By Emmanuel B. Villaruel (The Freeman) | Updated July 17, 2013 – 12:00am
CEBU, Philippines – US-based Filipino chess Grandmaster Wesley So carved his name in history books after producing the Philippines’ first ever gold medal in the 27th Summer Universiade last Monday at the Kazan Equestrian Complex in Kazan, Russia.
Since it started joining in what is considered as the Olympics of the best university athletes all over the world in 2003, the country’s previous best finish was only a silver medal courtesy of taekwondo jin Samuel Thomas Harper Morrison in Shenzhen, China two years ago.
So, who became the eighth youngest chess grandmaster in history after achieving his GM title at the age of 14 in 2008, completed the 9-round Swiss system competition with 6.5 points in the company of eight others but fought on with savvy to snare the gold medal via super tiebreak.
So, now 19 years old, was tied with Zaven Andriasian of Armenia and GM Li Chao of China in the first triple tiebreak but emerged with a higher Buccholz and performance score.
In the final tie-breaker, So played in black pieces, but went on to beat Andriasian soundly to claim the coveted crown.
So’s golden showing put the country at 40th in the medal standings alongside the United Kingdom, Austria, Belgium, Botswana, and US Virgin Islands with one gold apiece, among others. Host Russia lorded it over 126 gold medals. China and Japan were a distant second and third with 23 and 20 golds, respectively.
In a report by Winchell Campos posted on philboxing.com, So was actually tied with five others prior to the last round. With a little stroke of luck, all the other games in the top three boards finished in similar hard-fought draws as his Sicilian game with Andrasian in the ninth round.
Overall, So finished with four wins and five draws. It was indeed a monumental feat for the Phl’s No.1 player and world No.40 as the event drew a total of 24 GMs and a bunch of the world’s top caliber pawnpushers.
So sets his sights next on the prestigious World Cup scheduled three weeks from now. His fellow countrymen GM Mark Paragua and Oliver Barbosa will also be seeing action in the tough competition. (FREEMAN)