The Top Chess Players in the World

GM Wesley So

Wesley So
Photo: Maria Emelianova/
Full name
Wesley So
Oct 9, 1993 (age 30)‎
Place of birth
Bacoor, Cavite, Philippines
United States



Wesley So is a Filipino-American super grandmaster who is among the world’s best chess players. He began as a chess prodigy who entered tournaments at nine years old. At 14, he became the ninth youngest GM in history. The next year, he became the youngest player to pass the 2600 rating threshold, breaking Magnus Carlsen’s record.

So’s peak rating of 2822 in March 2017 made him the number-two player in the world behind Carlsen. It also earned his place as the fifth highest-rated player ever, trailing only Carlsen, Garry Kasparov, Fabiano Caruana, and Levon Aronian. Later, in 2019, So won the first-ever FIDE-sanctioned Fischer Random World Chess Championship after routing Carlsen 13.5-2.5 in the final. In February 2021, he became a U.S. citizen.

Given all his accomplishments, multiple national championships and an elite tournament resume including the Fischer Random victory as well as winning the 2022 Global Championship—all before turning 30—So may develop into an all-time great.

Youth And Early Chess Career (1999 To 2009)

So learned to play chess when he was six years old. At nine, he began taking part in local youth chess tournaments, and So’s first major victory came when he won the under-10 age group at the 2003 Philippine National Chess Championships.

Three years later, just shy of his 14th birthday, So became the youngest Filipino IM in history as well as the youngest member of the national men’s team at the 37th Chess Olympiad. The next year, in 2007, So confirmed that he was a chess prodigy. At 14 years, one month and 28 days old, he became the ninth youngest GM in history, which also made him the youngest-ever Filipino GM, an accomplishment he still holds. At the time So became a GM, he was ranked the strongest player in the world under 16 years of age.

Wesley So in 2008.
Wesley So in 2008. Photo: F Hoppe, CC 3.0.

As a junior, So dominated several competitions. In 2007, he became the youngest National Junior Open champion, and then won gold on board one during the World Under-16 Team Championships. He followed up those impressive performances by becoming the youngest winner of the Dubai Open Chess Championships in 2008. That year he broke Carlsen’s record of being the youngest player to surpass the 2600-rating mark.

Surging To The Highest Level Of Competition (2009 To 2015)

So’s first major chess tournament came in 2009 when he won group C at the 71st Corus Chess Tournament in Wijk aan Zee. His 9.5/13 was a full point ahead of Tiger Hillarp Persson and Anish Giri, who tied for second place. And once again, this time in 2009, So was rated the world’s strongest chess player for his age. No other player born in 1993 or later had a better rating than the chess prodigy.

Between 2009 and 2011, So won three Filipino Chess Championships. However, his national chess affiliation then shifted. He emigrated to the United States in 2012 after accepting a scholarship offer from Webster University, which is located in Missouri and boasts 20 national championships in chess. In 2014 So officially shifted his chess officiation to the United States and then moved to Minnesota to live with his adoptive parents.

Meanwhile So showcased his extraordinary talent. He won the Quebec International in 2012, and one day after that tournament finished, So beat Ray Robson in's 7th Blitz Death Match by a score of 23 to nine. Then in 2013, he won five major tournaments: the Reykjavik Open, the Calgary International Chess Classic, the Univé Crown Group and the World University Chess Championship. In 2014, he won the 49th Capablanca Memorial as well as the inaugural tournaments of the ACP Golden Classic and Millionaire Chess.

A Full-Time Professional Player (2015 To 2020)

So officially became a full-time professional chess player in 2015, launching another bright period early in his chess career.

In January 2015, he finished second with an impressive 8.5/11 points in the elite tournament at Wijk aan Zee, the 77th Tata Steel Chess Tournament. Magnus Carlsen won the event while So finished in a four-way tie for second with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Anish Giri and Ding Liren. Then in June, he placed second in another elite tournament, the Sparkassen Chess Meeting, behind Fabiano Caruana and ahead of Vladimir Kramnik and Ian Nepomniachtchi. In November, he won the 8th Bilbao Masters Final after beating Giri in a blitz tiebreak, topping the four-player field that was rounded out by Viswanathan Anand and Ding.

