Emil Guillermo: Excerpt from my Wesley So interview, now trailing Carlsen, World No.1, after 6th Round in Gashimov chess tourney in Azerbaijan

American Filipino chess grandmaster Wesley So has picked up the pieces after a disappointing U.S. Chess Championship showing in St. Louis earlier this month.

The tension still exists with family, but the drama and excitement  is all on the board, So told me in an e-mail interview.

At the Gashimov Memorial, one of the world’s major chess tourneys, So trails  tourney leader Magnus Carlsen, the World’s No. 1 by just half a point.

So kept pace when action started up. In Round 6, both men drew their matches.  The next big moment may be Round 8, when So is scheduled to face Carlsen.

In my  e-mail exchange with So during the break, he told me why he has been playing to form:

Q:You’re playing well in Azerbaijan. Why do you think?

I am trying my best and the atmosphere here is very motivational. The hosts are dedicated to our welfare and provide for all our needs, helping us to  focus on playing the best chess we can. I feel very happy to be here.
Q: Is the higher level of play against the likes of Carlsen more of a motivation?
A: All the players here are extremely talented and it is an honor to even be in this group. I grew up studying the games of some of these player and sometimes I can’t believe I am playing them now. It is very exciting.
I’ll have more of the interview in a subsequent column for Inquirer.net.