“In life, as in chess, forethought wins.”
By Alex P. Vidal
BEFORE Filipino-American Grandmaster Wesley So’s (2741) head-turning victory over world chess champion Magnus Carlsen (2881) in the blitz playoff Champions Chess Tour Skilling Open in Cyber Monday (November 30), the world chess community was agog over John D. Rockefeller V’s $3 million donation to the US Chess Federation.
It became the talk of the town, for a while.
But So’s come-from-behind win over Carlsen made sports headlines and edged the news about Rockefeller V’s gargantuan donation, which became a cover story in Chess Life’s December 2020 issue.
"I have to apologize to Magnus for semi-ruining his birthday!" said So as quoted by Chess24.
The former Philippine Team player, who migrated in the US as a teener and was under the tutelage of former Philippine actress Lotis Key, clinched 1st place and the $30,000 top prize in the first event on the $1.5 million Champions Chess Tour.
The World Champion's 30th birthday seemed to be going perfectly when he won the 1st game of the day with the black pieces, but 27-year-old So, hit back in Game 2 and survived a wild 3rd game.
Chess24 reported that “Carlsen repeated his World Championship match trick of taking a quick draw to reach a playoff, but for once he fell short.”
The next event on the tour is reportedly the first major, where everything is doubled—the prize fund is $200,000 prize fund, with up to 100 points available to each player.
That starts on December 26th, with So, Carlsen, GM Hikaru Nakamura, GM Ian Nepomniachtchi, GM Levron Aronian, GM Teimour Radjabov, GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and GM Anish Giri already qualified for finishing in the Top 8 in the prelims.
They'll be joined by GM David Anton, who was voted back in, and three more players, to be announced in the coming weeks.
Rockefeller’s largesse was hailed as a “transformative gift that creates four new events and enhances existing ones” even as the United States Chess Federation (US Chess) announced that the donation was “the largest single gift ever presented to US Chess in our 81-year history.”
“It is impossible to overstate the importance to US Chess of Rockefeller’s unprecedented generosity and his vote of confidence in the future of our organization,” ChessBase reported.
According to ChessBase’s press release, “The donation creates four events, enhances three existing events, renames one, adds to the scholarship funds for the scholastic events, and creates a book fund to further strengthen the invitationals.”
The endowments ensure the tournaments will reportedly be run and the funds will be awarded in perpetuity.
This all directly speaks to their educational mission to "empower people, enrich lives, and enhance communities through chess."
John D. Rockefeller Sr. established the Rockefeller Foundation in 1913. Ever since, the Rockefeller family has embraced this legacy.
"Using wealth to shape the future is something Rockefellers have done for a long time. Starting in August of 2019, but especially during the first two months of COVID-19 in America, I decided it was time for me to do my part to continue the family legacy. I’ve never done anything approaching this scale of giving," Rockefeller V explained.
US Chess Executive Carol Meyer said, "John’s enthusiasm for scholastic chess is virtually unmatched. He is an unwavering optimist, believing in the transformative power of the game to improve the lives of young players through competition, study, and friendships. US Chess and our community are grateful for his leadership giving and vision, which will extend invitational chess tournaments to more players across the various ages of membership."
The US Chess Federation (US Chess) is the official governing body and nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization for chess players and chess supporters in the United States.
Its mission is to empower people, enrich lives, and enhance communities through chess.
Its vision is that chess is recognized as an essential tool that is inclusive, benefits education and rehabilitation, and promotes recreation and friendly competition.
US Chess represents the United States in the World Chess Federation (FIDE), connecting our members to chess players around the world. Founded in 1939 with the merger of the American Chess Federation and the National Chess Federation, US Chess has grown to serve over 97,000 members by March 2020 and 2,000 affiliated chess clubs and organizations today.
Every year, US Chess sanctions and rates over 10,000 tournaments and over half a million games.
It hosts over 25 National Championships and award titles to both amateurs and professionals, ranging from elementary school students to senior citizens.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, is a former editor of two dailies in Iloilo, Philippines)