LAS VEGAS – Grandmaster Wesley So scored two quick victories to sprint into the lead in the 24th North American Open at the Bally Casino Resort, his first competition since deciding to turn full-time chess professional. The 21-year-old So, who decided to drop out of college to concentrate on chess, made short works of his opponent to stamp his class in the five-day, 9-round Swiss system competition in which he is the top seed. Playing the black pieces, he defeated FM Ali Morshedi of the US, in 37 moves of a Sicilian Defense in the first round, and came back with the white pieces to beat another American, IM John Bryant. in 41 moves of a Modern Benoni in the second round. With the twin victories, So took the lead with several others in the chase for the $10,000 first prize in the Open section, a far cry of the $100,000 he won in the Millionaire Chess tournament in the nearby Planet Hotel & Casino in October. So gained 0.8 point from each of his two wins, boosting his live rating to 2763.6, a new personal best, and he remained No.10 in the world. He shares the lead with 13 other players, each with two points after two rounds. Grandmasters Enrico Sevillano and Julio Becerra, IM Ricky de Guzman, and FM Joel Banawa have 1.5 point seach. The Las Vegas stop is a tune-up for So for the Tata Steel super-tournament, starting Jan. 9 in Wijk aan Zee, in the Netherlands, in which world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway, among others, will be competing. Another Filipino competing is Alekhine Nouri, a chess prodigy now based in California, and considered by many as the next great player from the Philippines. So, who left the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) in November 2013 to join the US chess federation, has decided to drop out Webster University in St. Louis, Missiouri, where he was taking a business course. His coaches there, Susan Polgar and Paul Truong, who have been credited for his rise in the world rankings, have only nice words for his departure, although there were some issues of the “timing” and its publication in a chess website. They said they supported the move, but even So’s mother, Leny So, who is based in Canada, questioned whether it was the right one at right time. “Wesley is an adult and he has made his choice. Unfortunately, we could easily imagine better choices, or better ways for him to have expressed his choice or brought it about, ” Lenny So said in an interview with Chessdom.com “All we can do as parents is to re-express our hope that he will make well-thought-out choices in the future, and display regard for their effects.” Mindful of his critics, including those back home,So said he hoped everyone will understand his decision. “I wish “concerned” people would stop insisting that “certain others” “advisors” or inhabitants of the evil empire, make my decisions, ” said So in a Facebook posting. “Do you understand that this is an insult to me? I am 21 years old and rise or fall, I make my own decisions.” He adds, “Will I succeed? Will I fail? No one knows the answer to that. I decided I want to play chess professionally. That means taking certain risks. I’m willing to take them.” The first test of that is here in Las Vegas. It will be the first tournament under the U.S. flag for the one-time prodigy from Cavite, now based in Minnesota.
Wesley So (GM) 2762 Xiangzhi Bu (GM) 2691 Varuzhan Akobian (GM) 2637 Sergey Erenburg (GM) 2601 Jianchao Zhou (GM) 2587 Mackenzie Molner (GM) 2522 Alex Yermolinsky (GM) 2519 Vladimir Georgiev (GM) 2517 Maxim Dlugy (GM) 2494 Nikola Mitkov (GM) 2482 Enrico M Sevillano (GM) 2465 Will file story today with pictures and quotes. 24th annual NORTH AMERICAN OPEN 26-30 December 2014 Bally’s Casino Resort, Las Vegas, Nevada