GM Wesley So officially becomes US citizen

Published March 5, 2021, 12:59 PM

by Kristel Satumbaga-Villar

Hopes of Wesley So playing again for the Philippines diminished after the Cavite-born player officially became a United States citizen.

The US Chess Federation announced this Thursday (Friday, March 5 in Manila), saying that the 27-year-old So officially became a US citizen last Feb. 26 at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services office in St. Paul/Minneapolis in Minnesota.

“I love that anyone can strive to succeed,” So said in an interview with Debbie Cannon of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services at his ceremony in February.

“You are not held back by your color, lack of connections or the amount of money you have. If you work hard, you have a better chance of making it here than anywhere else in the world.”

So said he wanted to become a US citizen “to give back to a country that has been so good to me.”

“From the moment I landed here, I was encouraged and enabled to become better than I was. I like this attitude and the tremendous generosity of American culture,” So said.

Despite this move, the three-time PH chess champion said a piece of the Philippines will remain in him.

He can also still represent the Philippines if he decides to do so since FIDE has a special rule allowing players to represent a different country regardless of citizenship.

“That doesn’t mean I don’t love the Philippines. I have good memories from there. But I did not have the connections needed to succeed in that culture. I was from the province, not a city boy. Had no money etc. I wanted to go further, and there was only one country a nobody can make it – the USA,” so said.

So went to the US in 2012 as a freshman recruit for Webster University. He started representing the US in tournaments in 2014, winning several titles including the inaugural FIDE World Fischer Random Chess Championship in 2019 against Magnus Carlsen.