Chess ace Wesley So wants to play for US

MANILA, Philippines - Wesley So, the country's top chessplayer, said he wants to leave the National Chess Federation of the Philippines to play for the United States.

In a letter posted on his chess coach's blog, So said he is making the move to boost his career. He is currently ranked 15th in the world, the highest rating ever reached by a Filipino in the World Chess Federation (FIDE) since it joined in 1956.

"My family has permanently moved to Canada. I now live and attend school full time in the United States (at Webster University). I plan to reside permanently here. This is where I will have the opportunity to improve my chess, and make a decent living as a professional player. I want to be able to play in top level tournaments ... to get to the next level.

I have filed the paperwork to switch federation to the US last year. I respectfully ask that you grant me this opportunity and consent my transfer. "

The blog is being run by Susan Polgar, a former women's world chess champion, who is responsible for So's big climb in the world chess ratings since he came to the US in 2012.

So, 20, said that if the Philippine federation will not grant him a release, he will not play for the Philippines in the coming Chess Olympiad in Tromso, Norway and will sit it out for two years before can play for the US, assuming the Americans agree to So's application.

There was no immediate reaction from NCFP head Prospero Pichay Jr but chess sources said that Pichay will not grant So's request to transfer federation. 

So is considered one of the country's elite athletes. He is among a select group of athletes receiving P40,000 a month from the Philippine Sports Commission.

Chess sources said there was a last-ditch try from some concerned persons to persuade So to play for the Philippines for the last time in the Olympiad. It was not known as of posting time how So answered their pleas.

Rumors that So will transfer to the US stirred the chess pot late last year when he won the Universiade chess tournament but it gained traction after he won the Capablanca Memorial Chess Tournament in Havana last month.  

The move comes as the country's third-ranking player Oliver Barbosa has chosen not to compete in the World Blitz and Rapid Chess event in Dubai this month. He has gone to the US to campaign in tournaments, joining former national champion Mark Paragua. 

Though Barbosa, like So, has been seeded to the Philippine Olympiad squad, he gave no clear indication if he will play for the country. - Rappler.com