Wesley So was forfeited in round nine of the 2015 U.S. Chess Championship for making notes on the paper under his scoresheet.
Mike Klein, who is present at the event in Saint Louis, has posted a useful timeline of the facts.
But an article in Star Tribune sparked further controversy:
“As the shock over the forfeit reverberated at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, the Minnetonka family that So lives with said it was time to explain publicly what has been behind his poor performance in the event.”
Daaim Shabazz of @thechessdrum posted: “Paul Truong speaks out on the So incident”
Chessdom.com contacted Wesley’s mother Eleanor So to learn more than just what has been behind his performance in the event.
Chessdom: Thank you for taking your time under stressful circumstance to clarify what took place. In the past 24 hours, you are being accused by a Lotis Key of sabotaging your son Wesley So’s chess career. Is that true?
Leny So: First, let me say that I had not agreed to do any interview so far because I wanted to protect my son. I love him and nothing changed that. But now that my family and I are being smeared by Lotis Key in the media, I have no choice but to set the record straight. I am confident that your readers will understand the whole truth after this.
Please let me start from the beginning. After Millionaire Chess, Lotis Key and her family drove to St Louis to visit my son. She took my son out of school to stay with her for nearly a week in a rented place.
As a student on a chess scholarship, he had obligations with the chess program, even during the winter break. He did not have permission to leave school and ignored his obligations. He lost his chess scholarship.
At the period that Lotis became involved with my son, his behavior changed. He became cold and distant to his friends and family. For the first time, he did not even call or wrote me on my birthday. This is not like him at all.
But the worst came late in January 2015 during Tata Steel Chess, when my husband got into a very serious accident. His life could have ended. But I did not tell Wesley because I did not want to disturb his tournament.
[Ed. note: We have photos of William So’s injuries – around 30 stitches on the back of the head and down the spine, and bruises on the frontal lobe. The images are too disturbing for publishing.]
I waited until after the tournament. He did not offer to fly to Toronto to visit his father. He showed very little concern. He instead went with Lotis and her family to Manila. There was a big incident there which I just recently found out but that is for another day. All he could talk about is to take all the money which he asked us to keep for him under his name in Canada and transfer it to Minnesota. I could not freely talk to my son anymore.
My family and I discussed this matter at length and we decided since someone is blocking us access to our own son, we had to try to see him in person to help him.
After many weeks of discussing this in the family, I asked my sister in law to accompany me on the trip to visit Wesley in St. Louis. She is the sister of my husband, and Wesley was also very close to her. This is the only tournament in the near future for Wesley in the US.
We contacted Mr. Paul Truong, former coach of Wesley at Webster University, about the US Championship since it is held in St. Louis. He told us that he did not know the exact details of the US Championship and he has not spoken to Wesley since after Wesley left St. Louis in October.
But he gave us the official link www.uschesschamps.com. We got all the information from that website and booked our trip accordingly.
I also asked that while in St. Louis, can my sister in law and I visit SPICE and Webster University, the place which helped my son went from #98 in the world to the top 10. Mr. Truong graciously said of course, but his time is very limited since 3 of his students are competing in the US Championships and he has to help them.
When we arrived to St. Louis, we met Wesley the night before the Opening Ceremony. He was very happy to see us. The only person who looked not happy was Lotis Key. She was visibly upset when she saw me and my sister in-law.
Here are some important facts:
This woman is claiming that I am sabotaging my son. Please think about the logic of this. I am a mother, I have no reason to want to sabotage my son. More importantly, for the entirety of Wesley’s career, I have never done a move that sabotaged or harmed him. On the contrary, I have always helped him pack his bags, arranged his tournaments, do his taxes, etc.
Anyone can judge from a long past record that I have never been a stage mom who interfered with my son’s career. Why would I start sabotaging my son now? There is no motivation for sabotage. There is no past behavior for sabotage. More importantly, there is not even a shred of proof for a supposed sabotage.
While on the contrary, by making this accusation, this woman is implying that she is protecting my son from a ‘sabotage’ from us. Now I have to ask myself: what kind of behavior is this woman manifesting by labeling Wesley’s mere contact with his mother and aunt through visitation a ‘sabotage’? What motivation could this woman have, for being someone he only met in September 2013, to suddenly spend so much of her time by Wesley’s side and being so ‘protective’ of his ‘welfare’? Perhaps further facts below will help explain this.
Wesley met Lotis Key and her family again after winning first prize and monetary award in the Millionaire’s Chess Competition, and right after, he started actively exhibiting behavior that led to the revocation of his university scholarship and surprising, sudden transfer of residence with Lotis Key’s family in Minnesota.
