A chess grandmaster who lives in Minnetonka has secured one of the biggest prizes at stake this year.
Wesley So is one of eight elite players from around the world who will battle it out in the Candidates Tournament in Berlin early next year, and if he emerges as the winner he’ll then play a one-on-one match for the world championship.
Winning a spot in the Candidates, which is held every two years, is the goal of all top chess players, because it’s the only path to earning a shot at the world title.
So, 24, qualified for the Candidates by having one of the highest average chess ratings throughout 2017. He is currently ranked sixth in the world but was ranked second — behind only the world champion — for much of the year.
His qualification for the Candidates won’t be official until the monthly international chess ratings are published at the end of November, but it’s now mathematically impossible for any player to overtake him and grab his spot.
“They say I have made it to the Candidates. Anyway, I see my name on this list,” So wrote on Facebook, pointing to one of the chess websites reporting the news. “This is a very big deal and if it is really true … then all I can say is ‘Thank you Lord.’ ”
So said that during the year he “tried not to focus on making the Candidates because it was too distracting. If I didn’t make it, it would have been a lot of wasted time wishing I had.”
The nearly three-week Candidates Tournament will be held in Berlin in March. The winner gets to play for the world title against the current champion, Magnus Carlsen, a 26-year-old Norwegian who has held the crown since 2013.
The world championship match — typically 12 games — is expected to be held in November 2018, and the prize money is likely to be around $1 million. Usually 60 percent goes to the winner and 40 percent to the loser. The site has not yet been selected.
So, the reigning U.S. Chess Champion, is one of two Americans to qualify for the Candidates; the other is Fabiano Caruana of St. Louis. Four other players have qualified, including two Russians, an Armenian and a Chinese player. Two more players will qualify after a tournament to be held later this month.
Before the Candidates, So has three other elite tournaments to play — in St. Louis this month, London in December and the Netherlands in January.