V. Anand - W. So. in Bilbao, Spain.
V. Anand - W. So in Bilbao, Spain. Photo: Manu de Alba.

So was just as good in 2016. The highlight that year may have been So’s performance in the 2016 Sinquefield Cup, where he beat a field in which the “weakest” player was 2751. So had a performance rating of 2859 and beat, in order, Anand, Aronian, Caruana, Veselin Topalov, Vachier-Lagrave, Hikaru Nakamura, Ding, Peter Svidler and Giri. The next year So followed up his notable performance with individual gold on board three for the United States in the 42nd Chess Olympiad. That effort helped So and teammates Caruana, Nakamura, Samuel Shankland and Ray Robson win team gold, capturing Team USA’s first gold medal in 40 years (1976). So completed his spectacular year with two wins in London in just days apart—the Grand Chess Tour and the London Chess Classic.

In another strong year for So, the 22-year-old phenom kicked off 2017 by winning the 79th Tata Steel Chess Tournament. He finished a full point ahead of World Champion Carlsen and a star-studded field that included Aronian, Sergey Karjakin and Giri. So extended his streak of unbeaten games to 56, and he became the number-two player in the world. Then in March, So carried the St. Louis Arch Bishops to a title in’s inaugural Professional Rapid Online (PRO) League, picking up the MVP award in the process. One month later, So won the 2017 U.S. Championship against a field that included Alexander Onishcuk, Varuzhan Akobian, Caruana and Nakamura. Other highlights from 2017 include winning the traditional tournament in Leon, Spain and reaching the semi-finals of the 2017 World Cup.

Wesley So Won Tata Steel.
Wesley So Won Tata Steel. Photo: Alina l'Ami.

So had a solid year, at least for his high standards, in 2018. He either tied for or earned clear third place for big events like the U.S. Championship, the 80th Tata Steel Chess Tournament, and Altibox Norway Chess 2018. Notably, in Norway, So beat Carlsen for the first time in a classical game. A big tournament victory came for So in the YourNextMove Grand Chess Tour Rapid and Blitz 2018 in Leuven, Belgium. So’s domination in the rapid portion was enough to give him a clear victory over the strong field of Karjakin, Vachier-Lagrave, Nakamura, Aronian, Alexander Grischuck, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Anand, Caruana, and Giri.

So was active on the 2019 Grand Chess tour, earning two top-four finishes, and played in elite events like the 2019 World Cup. At the end of the year, he won the first-ever FIDE-sanctioned Fischer Random World Chess Championship. So swept Carlsen 13.5-2.5 in the final matchup, taking the official world title for Fischer Random (or Chess 960).

Wesley So, the first World Fischer Random Champion, is crowned
Wesley So, the first World Fischer Random Champion, is crowned. Photo: Lennart Ootes/

In May 2020 So won the Clutch Chess Champions Showdown, a mini-knockout tournament featuring the top-four U.S. chess players. He defeated Nakamura in the first round and then the top American player, Caruana, in the final.

So had a very successful period starting from the autumn of 2020. He tied for first at the St. Louis Rapid & Blitz in September and then won the PRO Chess League with the St. Louis Arch Bishops as well as the U.S. Championship in October, followed by victories at the Skilling Open in November and the Opera Euro Rapid in February.

Present And Future

So won the first-ever Global Championship in 2022 and with it a $200,000 first-place prize, his largest ever. The next year, he placed second in the Champions Chess Tour, winning another $100,000.

So is one of the top-ranked players in the world. With multiple national championships and his status as the fifth-highest rated player of all time, So has already accomplished a great deal in a short amount of time. Keep in mind that he’s still only in his mid-20s.

There’s little doubt that So will remain active at the highest level for the foreseeable future. He’s young, has been rated the number-two player in the world, and has been a full-time professional chess player for only a handful of years. So may not have even hit his peak yet.  

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