So far, so good for So

August 23, 2020

FILIPINO chess fans had a busy day watching the games of super GM Wesley So in the FIDE Online Olympiad 2020 on the internet early Saturday.

So, the Bacoor, Cavite-born  Filipino champion now playing for the United States, opened his campaign with two wins and a draw in the Americans' three straight victories  in Group D after the firsf day of action in the top division of the month-long event.

So,  who is playing the top board for the US for the first time in three Olympiads in the absence of GMs Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura, defeated GM Dimitrios Mastrovasilis in the US' 5-1 win over Greece in the first round.

So settled for a draw with GM Neuris Delgado Ramirez in the Americans' 4-2 triumph over Paraguay in the second round.but came back to whip GM Daniele Vocaturo in a 5-1 thrashing of Italy in the third round.

The 27-year-old So, who played for the country in four straight Olympiads in 2006 (Turin), 2008 (Dresden), 2010 (Khanty-Mansiysk) and 2012 (Istambul) before his transfer to the US in 2014,  became the focus of attention of local chess fans following the early exit of the 12-player Philippine team.

The Filipinos, bannered by New York City-based GM Mark Paragua and WGM Janelle Mae Frayna, failed to advance after finishing only fifth in Division 2, Grpup A competition.

So also still has a loyal fan base in the country despite  transferring to the United States due to differences with local sports officials shortly after his historic gold-medal triumph in the 2013 Kazan Universiade.

"Even if he now plays for the US, Wesley is always part of Philippine chess," said former Philippine Executive Chess Association (PECA) president and six-time national executive chess champion Dr. Jenny Mayor.

"Wesley So is representing the Philippines by heart," said Rey Teves, a member of Chess Philippines, in his Facebook post.

In the Top Division, the three victories were enough to put the United States in the solo lead in Group D with six points based on the scoring system that gives two points for a win,  one point for a draw and zero for a loss.

Three teams -- Peru, Poland and Italy --  share second to fourth places with four points on two wins and one loss.

The rest of the chess-playing countries  also had a trouble-free opening day.

Defending champion China swept its first three matches against Uzbekistan (5-1),  Indonesia (4.5-1.5) and Iran (4-2) to share the Group A lead with India and Germany.

Azerbaijan leads the way with 3-0-0 win-draw-loss record in Group B,  followed by Ukraine, Slovakia and Hungary with 2-1-0.

Russia is also a perfect  3-0-0 in Group C.

But a five-way batlle is shaping up among Croatia, Egypt, Armenia, England and Bulgaria, which all have similar 2-0-1 records.