Hello Wesley So, thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to talk with us. Your recent decision to change federations is big news in the chess world. We are sure that your fans are interested to know more about the details of your decision.
Chessdom: Why do you need to switch federation? Can’t you achieve the same thing by staying with the NCFP?
Wesley So: There are many more strong events in the United States. I would like to have the opportunity to compete in high level events.
But this is not the only reason. One of problems is the current system in the Philippines. I will give you my personal example. At this stage of my career, I need to have serious training, and have the opportunity to compete in level appropriate events (category 19-20-21 or higher) in order to improve.
I train very hard every day at Webster University, with the help of my coach Susan Polgar. I went from around #100 in the world before I came to Webster University less than 2 years ago, to #15 right now. I hope to be invited to many strong events in the near future.
In the Philippines, there is no serious training system. There are also very few strong tournaments in Asia. Besides, I am required to fly back from the U.S. during my school year to compete in events such as the South East Asian Games, which seriously conflict with my study at Webster University. I have to live with the fear that if I am unable to play, I may get deprived of financial support.
When I did not compete in the Asian Indoor Games in 2013, and instead played in the World University Games(which was a very strong event), in spite of winning the first ever Gold medal for the Philippines, I was denied the official recognition from the NCFP. No player should be treated this way, especially when I worked so hard to bring pride to my country.
This is the same problem for players like Sadorra, Barbosa, or Paragua, etc. They need help with training, play in stronger events, and know that they will have consistent support from the NCFP. This is to the benefit of the federation. There is also a need for a high level training system in the Philippines to help young talented players excel. There is no reason why this cannot be done, especially given the fact that chess is quite popular there.
Chessdom: Do you have any financial agreement with the USCF?
Wesley So: I did not make any agreement. On the contrary to the rumors out there, I receive no support from the U.S. for switching.
What I receive is serious training (from my coach Susan Polgar) and support system at Webster University. However, this is independent from me switching federation. Webster University does not require me to play for team USA.
Chessdom: What are your future chess goals?
Wesley So: My next goal is to break 2750, then top 10 in the world. My ultimate goal is to be able to one day compete for the world title. But I am only focused on one goal at a time.
Chessdom: Did you ever make a request to the Chess Federation of the Philippines for consent to switch federations?
Wesley So: Yes. I made a request last November to the President of the NCFP. I offered to play for the Philippines one last time at the Tromsø Chess Olympiad, with the condition that I would be granted permission to switch federation at the conclusion of the event. My request was simply disregarded. I never received a direct answer.
Because of this, I had no choice but to sit out for 2 full years, and filed the necessary paperwork for the switch. There was no deal with the USCF. Therefore, there will be no chance that they will pay for the compensation fees. I am an average college student. I do not have 50,000 euros to pay to the NCFP as compensation.
At this point, it is too late for me to represent the Philippines in the upcoming Olympiad in Tromsø, even if the NCFP accepts the offer I made last November. I made other commitments after the June 1st deadline to submit the Olympiad team roster.
I was told by the NCFP President in the past that he wants to see me reach the top. I hope that he will keep his promise and grant me the opportunity to reach my dreams without losing more valuable time. He is the only one who can make the decision to help me. If he chooses not to help, but instead punish me by refusing to consent, I will have no choice but to lose another valuable year. I will wait and hope for a positive response. I will let you know as soon as I have the answer from the NCFP.
Chessdom: Do you consider yourself Filipino, Canadian, or American?
Wesley So: I am a proud Filipino, always will be a Filipino at heart, and never forget where I came from. I am thankful for all the support in the past. My parents now live permanently in Canada. But I live full time in St. Louis right now and I hope to reside permanently in the U.S.
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– GM Susan Polgar