MANILA, APRIL 20, 2006 (STAR) Wesley So started to play chess when he was six-year-old. Six years later, he became the youngest Filipino ever to make it to the Olympiad squad.

So, a 12-year-old FIDE Master, scored 3.5 points in five games to join seeded GMs Mark Paragua, Eugene Torre and Joey Antonio and fellow qualifiers Darwin Laylo and FM Oliver Dimakiling in the squad bound for the World Chess Olympiad slated May 19-June 5 in Turin, Italy.

"I thought him chess when he was six years old," said Wesley’s proud father William, a self-employed school bus driver, in Filipino. "Now, he has improved a lot because he played with so much dedication and really loves the game."

Wesley, whose biggest achievement to date was a joint first place finish in the World Youth Chess Championship in Belfort, France, is set to leave for Dubai Friday night to compete in a strong tournament serving as part of his buildup for the Olympiad.

The first year high school student at St. Francis of Assisi in Bacoor, Cavite, a Shell active chess champion, is the most celebrated age-grouper in the country today. He was actually one of "Promil Kids" featured in television commercials.

While the load of the Olympiad campaign will rest on the shoulders of veteran campaigners Torre, Antonio and Paragua, Wesley remains hopeful of being able to deliver some points in the lower board in his Olympiad debut as one of the alternates of the squad.

The Philippines made a top 20 finish in the last edition of the biennial event in Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

"He’s excited to play in the Olympics, that’s one of his dreams," said William.

So’s marvelous leap from an age-grouper into a Olympiad team member could also be credited to IM Richard Bitoon, his coach and trainer.

"He (Bitoon) helped my child a lot especially in his formative years as a chess player," said William.

So forced NM Rolando Nolte to a draw in the final round to finish the event with 3.5 points. Nolte and NM Roderick Nava wound up with three points apiece while NM Mirabeau Maga finished fourth with 2.5 points followed by IM Petronio Roca and NM John Paul Gomez, who each had 1.5 points.

Meanwhile, Woman IM Beverly Mendoza likewise topped her own side of the event and made it to the women’s squad headed by WIM Sheerie Joy Lomibao. — Joey Villar

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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