As a professional chess player, 23-year-old Wesley So has one main goal — to be the best in the world.
It isn’t a stretch considering that So, who was born in the Philippines and now lives in United States, is currently the third highest ranked chess player worldwide, according to the July standings published by the World Chess Federation (FIDE).
A grandmaster who has played for the U.S. since November 2014, So will get a crack at achieving his dream in September when he competes at a qualifying event known as the World Chess Cup, held this year in the country of Georgia.
Assuming So moves on to an eight-player tournament next year and wins that, he’ll then face off against Magnus Carlsen, a 26-year-old grandmaster from Norway who has been the world champion since 2013.
“He’s very tough for everybody because he’s been around for a long time,” So told NBC News in a recent interview by phone.
So’s story begins in the Philippines in the city of Bacoor in Cavite, just south of Manila. Born in 1993, So began to take an interest in chess around the age of 7, he said. It started with chess books, old newspaper clippings with algebraic notations of games, and a chessboard at home, according to So.