Wesley So, Leny So, Susan So Leonard at Opening Ceremony

Fact 5.

Clearly after the next day, he changed completely. I asked him after he won in round 2 if we can have 30 minutes with him because we are going home on Saturday.

He said he is busy, and said he sent me an email about bank info in Canada. I was calling him but ignored me. Lotis told him something like he needed to be back to his room, and they walked hurriedly, leaving us behind.

The next day, we were banned from the playing venue by Ms. Joy (St. Louis Chess Club) and Ms. Jean (USCF), as per instructed of Wes.

Wesley So & Leny So

Fact 6.

For years, Wesley always entrusted his savings with his dad, which were all in Canadian bank, excluding his latest earnings starting winnings in Millionaire’s chess.

On April 7, 2015, I received an email saying, “Give me all my bank information, my savings, and all the investment that you made there.” I simply told him to come to Canada.

I then received 3 emails which are very disturbing. Wesley has never used this kind of language to me before.

What is even more disturbing is the last 2 emails came at the time when Wesley was still playing his games. This clearly shows that Lotis was purposely trying to drive a bigger wedge between my son and I.

“From: GMWSO <gmwso@xxxxxx>

Date: Tue, Apr 7, 2015 at 10:36 PM

Subject: Re: Bank Details in Canada

To: ELEANOR SO <soeleanor23@xxxxxx>

Dear Leny,

You must be f…cking happy that I am losing all my games here in the US Championships. You ruined my tournament and you only care about yourself. I don’t ever want to see you on any of my tournaments again….

PUTANG INA KA TALAGA. I PUT THE BLAME ON YOU FOR RUINING THIS F…CKING TOURNAMENT.

Wesley

From: GMWSO <gmwso@xxxxxx>

Date: Wed, Apr 8, 2015 at 3:03 PM

Subject:

To: ELEANOR SO <soeleanor23@xxxxxx>

You know, F…CK YOU …. for ruining my tournament….PUTANG INA. You are the most worthless mother I know.

From: GMWSO <gmwso@xxxxxxx>

Date: Wed, Apr 8, 2015 at 4:54 PM

Subject:

To: ELEANOR SO <soeleanor23@xxxxxxx>

And you know you better not steal my money in Canada. I don’t care nawalangkwenta kayo ni William namagulang, just give me back ALL my savings. MAGNANAKAW”

Fact 7:

Lotis Key’s argument to separate Wesley from his family is to say that we should respect that Wesley is now 21, he now has a right to be independent, and thus to refuse contact from his family, leave school, and take his money if that is his decision.

We are not arguing that a 21-year-old man should not make his own decisions and be independent. We are very, very worried that someone is making his wrong decisions for him, and putting the words and actions in his mouth for him to claim as his own, like a mouthpiece.

We are strongly concerned because, despite Lotis Key saying that all her actions are for Wesley’s welfare and help him carve out the independence he wants, she sleeps in his own hotel room. She creates and manages his personal website, wesleyso.com, and made him transfer to a new email account hosted by her same host.

She accompanied him to the Netherlands, the Philippines, and Ireland. She took his previous trophies in the Philippines from his previous supporter, who held them for safekeeping, and packed them over to her own house, without telling his family.

Furthermore, she personally told us, when enumerating all the benefits that Wesley got form her, that she has to accompany him 24/7, that she takes care of all his social media—meaning Wesley doesn’t interact personally when messaging in his internet, that she takes care of all his diet, his clothing, and helps him prepare to look like a champion.

Does this look like independence? No.

It is very scary for all of us, especially my husband and I. We see the transformation of our son, a strong independent young man, to now needing someone to comb his hair, dress him, feed him, and a becoming a dependent zombie.

Isolating him from his friends, former coach, and from his own family is very strange. We are at the end of our rope and don’t know how to proceed.

This pattern of what Wesley is facing now is similar to Bobby Fischer in Pasadena. We all know what happened to Bobby Fischer after Pasadena. He was never the same. It scared us even more after what Lotis wrote publicly:

“Bobby Fischer lived in my older sister’s house in Pasadena. There is no mystery to Wesley wanting to live with us. He is a good fit here, as we all enjoy each other’s company.”

Chessdom: Very sorry to hear all of this. Hope you can resolve all the problems.

Leny So: Thank you. I have done everything to protect my son. But my heart broke to think that he has changed in such a short period of time and I worry for him.

