Home Chess News GM Wesley So Champion of Fischer Random Chess

GM Wesley So Champion of Fischer Random Chess


GM Wesley So Champion of Fischer Random Chess

GM Wesley So became the first World Champion in Fischer Random Chess when he defeated GM Magnus Carlsen by the dominant score of 13.5 to 2.5. The event which commenced on 27th October ended on 2nd November 2019.

Official log of the 2019 Fischer Random Chess Championship.
Official log of the 2019 Fischer Random Chess Championship.

Wesley’s victory, with four wins and only two draws, was so crushing that he clinched the title with six rounds to spare! Wesley cruised through the whole final stage of the event without suffering a single loss, showing his supremacy in this recently developed chess variant.

Photo credit Lennart Ootes.
Photo credit Lennart Ootes.

Wesley won the second through to the fourth games to seal the victory. For Magnus Carlsen, it was a painful moment to lose the championship in front of his home crowd.

Magnus Carlsen, bit the dust three times in a row before his home crowd, who gathered in big numbers at the Henie Onstad Art Center in Bærum, Norway.

The playing venue. Photo credit Lennart Ootes.
The playing venue. Photo credit Lennart Ootes.

The Norwegian has been the classical world champion since 2013 and the world-number-one from 2011. He has now accumulated an impressive 101 game unbeaten streak.

“I just want to congratulate Wesley So, he played a lot better than me,” said Carlsen after his defeat.

What is “Fischer Random” chess?

There have been many proposals over the long history of chess to revolutionise the game by introducing new pieces or changing the initial arrangement of these. However, none of these attempts succeeded until the former World Champion Bobby Fischer came up with his idea. The American genius suggested that the pieces should be shuffled, but only following certain restrictions.

1. The Bishops should be placed on opposite-colour squares.

2. The King should be placed on a square between the rooks.

The result is a variant in which we have 960 unique possible starting positions, but the rules of chess remain the same. Thus, the tactics, and for the most part, the principles and basic strategies of the game, are still valid. The fact that both players keep the right to castle also contributed to the starting positions having some “harmony” and balance, and characteristics of standard chess.

Some of the games can be downloaded from here – Games from the Fischer Random Chess Championship.

Chess, rebooted

The random setup that Fischer Random means that the advantage through the memorisation is not so apparent.

Instead, players must rely on their skill, talent and creativity, when facing a new position over the board. All the opening theory that they have learned so far becomes useless – it is like rebooting chess, and giving it a fresh start.

FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich earlier this year stated: “It is probably for this reason that Fischer Random Chess has won the favour of the chess community, including the top players and the World Champion himself”.

“We could not be oblivious to that: it was time to embrace and incorporate this modality of chess” he continued.

Brief Autobiography of Wesley So?

Wesley Barbasa So was born on 9th October 1993, in Bacoor, Philippines. He learned chess at the age of 7 or 8 on the streets of Cavite, a suburb in the outskirts of Manila.

Wesley So explained in an interview “Chess is very popular in the Philippines. Rich people play tennis, polo, and golf, while poor people play chess.  This is  because you do not need anything – no uniform, & no fields or courts”.

GM Wesley So in action during the 2018 Batumi Olympiad. Photo credit Kim Bhari.
GM Wesley So in action during the 2018 Batumi Olympiad. Photo credit Kim Bhari.

He was nine years old when he began competing in junior tournaments. It was at that age, he could not afford proper training  or international travel and had to rely on his sheer talent.  It is also the probable reason why he never achieved a medal at any of the World Youth Championships.

However, as soon as he had the chance to compete in the international arena against more experienced players, his rating started to climb. It is interesting to note that he obtained the GM title -at the age of fourteen years!

In 2008, when he had just turned 15, he became the youngest player ever to reach a 2600 rating, breaking the record previously held by Magnus Carlsen.

Webster University

Wesley got an offer from Webster University to move to the USA on a scholarship. He took his studies very seriously, and for some time, he even considered giving up his chess career, and pursue a career in banking. But the successes at the board kept coming: it was evident to everyone that Wesley So was called to achieve big things at the chessboard.

He won the 2014 Millionaire Chess Tournament held in Las Vegas, and also got the first prize at the 2015 Bilbao Chess Masters. Other significant victories included, the 2016 Grand Chess Tour, Sinquefield Cup, London Chess Classic, and the 2017 Tata Steel Masters. In early 2013, So passed the 2700 mark in the world rankings. Later on, in January 2017 he became the 11th player to join the exclusive “2800 Club”.

On the March 2017 FIDE rating list, he was ranked number two in the world and reached a peak Elo rating of 2822.  He is the fifth-highest rated player in the history of chess.

Transfer to USA Federation

He transferred to the US Chess Federation in 2014 and was part of the American team that achieved a Gold Medal at the Baku Chess Olympiad (2016). Wesley and his teammates also obtained a Silver at the Batumi Chess Olympiad (2018).

Wesley So has always referred to Magnus Carlsen as his favourite player in history and that Fischer Random was his preferred variant of chess. Now, Wesley So has been crowned as the world champion of the speciality, defeating no other than the one he considers the greatest: Magnus Carlsen.

Text by David Llada & Photos by Lennart Ootes.

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Official site for the Fischer Random Chess Championship.

GM Wesley So’s trip to South Africa by Dr Lyndon Bouah.