‘Just as I dreamed’: Philippine-born chess champion Wesley So becomes American citizen

Grandmaster Wesley So. Photo: US Chess Federation
Grandmaster Wesley So. Photo: US Chess Federation

Wesley So, one of the greatest chess athletes born in the Philippines, has formally switched sides: he has become a United States citizen.

A report published yesterday by the U.S. Chess Federation said So was naturalized on Feb. 26, nine years after he arrived in the States as a recruit for Webster University.

So, ranked No.9 in the world, decided to stop playing for the Philippines years ago after he found himself caught in the middle of warring forces in the country’s highly politicized sports scene. So said that formally switching allegiances does not mean he doesn’t love the land of his birth. But he said his lack of connections, and the fact that he lived in the rural area, made it hard for him to succeed in the Philippine chess scene.

Read: Chess grandmaster Wesley So stays on the top spot of Wijk standings

“[T]his is the land of opportunity,” he said about the U.S. “I love that anyone can strive to succeed. You are not held back by your color, lack of connections, or the amount of money you have. If you work hard, you have a better chance of making it here than anywhere else in the world. I came here ready to work hard, and it turned out just as I dreamed.”

The Minnesota resident added that he chose to become an American citizen to give back to the U.S., which has been “so good” to him.

“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,” he said.

“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!” So added.

So’s last big victory was in 2019 over Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, the world’s No.1, at the World Fischer Random Chess Championship.

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