To be fair, let me also post a response by a Facebook site claiming to be Wesley So. Assuming this is really him.

Here it is:

Let me state right at the top of this that I write my own emails and NO ONE controls my communication, or when and how I choose to communicate. I am not cut off, isolated, drugged, in bondage or kidnapped. I do not belong to anyone but God. I am a man who wishes to be let alone to find his own life.

Leny So, I was NOT HAPPY that you suddenly showed up in my life, unannounced, at the biggest tournament of the year, and that you came with Susan Leonard whom I hardly know. In the last six years I’ve only see you once a year for about a week, I hardly know you either. And you certainly don’t know me to even suggest that I am anyone’s personal zombie.

All your statements to Chessdom are sad, ridiculous and completely untrue. You exposed my emails? Should I send out a few of the many you’ve sent me over the years where you call me putang ina mo (kinda funny that) and threaten me with being cut off from the So family forever if I do not do what you want?

Photos can lie and those do. I was desperately trying to be nice hoping you and Susan would leave more quickly. I see it was a mistake. Lotis even invited you to come to Minnesota to talk to me there, not here. What was your answer to her? You asked if she was going to pay for it.

I am uncomfortable around you. You want me to respect you but you have never respected me. You left me when I was sixteen, telling me to become a man and find my life. Well I have found it, you just don’t like it.

For your information it was not the Key family who wanted to go to the media. It was me who pushed them to speak out for me because I was going crazy with anger, after you revealed to us your involvement with Paul Truong (come on, you know you told me right here in my room that he had given you my flight information, arrival time and room number). You insisted that was all it was and you never met him or saw him. Yet right there on Chessdom are pictures of you posing at Webster.

Calling your room to check if you had left yet, the operator would not give me the information unless I gave them the name of the person in the room. I tried your name. No. I tried Susan’s name. No. Then I guessed Paul Truong and yup, the operator told me that was the name on the credit card. She even spelled it out for me.

That was when I had you banned from the Chess Club because you were lying to me from the moment you said hello. The stress of finding out your betrayal ruined my tournament.

Screaming curses at me in the street, grabbing my arms and trying to drag me along with you? Humiliating me in public? Your way of showing love? And you think it strange that I ask people I trust to be with me all the time? I ask the Key family to accompany me to tournaments to help me. It does not isolate me, it protects me.

Stop blaming our terrible family relationship on the innocent family that has provided me with help and support. They took me in when I needed someone and have worked hard to guide and nurture me. They take nothing at all from me and you know that. They are always there for me helping me at great inconvenience to their own lives, and instead of thanking them you have maligned and smeared them to make yourself look like a loving, concerned mother. Lotis was always advising me to try and repair my relationship with you and I could never explain why I just can’t. At least now she can see it for herself.

So how about my bank account numbers please? You know? My life savings you said were keeping for me when I was a minor? I have already contacted Royal Bank of Canada, and strangely, the bulk of my savings is not there. Want to explain that publicly?

And those furious emails I sent you were certainly not written during match times because I wrote them myself, here in my hotel room. The Key family never even saw, or knew about them.

Wesley So

Sportsmaryosep’s Prognosis: People are saying that the issue sabotaged So’s US Championship bid. But I say, the tragedy is more on why Wesley So is acting like this. It’s beyond me why anyone could tell that to a mother. It sickens me more that Wesley is making everyone know his supposed hatred to his mother and family? This is, of course, assuming it is really Wesley who is posting these comments. But I doubt it. I have known Wesley before he became what he is now. He will not stoop that low. I know, people change, but did Wesley turn this evil? The explanation of Leny So make sense to me. No mother in his right mind would do this to his son. That, I firmly believe. She is not heartless. But I couldn’t say that to other side. Wesley is trapped, ladies and gentlemen. But it is my fervent hope that Wesley finds a way out of this bind.

