Wesley So is now officially a US citizen after a ceremony
last Friday in Minneapolis/Saint Paul. The reigning US Chess Champion and
Meltwater Champions Chess Tour leader called it, “literally a dream come true,”
and added, “I am now a part of the American Dream”. Wesley So, who was born in
the Philippines but has lived in the US since 2012, also welcomed the impending
transfer of Levon Aronian to the US, noting “having Levon around will push us
all to be stronger and fight harder!”
Wesley So was a chess prodigy who just before his 15th
birthday became the youngest player ever to cross the 2600 rating barrier. He couldn’t
keep up that incredible pace, but his decision in 2012 to accept a scholarship
and move to the US to study at Webster University in Saint Louis also gave a
boost to his chess. He crossed 2700 at the age of 19 and in November 2014, aged
21, he officially began to represent the USA in the same month he reached the
world Top 10 for the first time.
Off the board Wesley had turbulent early years in the US,
dropping out of university and finding adoptive parents who he moved to live
with in Minnetonka, but on the board he entered the elite of world chess.
Wesley reached world no. 2 and a 2822 rating, won the US Chess Championship in
2017 and now again in 2020, and crowned his first Olympiad for the USA with team
and individual gold.
Although Wesley has only one disappointing Candidates
Tournament to his name in the World Championship cycle, he crushed World
Champion Magnus Carlsen in the final of the 2019 FIDE Fischer Random World
Championship and has now beaten Magnus in two of the Meltwater Champions Chess
Tour finals to lead the Tour.
Anish Giri recently
Besides the fact that Magnus is World Champion there’s not
much evidence why he’s now stronger than Wesley So, for example, if you look at
the quality of games and the level. Wesley just played better, no?
Wesley didn’t need to be a US citizen to play for the US, but
he decided to take that step, with his new status confirmed in a ceremony on February
26 at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services office in St.
Paul/Minneapolis. US Chess reports that Wesley was then interviewed about his
motivation by Debbie Cannon. He calls the US the “land of opportunity” and says
things worked like a dream, before adding:
That does not mean I don’t love the Philippines. I have good
memories from there. But I did not have the connections needed to succeed in
that culture. I was from the province, not a city boy. Had no money etc. I
wanted to go further, and there was only one country a nobody can make it. The
The interview continues:
Why are you becoming
a U.S. citizen?
I want to give back to a country that has been so good to
me. From the moment I landed here I was encouraged and enabled to become better
than I was. I like this attitude and the tremendous generosity of American
culture. Most people here have no idea what it is like anywhere else in the
world, and they don’t appreciate the amazing spirit of this country. I have
competed in most countries of the world and I can say… I love it here!
How did you feel when
you became a U.S. citizen?
I got so hyper and excited I was talking kind of loud all
day. It was literally a dream come true. I am now a part of the American Dream.
I am part of the most successful country on earth, ready to make my own contribution
and have my own legacy here.
What will this mean
for your future in the field of chess?
Well, that I cannot say. Chess is a sport and like other
elite sports your efforts can go up and down for all sorts of reasons. I know I
will try my best to pay back what has been done for me. I plan to be a good
citizen and help others the way I was helped. God Bless America!
Wesley So’s citizenship comes at a time when another player
is making the headlines with a shock move to the US – Levon Aronian. The
38-year-old Armenian star is 20 years older than Wesley was when he moved to
Saint Louis, but Wesley felt it will still be tough for Levon: “I was once the
new guy and I know how hard it is to be that.” But Wesley has joined Fabiano
Caruana in welcoming Levon and the “serious competition” he’s going to bring.
That contrasts to Hikaru Nakamura, who described the switch
of Levon Aronian to the US as an “absolute disaster” for some of the other
players who might otherwise make the US team.
We can expect to see Wesley in action next on March 13th,
when the 4th event on the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour begins.