|The Metro Chess Interview with GM Wesley So|
|By Kostya Kavutskiy|
|March 25, 2015|
GM Wesley So's rise
to elite status was quite remarkable. After achieving a rating of 2719 in
January 2014, he had a string of successes in 2014 and tied for second at the
2015 Tata Steel tournament to reach 2788 and establish himself in the world top
Despite an intense tournament schedule, including the US Championship coming up next week, Wesley So will be the head instructor in the upcoming Metropolitan and ACA summer chess camp.
The camp will be held from July 22-26 at the Hilton Glendale, in Glendale, California, and joining Wesley will be several top scholastic coaches, including GM Melik Khachiyan, GM Dejan Bojkov, IM Armen Ambartsoumian, IM Andranik Matikozyan, IM-elect Tatev Abrahamyan, FM Aviv Friedman, and Jay Stallings.
Metropolitan Chess sent Wesley a list of questions about his chess development and rise to elite status, with his answers below
Met Chess (MC): Can you tell us a little bit about playing chess while growing up in the Philippines?
Wesley So (WS): There are many good chess players in the Philippines, it's a popular and natural game for Filipinos, but unfortunately there is no regular and comprehensive support for their development. Any improvement happens more in a grassroots way where a player raises his own support from friends and family, or maybe a private person who has money contributes to help promising kids.
MC: How did you train in your youth? Did you have a private coach or attend a chess club/school?
WS: I trained mostly on my own or played with friends. Neither. My family did not have the money for anything like that.
MC: Did you have any favorite chess books growing up?
WS: Chess books are not only expensive in the Philippines, they are hard to get. Sometimes I could borrow one from people who traveled abroad, brought back books and loaned them to friends. This was how I read Bobby Fischer's My 60 Memorable Games. I enjoyed that a lot and Kasparov's My Great Predecessors.
MC: You became a Grandmaster at the incredibly young age of 14, what do you think is the reason you developed as a chess player so quickly?
WS: God given talent. God given breaks.
MC: Have you ever had any slumps in your chess career, and if so how did you manage to break free?
WS: Yes, I had a two year slump. I had developed bad habits that distracted me, hanging out with the wrong people, etc. I stagnated and then one I day woke up and decided I had to do something because I was wasting my life.
MC: You've made fantastic progress in the past year, winning several strong tournaments in 2014 (Capablanca Memorial, ACP Golden Classic, 1st Millionaire Chess Open) while also tying for 2nd place in the 2015 Tata Steel super-tournament, raising your rating to nearly 2800. What sort of training did you do to elevate your level of play?
WS: I renewed my focus by realizing that what I wanted to do was play great chess. I wanted the opportunity to test myself and see I could really go all the way. That meant allowing myself more time to attend and prepare for tournaments. In the past I sometimes had to play when tired and distracted and unhealthy. I started a move to change that in 2014.
MC: You've stated that your next major goal is to break 2800 and join the top-five in the world. What do you think you'll need to do in order to succeed?
WS: Work harder. Focus harder. Believe harder.
MC: What advice would you give to young chess players hoping to reach the GM level one day?
WS: Do you believe you have talent? Decide what you want to do and then go for it. Commit yourself. Turn off the internet, the television, your phone, and all social media addictions and distractions. Take care of your body, your mind and your soul. Even with great sacrifice there are no guarantees you'll make it to the top but without sacrifice, it's a sure thing you won't.
Follow along Wesley So's progress in the US Championship next week and find IM Greg Shahade's predictions on the event here. Also see Wesley's bio on uschess here.
For more information about the camp, please visit www.metrochessla.com/camp2015, and be sure to follow Metropolitan Chess on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/metrochess and Twitter: www.twitter.com/metrochess