Or he can just say goodbye to his dreams.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

(All photos here are from chessdom.com and chessdailynews.com)

Validating Valdez

The Arena, San Juan
April 12, 2015
Validating Valdez

The dark ages in Philippine volleyball is almost coming to an end.
And collegiate superstar Alyssa Valdez is at the forefront of it.
Valdez is expected to be named as the country’s flag-bearer in the 28th Southeast Asian Games set June 5-16 in Singapore. And no athlete is more fitting than Valdez herself, who is now the face of the sport that is starting to come out of the rut after a decade-long stupor. Wrote about it at The Philippine STAR and Philstar.com here: http://www.philstar.com/sports/2015/04/11/1442617/volleyballs-valdez-seag-flag-bearer

It is not the question of why Valdez will be chosen. It’s why she shouldn’t be.
And why not?

aly1
Valdez, the back-to-back UAAP MVP who led the Ateneo Lady Eagles to back-to-back championships, is the unifying force when she agreed without batting an eyelash to join the national team doing battle in the Asian Under-23 Championship the country will host this May and the SEAG. And that SEAG squad will mark the first time the country will play in the biennial meet after a decade of lack of representation. I’m not saying the other players don’t deserve it. They all deserve it. Rachel Ann Daquis. Aby Marano. Gretchel Soltones. Jaja Santiago. Dindin Santiago-Manabat and the rest. All of them deserve it.
But Valdez should be the one.

aly2
There were some small voice in the wilderness though. Like arguments that the flag-bearer should be at least a medallist in recent international competitions. Like wushu star Daniel Parantac. But the measure of a flag-bearer is not about the golds won or victories garnered. It is about being a great example and an inspiration to many.
And these, my friends, are what have been setting Valdez apart.
Her validation.

P.S.
The one who compared Valdez’ strength to inter-barangay levels must have scurried away into the abyss after watching her fire a match-best 19 hits in PLDT’s utter destruction of Army, the defending Shakey’s V-League Open Conference champion. Mouth shut, I guess.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

aly

(Special thanks to the Tiebreaker Times for the superb photos)

So Many Questions

San Mateo Chess Club

April 12, 2015

So Many Questions

When you lose a game in just six moves via forfeiture in a top caliber tournament like the US Chess Championships, there is something wrong with that person.

That is what’s happening with Grandmaster Wesley So, who on early Saturday (Philippine time) found his ninth round game against GM Varuzhan Akobian forfeited after failing to heed the warning of the tournament arbiters and repeatedly scribbled “motivational advice” on his scoresheet and a separate paper. It was So’s fourth defeat of the tournament against four wins and a draw for 4.5 points, a full two points clear off the pace. Whatever happens in his last two outings, it will be an utterly disappointing performance for a player who came into the Category 16 tournament as the second highest ranked player behind US No. 1 GM Hikaru Nakamura. Now, So is losing rating points as if it’s a taxi meter here in Manila–fast and costly. To date, So has lost 18 rating points and has dropped to No. 9 in the world. He if he can’t put a stop to his free fall, he’ll sink into the abyss even further.

So later apologized for his actions saying “I did not know it was against the rules.” We will not dwell on whether or not the punishment is justified, but as to what is really happening to So.

And so what is the problem, really?

Some say it’s burnout after participating in so many tournaments–most of it he won–that catapulted him from at the bottom of the Top 100 to as high as No. 5 in the world just a week ago.

Later, it was found out that all his problems were rooted to family matters.

We will extract some quotes from a story from chess24, one of the more popular chess sites today. And here it is:

Well, some of the background was revealed in an article in the Star Tribune, where Wesley So is quoted as saying after the forfeit:

“There are personal problems in my family. Trying to fix them during this tournament caused a lot of stress and tension. It diverted a lot of energy from the board when I should be focusing on my game.”

As we mentioned in our Round 1 report, since dropping out of university Wesley So has been living with a family in the small town of Minnetonka, 8.5 hours’ drive north of St. Louis. Wesley’s mother, Leny So, has previously gone on record to express dismay at her son’s choice:

“Unfortunately, there were poor advices given to Wesley which is not to our liking. I have a negative feeling as a mother that this is a very huge mistake on Wesley. It hurts me terribly.”

It seems she now came to St. Louis to try and change Wesley’s mind, with the Star Tribune citing Lotis Key, the mother of the family that took him in:

“So’s mother and aunt came to St. Louis and contacted So minutes after his arrival at a hotel. Key said they began, in strident encounters over the course of several days, to insist that he return to college or face losing complete contact with his family, including his sisters. At one point, So’s mother and aunt confronted him outside the chess club after his game, trying to grab his arm and yelling at him when he wouldn’t go with them to talk, according to Key and So. That led to an apology by So to the club for the scene, and a request that the mother and aunt be banned from the tournament site.”

