Wesley So quits school to become a professional chess player

Wesley So and mother, pic from susanpolgar.blogspot.com

Wesley So and mother, pic from susanpolgar.blogspot.com

Apparently this is old news: Wesley So, the eighth strongest chess player on Planet Earth, abandoned his scholarship at Webster University to become a full-time professional chess player. He switched to the U.S. Chess Federation and dropped out in December; I just heard about it last week when I read the latest issue of Chess Life. Interview with his old coach Susan Polgar here. Interview with his mom over here. His Asian mom is not happy about his decision:

Q: So did you talk to Wesley about becoming a full time professional chess player?

LS: Yes, but only after he graduates from Webster University. We had hoped it did not mean that he would give up his education. No matter how good he is as a chess professional, it cannot replace education and a university degree. All of us encouraged him to stay in school. He still has so much to learn.

Unfortunately, there were poor advices given to Wesley which is not to our liking. I have a negative feeling as a mother that this is a very huge mistake on Wesley. It hurts me terribly.

I tend to agree with Wesley’s mom. According to one article, he had already completed 2.5 years of school. He’s attending college for free because of his chess scholarship. Why not just finish it? 

It’s a hard question to answer, and to be fair, many professional chess players don’t have degrees. Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana, and Hikaru Nakamura are the top three players in the world, and none of them has a college degree. Bobby Fischer didn’t have one, nor did Garry Kasparov. If you work your way down the top ten players in the current top 100 FIDE list, Vishy Anand and Levon Aronian have degrees, but most of the others don’t. There’s a stereotype that top chess players are mental geniuses, but it would seem that most are specialized in one thing only: chess. Most don’t do anything else.

If Wesley wants to become World Champion, I guess one could argue that he should do what other World Champions have done: forget about college and just go for it. But I wonder if studying for another year and a half would’ve done anything to hurt his career. There is a lot more he could’ve learned, and best of all, it would have been free. Susan Polgar took him from #99 in the world and brought him up to #8 within 2.5 years, so he was clearly making good progress under her tutelage. Anand, Ivanchuk, and Topalov are older players who still compete at the top level while well into middle-age; I can’t see how Wesley wouldn’t still be competitive at 23 vs. 21.

I have no doubt that Wesley is going to go far in chess, and I’m cheering for him to do well. I just wonder if he made the right decision here.

23 thoughts on “Wesley So quits school to become a professional chess player

  1. This is why if I would rather my son learned how to seduce women at a very young age instead of learning to play chess.

    Imagine becoming a monk and giving your whole life to the service of what is essentially just a game, and never having a girlfriend, and fantasizing and obsessive more about 64 black and white squares than sex with your girlfriend.

  2. His college credits aren’t going anywhere. If his chess career doesn’t pan out the way he’s hoping it will, he can come back and finish it up. Spending your 20’s doing something unique and gaining some perspective isn’t a bad thing at all.

  3. So it’s better to give one’s life in service to a blog rather than a profession… WTF?

  4. Kiwi,

    Thats a fruity thing to say. What logic did you use to come to that conclusion? Anyhoo, I think Byron has a day job. He wrote about it even in one of the posts. Do you have a day job?

  5. Bad move in general, given that he was halfway to finishing his education anyway. This is like gifted athletes who skip a college education; when a career ending injury occurs, they don’t have a backup.

    There is no such analog risk in chess, but still, what happens if you reach a plateau and can’t get paid doing that?

  6. @ John Doe

    I know Byron has a job, retard. I was pointing out Sengge’s hypocrisy. Are you really that stupid?

  7. @Kiwi,

    “Are you really that stupid?”

    Most definitely. Ask any of the old timers here, they know I am as thick as they come. As a result, I have to follow the narrow path of logic.

    Now would you please help out a retarded brother figure out how one were to infer your comment was directed at Sengge. Your comment was after Kevin’s and Sengge talks about women.
    “So it’s better to give one’s life in service to a blog rather than a profession… WTF? – See more at: http://www.bigwowo.com/2015/03/wesley-so-quits-school-to-become-a-professional-chess-player/#comment-297885

    Have some compassion. I know you are smarter than me. Hell, almost everyone here is smarter than me. If only you knew my official IQ. I define a new low. I am not ashamed of that. But I try to understand the world to the best of my abilities. You can’t blame a brother for that.

  8. Kiwi,

    @ John Doe

    I know Byron has a job, retard. I was pointing out Sengge’s hypocrisy. Are you really that stupid?

    Nobody knows you were referring to me, possibly because of your habit of inserting non-sequitors in every topic of discussion. 😀

    By the way have you heard the following quote?

    Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people;

    …but the absolute smallest minds “discuss” people using anonymous “hit and run” attacks.

    I think Theodore Roosevelt said that. Great man he, great man.

    (Just information for your self-improvement purposes. Everybody has to start somewhere, so don’t be shy.) 😀

  9. @ John Doe

    I’ll take that as a “yes”.

    @ Sengge Rinchen

    The irony of your quote is that while Teddy was willing to speak publicly and even risk assassination, you’re just an anonymous coward who is too embarrassed to show his real name or face, hence the reason 90% of your posts directed at people you’ve never met translate to “Yap! Yap! Growl! Growl!”

    Anyway, go ahead and take your last word since I know it makes you feel better.

  10. @Kiwi,

    When someone replies “most definitely” then its usually safe to take it as an yes. So, how does it feel to be smart? Does it force you to hang around among Asians so that you can show off your smartness?

  11. Oh, man. What just happened to Wesley? He resigned after six moves in an even position. He’s been having a bad tournament, and maybe the stress is getting to him. I hope he’s okay.

  12. Oh my god. What a joke.


    I understand how it could be annoying to have your opponent do that, but I think they should have had some sort of intermediate punishment, such as a deduction of time. Why punish the audience? Plus, other than the warning (which he probably should’ve heeded), it’s not exactly clear that the FIDE book prohibits writing words of encouragement or drawing pictures. The FIDE book probably should prohibit this, but it isn’t clear.

  13. I hope Wesley destroys Varuzhan Akobian the next time they meet. This bad call ruined the whole tournament. I probably would’ve done the same thing as him since there’s no way I’d be able to beat Wesley either, but it’s really annoying how he’s pretending he was just following the rules.

    Here’s what I posted on chess.com:

    There’s a great post-game interview with Wesley So here, at around 4hrs 18 min:


    Great quotes by Wesley So:

    “I can understand Var for not wanting to play against me.”

    When Maurice Ashley asks for clarification, So says:

    “Well, obviously he wanted the free point.”

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but Tony Rich ruined this tournament for me. Wesley beat defending champion Gata today. He’d be close enough to possibly win if Tony Rich hadn’t awarded Var the free point. Rich could’ve easily punished him with a lesser penalty. It’s a real shame for chess lovers in the U.S.

  14. After just twenty five years of “Success” school we will see an epidemic of the same things happening, from teachers, parents, and school heads. 😀

  15. My goodness. Nakamura just beat the crap out of Wesley So in Round 6 of the Sinquefield. That game was brutal. Naka was attacking the whole time. I feel bad for Wesley–Naka was just on fire.

  16. I should also mention that Wesley is current #2 in the world, ahead of both Naka and Fabi. He hasn’t lost a game in 60-something games; he just pulls these miraculous defenses out of nowhere. It would be great to see him fight for the World Championship.

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