I was never a follower of chess except for the short period where I met the CEO of FIDE in 2012, Geoff Burg. Before that, my only exposure with chess was watching my uncle play until the wee hours of the night whenever we had family affairs. When I met Geoff, I was instantly attracted to his beautiful mind (and sexy accent) and I gave chess a try. He even encouraged me to go to Norway to be with the Palau Women’s Team. Anyway, I was not able to join because I was about to go back to the Philippines then. I did not join the qualifying competition as well. I don’t know if I would ever have made the team if I tried to.
That was how I became familiar to the world of chess. I learned Kasparov and Carlsen and a lot of other top players’ names. Wesley So, I was familiar with because every once in a while, his name would be mentioned in the news whenever he wins a tournament abroad. Yes, only when he wins a tournament ABROAD. Apparently, for the Filipinos, the wins are only big when they are won abroad.
Wesley eventually decided to join the USA team and ditch his Philippine team. All of a sudden, the Philippines got clingy with him. They did not want to release him. If my knowledge is correct, he did not join a tournament for a year because the Philippines would not let him go. Only by not playing for a year would he be able to transfer.
Fast forward to 2017. So is now ranked as world #2. He is undefeated in his last 56 games. Then I read an article from abscbn.com which was titled, “The Filipinos Loss Is the Americans Gain.” I was appalled by this statement:
In an article about So posted on the Star Tribune on Monday, the writer never mentioned he is a Filipino. Or was. And this is where the debate begins.
So has been playing for the United States Chess Federation since 2014, but he remains a Philippine passport holder.
The article did not mention that he is a Filipino because it is not important to them. It is not important to anyone at all (except for the Filipinos). Why do we love to claim the success of others when we have got nothing to do with their success anyway? Did the Philippines give him a scholarship to anything? Did they support him in any way? Now, all of a sudden, they would feel “betrayed” by someone who is only aiming to reach his full potential. Had he stayed in the Philippines, he would not have that opportunity of becoming a champion. We have very limited resources, little support. This is not like boxing where you have to slug it out. Philippines is a good venue for that because we can train even on the streets. Chess is different. The training, the discipline. It is a battle of minds. Where will Wesley find his equal in the Philippines for training when at a very young age, he is already above everyone else?
So please, just be happy for him and stop pushing that nationality issue to him. In telenovela speak, WALA KANG KARAPATAN!