Key also suggests tension with Paul Truong, Susan Polgar’s husband and the Marketing and PR Director of the Webster University chess program, after So believed Truong had helped reserve a hotel room for his mother:

Key and So said the former coach, Paul Truong, was angry over losing one of the world’s top players from his team when So left Webster. “Wesley fell apart after that, knowing that his own biological family was working with his worst enemy,” Key said. “Paul will never forgive Wesley for leaving Webster.”

Truong denied any active role in the appearance of Wesley’s mother at the tournament:

Truong acknowledged that he had e-mail contact with So’s mother about a month before the tournament in which “she asked me if she could come down.” He said he replied that the tournament was open to anyone to watch. But he denied reserving a room or otherwise engineering their trip, saying that Key’s allegations are “absolutely 100 percent false” and that Key is manufacturing excuses for So’s losses.

In the context of the above it’s no surprise to find So himself commenting:

“Nothing is going right for me in this tournament. I’ll be glad when it’s over… There’ll be other U.S. championships. My goal for next year will be to win it.”

Sportsmaryosep’s prognosis: The chess24 story left us with more questions than answers like why was So’s mother, Lenny, not interviewed? It would have been interesting to hear her side of the story. I’m also intrigued by Lotis Key’s accusation that Truong had a hand in the issue. I mean let’s say, for the sake of argument, that he has. But Leny So? For heaven’s sake, she’s Wesley’s mother. Why would a mother want to harass Wesley? Mothers want the best for their child or children. I know, I know. Wes is in the right age to decide for himself. But your mother? Why would Wesley ban his mother from the tournament? Everything is discomfiting, to tell you all honestly. I mean, it pained me still that Wesley abandoned representing the Philippines in favor of the US. I was also a little uncomfortable that he gave up his education at Webster University. Now this. It made me feel that Wesley jumped from the frying pan and into the oven. I just hope Wesley finds a way to get out of this convoluted tangle and the mess he created. For his sake.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

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(Photo courtesy of Lennart Ootes of chess24)

Araw ng Kagitingan

Blue Eagle Gym
April 9, 2015
Araw ng Kagitingan

Today is a special day.
It is a day of valor, the day we commemorate the fall of Bataan during World War II. Bravery. Courage under fire. Patriotism. Love for country. Soldiers and their gallantry. You and I. Our Philippines.
Fittingly, it is the day after young brave souls showed up at this parquet floor of the Blue Eagle Gym in Loyola, Quezon City and answered the call. Nevermind the obstacles and some forces, both known and unknown, who are trying to stop them. They just came to serve, mindless of anything.Ready to do battle.
Like foot soldiers.
Alyssa Valdez. Jia Morado. Ria Meneses. EJ Laure. Bea de Leon. Gretchel Soltones. Ma. Asuncion Mendiola. Alyssa Eroa. Elaine Kasilag. And yes, even Aby Marano came. Oh bless their hearts. National team coach Roger Gorayeb, who just arrived the night before from Thailand, was also there along with Ateneo mentor Tai Bundit. And to the men’s team too under Oliver Almandro’s watch.

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And more are coming. CJ Rosario. Myla Pablo.
Santiago sisters Jaja and Dindin will come. Despite the alleged threats.
Some tried to but didn’t make it.
Two of them were Rhea Dimaculangan and Maika Ortiz. A pair of kindred hearts with an ultimate goal to serve the country. That’s why joined the military. Sadly, it was not to be. They tried though. Or at least the Larong Volleyball ng Pilipinas, Inc. did. We learned earlier that the LVPI’s request for Dimaculangan and Ortiz to allow them to represent the country was turned down by LTC Alberto P. Masuda of the Philippine Air Force (GSC).The reason was Dimaculangan and Ortiz are undergoing basic military training. Isn’t ironic? Soldiers, turning down the chance to fight the country’s battle? Only it is on a different arena? Worry not sir, we won’t take it against you. Nor judge you. Who are us to judge you? In the end, it’s your call, sir.

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But remember, history will judge us all.
And so it was done. We have something we can call our team. Not any funny-sounding names. Just Philippines or Pilipinas. Our nation.
So we’ll take a bow. To these valiant people. For taking a stand.
Today is indeed a very special day.
A glorious one.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

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(Photos courtesy of Volleyball Ph Photo Albums)