A Father’s Day letter to Wesley So
June 22, 2015
Written by Ed Andaya
JUNE 21 is Father’s Day. The whole world celebrates it to honor that one special man in our life.
Although he is now celebrating it in heaven, my dad Bert is still lovingly remembered by all of us on this very special day.
And because of Father’s Day, we think about William So and his son, super GM Wesley So.
Yes, Wesley So. The new “Wonder Boy’ of chess. Once the Filipino pride and now the great American hope.
Let’s write a letter to GM So. Make it ‘urgent’. Also, ‘personal’.
I guess I go back with you as far as any other sportswriter.
You remember Halkidiki 2003? You were barely 10 years old when we and the other members of the Philippine chess team went to the island paradise in Greece to compete in the 2003 World Youth Chess Championships.
Although already a brilliant player, you were still many years away from being the player that we all know now. You were still like ‘a diamond in the rough’, as the late FIDE president Florencio Campomanes once told me.
I don’t know if you still remember Campomanes shouting at the top of his voice when he caught you and another child prodigy Karl Victor Ochoa giggling and teasing each other at the far end of the room while the FIDE head was giving his customary reminders to the players.
You remember Jan Jodilyn Fronda, also then a promising 10-year-old find, playfully exchanging jokes while you were both out of the playing hall.
You remember the early morning walks with your doting father William while we — and few other players and parents — explore beautiful Greece and its gorgeous people for more than two weeks.
There are many other good, old days to remember when you, Wesley So is not yet Wesley So.
You remember Tehran, Iran 2007 — your first Asian Cities Chess Team Championship — when walking around the busy and noisy streets of the lovely Islamic Republic was a wonderful new experience; or Dresden, Germany 2008 — your second World Chess Olympiad — when strolling around snow-covered streets along with Cheradee Camacho and Christy Bernales under biting cold weather was a totally magical experience.
And of course, you remember Kazan, Russia 2013 — the site of 27th Summer Universiade where you made chess history by winning the country’s first-ever gold medal.
You remember the daily battles from the time you and fellow campaigner Mary Palero nearly missed the opening round due to sudden heavy downpour, the missing black bag full of chess softwares that was turned over to the lost and found section for security reasons, the nerve-wracking Armageddon match against Zaven Andriasian and the proud moment when the Philippine flag was finally raised at center stage ahead of Armenia and China while the chess world stood in attention.
Surely you remember the many other local and international tournaments held in Manila, Tagaytay, Subic, Cebu, Davao and Boracay when the Wesley So legend is still being written by the chess gods.
I don‘t want to say I defended you to many of my friends , but I did tell them that you are really one of a kind.
When chess officials refused to recognize your historic gold medal in the Kazan Universiade, I stood at the forefront again and served as one of your loyal defenders.
When chess fans criticized your decision to switch federations and carry the star-spangled banner, I took up to the battle field to defend you.
I also know some of your good old family friends — Reginald Tee, Mila Emperado, Ignacio Dee, Joey Villar, Joey Jereos, Jenny Mayor and even the late Rodolfo Tan Cardoso and Willie Abalos.
I remember Tee, who is probably one of the nicest guys in the chess world, waking up early to take you and father William to the airport for an early-morning flight.
With friends like them, we all know you were in good hands.
When you moved to live and study at Webster University under five-time champion Susan Polgar and her husband-coach Paul Truong, your star shone even brighter, so much brighter.
Under Polgar, you became truly a world-class player.
And because she knew you still needed guidance — and your father William and mother Leny repeatedly asked her to do so while under their care — Polgar kept you in a pretty tight leash.
Polgar worked hard to bring out the best in you and make you a better person, keeping you in school and lobbying for invitations to big-time events for you.
But when you were out of Webster, things suddenly became different.
I do not want to make a conclusion, but I think you put your life — and career — at the hands of the wrong people.
Am I an idiot for thinking that way?
I hope I’m wrong to think that way.
The lack of concern when father William suffered a life-threatening accident back home in Canada or the three venomous e-mails sent to mother Leny, using the blasphemous F word and calling her a whore are simply unacceptable to me and the entire Filipino society we were all raised.
“From: GMWSO <gmwso@xxxxxx>
Date: Tue, Apr 7, 2015 at 10:36 PM
Subject: Re: Bank Details in Canada
To: ELEANOR SO <soeleanor23@xxxxxx>
You must be f…cking happy that I am losing all my games here in the US Championships. You ruined my tournament and you only care about yourself. I don’t ever want to see you on any of my tournaments again….
PUTANG INA KA TALAGA. I PUT THE BLAME ON YOU FOR RUINING THIS F…CKING TOURNAMENT.
From: GMWSO <gmwso@xxxxxx>
Date: Wed, Apr 8, 2015 at 3:03 PM
To: ELEANOR SO <soeleanor23@xxxxxx>
You know, F…CK YOU …. for ruining my tournament….PUTANG INA. You are the most worthless mother I know.
From: GMWSO <gmwso@xxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, Apr 8, 2015 at 4:54 PM
To: ELEANOR SO <soeleanor23@xxxxxxx>
And you know you better not steal my money in Canada. I don’t care nawalangkwenta kayo ni William namagulang, just give me back ALL my savings. MAGNANAKAW”
No way our favorite chess hero Wesley So — the same one that I know so well from way back — can do that.
So, think and do something about it now, Wesley.
Life, as we all know about it, is not all about chess.
It’s never too late to show your love and devotion to the one and only thing that matters in this world — family.
It’s never too late to pick up the phone or write an email and tell your parents — William and Leny — the exact words they love to hear from you every day — even if it’s not Father’s Day.
You can do it, Wesley. And do it now.
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– GM Susan Polgar