Pestaño: Wesley So seeks US citizenship

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Thursday, June 12, 2014


THE big news this week is the decision of “national treasure” Wesley So to settle permanently in the USA.

Wesley wrote National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) president Prospero Pichay Jr. last year to allow him to switch federation.

“I have filed the paperwork to switch federation to the US last year. I respectfully ask that you consent to my transfer,” e said.

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Wesley also wants to play for the Philippines in the 41st Chess Olympiad in Norway, this year if the NCFP allows him to immediately switch federations after the tournament.

“This is not an easy decision. But it is the best decision for me to have a chance to be a top 10 player in the world, and perhaps one day fight for the World Championship crown... without losing more valuable time at this very important age,” said So.

But NCFP president Prospero Pichay Jr rejected (or ignored) So’s request, for whatever reason or reasons, only he knows. I sent text messages to him but got no reply .

Now Pichay is the most vilified person by Pinoy chess players worldwide and the comments online regarding his person is vicious, personal and very damaging to his reputation.

Wesley must pay 50,000 euros to the NCFP or undergo the two-year waiting period for players opting to change federations, which he can’t afford.

“It will severely slow down my progress by not being able to play in official FIDE events such as the World Cup, World Blitz and Rapid Championships, etc. I will be forced to miss the next World Championship cycle.”

Wesley receives an allowance of P40,000 per month or about $1,000 from the Philippines Sports Commission. There must be other reasons aside from financial and I believe it has something to do with his relationship with the top leadership of NCFP. Very few countries give this kind of support to their chess players.

Eugene Torre says there’s nothing to be sad since the 20-year-old So will be recognized as someone who came from the Philippines anyway. “We can’t judge him if his ambition is to become a world champion. The best thing to do right now is to agree to his (So) offer to play for the country one last time in the Chess Olympiad in Norway this August and set him free.”

GM Richard Bitoon, who was in contact online with Wesley last night, informed me that even if the NCFP releases Wesley without paying 50,000 euros, Wesley will not play in the Olympiad anymore as he has already commitments elsewhere. The Philippine team members will be chosen after the National championships starting June 19.

Wesley also says his next goal is to break 2750, then join the top 10 in the world.

His ultimate goal is to be able to one day compete for the world title. He is currently rated 2744 and is No. 15 in the world.

Wesley must compete at high-level tournaments of Category 19 or higher in order to continue improving. There are no such tournaments in Southeast Asia. It is better to be based in the United States, especially in Saint Louis, Missouri, where most of the chess action in America happens. He can easily travel to Europe and other places.

Also, it is closer to his family’s residence in Canada.

An Inter-police team tournament will be held tomorrow at Colonnade Mall starting at 10 a.m. Eight teams from Cebu, plus a team from Mandaue and a guest team from City Hall, will be competing in a five-round Swiss active format. There will be four players per team plus two alternates.

The top three teams will get P5,000,P3,000 and P1,000, respectively.

This event is organized by CCPO director Noli Romana. Playing in team 8 are Cepca members Ruel Hortelano and Tony Barade.

(boypestano@gmail.com,www.chessmoso.blogspot.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 13, 2014.

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