SPORTS KEN: Wesley So shines anew

As the Marawi siege continues to hug front page headlines and beheaded Maute casualties are discovered, GM Wesley So also continues to bring his chess exploits to high gear in the sports world.

The Missouri-based Fil-Am recently captured the second leg of the Grand Chess Tour Rapid tournament in Leuven, Belgium, finishing with 14 points, a two-point margin over his closest pursuer Maxime Vachier Lagrave of France and three points ahead of current World Champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway.

In the FIDE ratings, So is now the top ranking contender for one of two slots to the eight-man Candidates Tournament with an average rating of 2815.8571 earned from Jan. to July 2017.

He is followed by Fabiano Caruana, his US teammate, with 2815.0000; Vladimir Kramnik (Russia), 2810.7143; Lagrave (or MVL), 2797.1429 and another US teammate, former US Champion Hikaru Nakamura, 27888.4268.

Serjey Karyakin, being the loser in the last WC match, is already seeded to the Candidates Matches.

FIDE rules call for two others to be selected from the four-event Grand Prix series which are being led by Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and China’s Ding Liren.

Two other finalists will emerge from the World Cup while the last player will be taken as the nominee of the host federation that will staged the event.

I am again highlighting the progressive advance of WS here because I want to attract logical attention to the misdirected attraction and fanatical admiration of our sporting youths towards basketball, a sport that we ALL know and believe that the Filipinos cannot reign supreme.

GM So is officially number three in the live ratings of FIDE.

He was just a chinky-eyed, innocent little boy when he started pushing pawns in the late nineties leading to the millennial era. No one in the sports community where I belonged then ever entertained the thought that Wesley would steadily rise up the ladder in the world stage.

Yes, there were others before him in the Philippine chess firmament who shone (like Eugene Torre, the Phl’s and Asia’s, first GM who qualified in the CM) but none exceptionally better.

That Wesley knew in his heart what he aspired for and dream of, can be gleaned from his strong performances since moving over to the US Chess Federation.

Years ago, I met a Maranao trader in Cubao, Quezon City who played good chess and was of national master caliber. He opined that the game is not too well promoted in the Muslim region even if he saw many Muslim youngsters picking up the game although not competitively.

This is exactly what I wish the Dep-Ed would do. Re-boot and improve its physical education curriculum for the ARMM to afford the Muslim pupils to get involved in fun games they could enjoy.

Instead of channeling their inexhaustible energy elsewhere, I strongly believe we can find chess potentials from among our young Muslim population. Since it is an inexpensive game – not requiring sophisticated uniforms, equipment and a large area – chess can easily be promoted here.

When circumstances and conditions calm down and warrant it, the ARMM leadership, in cooperation with Dep-ED, can probably invite GM Wesley So for a rare personal appearance.

If concert promoters can bring in highly-paid foreign artists Justin Bieber, Britney Spears and other yodeling performers here, why should not the DepEd and ARMM think about the welfare of Muslim youths in this area of their lives.

I am convinced that Wesley will be more than willing to contribute his share in nation-building. He can be a role model because his struggle and success he attributes to his being raised a Filipino.

Is the DepEd listening? Are our friends in ARMM listening, too? (Email your feedback to Rom. 10:9. GOD BLESS THE PHILIPPINES!