Wesley So: "I’m not entirely satisfied with (world) number two"

6/10/2017 – It should come as no surprise that after his run, and above all, victory at the US Championship, Wesley So has begun to catch the eye of mainstream media in ways that had eluded him somewhat until now. The Washington Post recently caught up with the young star, with an interview and profile, presenting him to the wider audience.

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U.S. chess champion is now ranked No. 2 in the world. Opponents fear he’s still getting better.

By Chuck Culpepper - June 5

MINNETONKA, Minn. — This ruthless man is very tranquil. He falls asleep easily around the world in seats unsuited for sleeping. He giggles a child’s treble giggle when you don’t expect. He asks charming novice questions about baseball. He can speak measuredly at length or speak not at all, while sanguine with either. His capable wit emerges only on soft occasion. Chess people rave about his surpassing calm.

It seems the only place to avoid Wesley So would be the other side of a chessboard. There, he will take his tranquility and shred you with it. There, he seems to avoid grimacing, or sighing, or running his hands through his hair, or all the things people tend to do when presented with high ambition, time limits and the eternal 64-square puzzle.

So has risen, at 23, to No. 2 in the world, lodged behind only 26-year-old Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, who has been No. 1 for almost the whole 2010s. At the barbaric board, So has stormed into a realm found by only 11 other humans, a peak Elo rating of above 2800, a mastery of a game so bloody violent.

“Oh, it’s a violent game!” said Lotis Key, So’s adoptive mother, formerly a movie actress in the Philippines who immigrated to the United States in the 1980s. “Extremely. I say this game has an undercurrent of violence that is unsurpassed in any ball sport. It’s a very violent game, very aggressive . . . This is, once you start, someone’s got to die here. And on his level, even a draw is a small death, because he loses points when he draws. When you’re that high, drawing is like losing.”

(...)

it comes up that he’s No. 2 in a world of 7 billion.

“Well, not all of them play chess,” he deadpans.

Then: “Well, I never thought I would be number two. But now that I’m here, I want to try to be number one. I’m not entirely satisfied with number two. I mean, I’m very happy to get there, but I hope I can reach further.”

(...)

Amid all of this hushed violence from city to city and country to country, Key has imposed a structure. “There is no partying, no drinking, no drugging, no smoking, no eating fast food, no Internet,” she said. “We don’t have a cellphone, either one of us. Our daughter has the cellphone. She’s the secretary. Everything is geared toward being the best you can be. Because I tell him there’s a short window in life where you can be the best you can be, and young people throw this away. So we created an atmosphere for him where he can focus on being the best he can be. It’s pretty disciplined.”

Into that frame, she aims to tuck real-life, non-chess excursions: chunks of time off, church, barbecues, museums, state fairs, hiking, canoeing, Asian restaurants, falafel restaurants, social events, and lately a Minnesota Twins game. (...)

Read the full article at The Washington Post