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Meeting the God of Chess

Wesley So, the current US Chess Champion (in 2017, 2020, and 2021), shares how he came to Christ:

On the small planet where elite chess players dwell, very few people worship Jesus Christ. If anyone discovers that you’re one of those “superstitious,” “narrow-minded idiots,” you’re likely to see nasty comments accumulate on your Facebook fan page. They wonder how I, the world’s second-ranked chess player, can be so “weak-minded.”

Wesley grew up in the Philippines and as a child was told that if he was good, God would bless him. But this confused him, because it seemed like the bad people received more than the good people. He knew of many famous crooks who went to church and they were pretty rich. So, Wesley decided to play it safe. He would recite the right words in church, but he never connected to God in a meaningful way.

He played chess since age six or seven and as he grew up, he kept on winning. But he could never afford to hire a coach or get serious chess training. When he was 18, he got an offer to play on the chess team of a small American university. So, he left home and moved to America.

Then I met the people who would become my foster family. They were Christians, and Lotis, my foster mother, could sense my unhappiness. She asked me what I wanted to do in life, and I replied that I loved playing chess but didn’t think I was talented enough to translate that into a full-time career. Lotis told me to focus on chess alone for the next two years—the family would support me any way it could.

His foster parents were mature Christians and insisted that living as a member of the family meant that he would need to faithfully accompany them to church. They taught him that the Bible was the final authority, deeper and wiser than the internet and more truthful than any of his friends.

Before long, I was practicing my faith in a more intense way. My new family calls Christianity the “thinking man’s religion.” They encouraged me to ask questions, search for answers, and really wrestle with what I discovered. I knew I wanted the kind of simple, contented, God-fearing life they enjoyed.

People in the chess world sometimes want to know whether I think God makes me win matches. Yes. And sometimes he makes me lose them too. He is the God of chess and, more importantly, the God of everything. Win or lose, I give him the glory. Will I rise to become the world champion one day? Only God knows for sure. In the meantime, I know that he is a generous and loving Father, always showering me with more blessings than I could possibly deserve.

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