By Bert Eljera
LAS VEGAS – Wesley So will sit out another year after the Philippines’ top chess player failed to secure a release from the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP), the country ruling chess body.
Rated No. 12 in the world, So will be banned from competing in FIDE-sanctioned tournaments, including the World Cup, World Team championships, and World Championships, where he hoped to make his mark.
Despite meeting with Butch Pichay Jr., the NCFP chief in the Chess Olympiad in Tromso, Norway, and pleading his case, So could not secure his transfer to the US chess federation.
A year ago, he started playing for Webster University in the United States, and his coaches, Susan Polgar and Paul Troung convinced him to move to the United States to gain more sophisticated training and more opportunity to compete in world-class tournaments.
Troung, who accompanied So to the meeting with Pichay said that despite sitting out, So will be stronger and more motivated.
” He will continue to grow, on and off the chess board,: Troung said in a Facebook posting. “He is such a good person and it is too bad that some chess politicians care more about their personal and political interests than to help Wesley reach his goals.”
So’s situation is rather complicated. Considered one of the country’s top athletes, he receives a monthly stipend of 40,000 pesos from the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC)
In addition, the NCFP receives yearly subsidy from the PSC, and some say the NCFP will lose this annual allotment if it lets its top athlete go.
But in a statement, Richie Garcia, head of the PSC, said he wishes So good luck in his transfer.
“Even if he finally decides to switch from the NCFP to the USCF, he will always be Filipino,” Garcia said.
He added that the PSC will not stop its subsidy of P15-million a year to the NCFP, one of the highest given to any NSA, if So is released.
For the Philippine team that competed in the Norway Chess Olympiad, the PSC provided P1.9 million in budget, Garcia said.
In the Norway meeting with the NCFP officils, Truong said that So never had chance and the decision not to release him has already been done.
“The door was never open,” Truong said. “The meeting was never meant to resolve anything. He is fighting this battle to help some of his colleagues and future talents in the Philippines.
So, who coached the US team that placed 14th in the Chess Olympiad, can still compete in other tournments, such as the NCAA, but his inability to participate in FIDE tournaments will kill his chances of moving forward in the world rankings.