Reflections on GM Wesley So
by Dr Lyndon Bouah
Just before Christmas, I received a call from Dr. Omar Esau, the president of Chess Western Cape. He asked me if I could show a special visitor around Cape Town for a few hours. Intrigued, I said of course without knowing who it was, and the visitor turned out to be super GM Wesley So. GM Wesley So is a Filipino American grandmaster. He is a three time Filipino chess champion and was the US Champion in 2017. On the March 2017 FIDE rating list, he was ranked number two in the world and had an Elo rating of 2822, making him the fifth highest rated player in history.
GM So was visiting South Africa and played a simultaneous display in Johannesburg. He expressed a wish to visit Cape Town and here he was. I first saw GM So in action in 2007 in Singapore when I captained the SA under team to the World Under 16 Olympiad. He played board one for the Philippines.
Stellenbosch & Cape Town
GM So spent the first night in Stellenbosch where he was hosted at a braai organised by Advocate Freek Geyer. Here he met various Stellenbosch players including IM Mohammed Henry Steel and his wife WIM Khadija, Professor Steel and his wife. IM Steel of course is famous in the USA for beating GM Kamsky at the 2014 Olympiad in Norway.
My wife WIM Denise and I picked him and his mother, Lotis, up in Stellenbosch and took them on a whirl wind tour of Cape Town. Our first stop was Boulders Beach. It is a sheltered beach made up of inlets, from which the name originates. It is famous for its penguins. We as intrepid tourists went meandering past all the beach goers to get to the penguins.
We then travelled along Chapman’s Peak and thereafter we went to Blouberg beach. I also told him about our history and also pointed out that many Filipino sailors settled in Muizenberg and nowadays you will find surnames such as Fernandez, Florez, Granz and others that are all Filipino in origin. Along the way GM So shed his insights about top level chess and of course I asked many questions! He has a great sense of humour. Of course he shared many invaluable tips but the one that will stay with me is “Work on your weaknesses and not your strengths. Once you do that your rating will climb!”
Visit to Van Niekerk’s house
We then visited the Van Niekerk household where we introduced GM So to joint SA Champion FM Calvin Klaasen and zonal champion Megan Van Niekerk and her talented sisters Lauren and Robyn. Lourenzo and GM Wesley So had a great chat about artificial intelligence and we then played a doubles game in which Lourenzo and GM So played against FM Calvin and myself. Calvin and I won the first game but alas I played badly thereafter and caused Calvin and me to lose the next two. I think it was the excellent food prepared by Chantal Van Niekerk that made me play bad moves on the chessboard!! !
We then went to visit my chess library which GM So enjoyed. I have an extensive chess library and he was fascinated by my books. I also showed him the first poster of the Olympiad that I participated in which was in 1992 in Manila, Philippines. I also presented him with the book by Leonard Rietstein “History of SA Chess” written in 2003.
GM So likes animals and has two cats at home. We introduced him to Bob, our Boerboel who is probably 2800 in dog as he is still puppy at 14 months!! Bob enjoyed the attention! Thank you GM So and your mum, Lotis. It was great that you were able to fit Cape Town into your short visit to South Africa. Good luck for your first event in 2019 which will be in Gibraltar.
GM Wesley So v GM Gary Kasparov
According to GM So one of the best game he ever played was against former world champion Gary Kasparov. The Blitz game follows:
Lyndon Bouah has two other articles on this website and can be found here;
Reflection on GM Ehlvesh by Lyndon Bouah