Sep 152016

Filipino grandmaster Wesley So, a transplant to Minnesota, propelled the US team’s victory in the Chess Olympiad. INQUIRER FILE

SAN FRANCISCO — Wesley So, a Filipino grandmaster who moved to Minnetonka, Minnesota two years ago, helped the USA team win the Chess Olympiad gold medal for the first time in 40 years.

The biennial Chess Olympiad ended Sept. 13, in Baku, Azerbaijan, with 177 countries in the Open division and 147 teams in the women’s division. USA won every country-vs.-country match in 11 rounds of play. Of the 44 individual games, it lost only three times.

The U.S. win is largely attributed to Wesley So’s flawless play, which earned him an individual gold medal to go along with his team gold. So’s score was the highest of any of the U.S. players. He climbs up the world rankings to No. 6, and to No. 2 in the U.S.

So, 22, a Filipino-born grandmaster, was the US team’s most consistent player, competing in 10 of the 11 rounds without losing a single game, racking up seven wins and three draws.

He played while suffering from a runny nose, headache and fever from a bad cold over the final three days of the tournament. He still chalked up two key wins and a draw in that period of time, according to a report.

The second-seeded US team beat top-seeded Russia, which has won more Chess Olympiads than any other nation, but ended up in third place this year. The United States now has three players among the world’s top seven.

Grandmaster Eugene Torre, 64, the first grandmaster from Asia was the other victorious Filipino. Undefeated with nine wins and two draws Torre won an individual bronze. He was So’s mentor.

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