Specifically, he left school without permission, ignored his contractual obligations with the university chess team, and refused to meet with his coaches to discuss his issues.
During this period, Lotis Key also sent me and my son emails saying that I was ‘emotionally blackmailing’ my son because I encouraged my son to stay in school, or at least discuss his issues with his coaches, friends, or university officials before making a final, life-changing discussion.
She labeled it as an issue of an independent young man who is not allowed to ‘make his own decisions’ for ‘his needs’, who is being ‘crushed’ because we are ‘forcing him to fulfill (our) dreams’.
Let me reiterate that I have never been a stage mom who pushed Wesley to pursue chess. Merely a mom who encouraged him to open a dialogue explaining to us why he wanted to leave a promising education, in a world where a college degree is recognized as necessary. We did not do this in a forceful manner and we have all the emails.
In any case, this argument is moot, as the person supposedly helping Wesley pursue independence accompanies him everywhere, sleeps in his own hotel room, involves herself in the minutiae of his affairs.
Lotis Key started claiming on several media articles that she was Wesley’s Mother, not mother-in-law, or some kind of invented mother title. Mother! It is already curious that this woman should suddenly be so central to Wesley’s media appearances in the first place.
Yet even Filipino journalists who knew Wesley’s real parents started to circulate the false information to the world: Eliseo Tumbaga: “…Wesley’s Mom told the senators that if ever he gets the financial incentives that he expected to get from the Philippine Sports Commission for winning the gold at the Universiade…”
It was mentioned in other places that Lotis’ husband is Wesley’s father.
Various organizers were told that Lotis Key is his Mom. A number of chess players were also told that she is his Mom. Many people were very confused as they knew who I was. I felt that my identity was stolen.
When Wesley went to the Philippine Senate to be personally recognized for his gold medals, this woman did not inform us. Yet she posed in the pictures with the Senate with him in the place of recognition. There was no explanation provided as to what capacity she is serving to deserve his media spotlight. There is no contract that stipulates her as his manager, or any professional capacity.
More concerning, at the U.S. championship, Lotis stayed in the same room with my son, the room which was provided by the organizer, and he was not even allowed to have his own key to his own room.
Wesley’s aunt, whom he has long held in high regard, and I went to visit him in his US Championship because we were really troubled by the seriousness of the situation. Upon our arrival, Wesley happily met us before the Opening Ceremony and won his first two games.
There was absolutely no issue. For more hard proof, we also attach here pictures showing me, his aunt and Wesley. You can clearly see how happy Wesley was.
After his first game, we invited Wesley to spend a few hours of alone time with me and his aunt. We asked him how he is doing. He said that he missed us. We told him that we care for him and worried about his welfare. We came with an open mind, but all observations, there is something wrong. This is not about school. We understand about him going professional and we support it.
Clearly after the next day, he changed completely. I asked him after he won in round 2 if we can have 30 minutes with him because we are going home on Saturday.
He said he is busy, and said he sent me an email about bank info in Canada. I was calling him but ignored me. Lotis told him something like he needed to be back to his room, and they walked hurriedly, leaving us behind.
The next day, we were banned from the playing venue by Ms. Joy (St. Louis Chess Club) and Ms. Jean (USCF), as per instructed of Wes.
For years, Wesley always entrusted his savings with his dad, which were all in Canadian bank, excluding his latest earnings starting winnings in Millionaire’s chess.
On April 7, 2015, I received an email saying, “Give me all my bank information, my savings, and all the investment that you made there.” I simply told him to come to Canada.
I then received 3 emails which are very disturbing. Wesley has never used this kind of language to me before.
What is even more disturbing is the last 2 emails came at the time when Wesley was still playing his games. This clearly shows that Lotis was purposely trying to drive a bigger wedge between my son and I.
[Ed.note: We have copies of the emails. The language is foul and insulting, with repeated usage of “f..k”. Two emails are timestamped at 2:03 and 3:54pm (Saint Louis time) respectively.]
Lotis Key’s argument to separate Wesley from his family is to say that we should respect that Wesley is now 21, he now has a right to be independent, and thus to refuse contact from his family, leave school, and take his money if that is his decision.
We are not arguing that a 21-year-old man should not make his own decisions and be independent. We are very, very worried that someone is making his wrong decisions for him, and putting the words and actions in his mouth for him to claim as his own, like a mouthpiece.
We are strongly concerned because, despite Lotis Key saying that all her actions are for Wesley’s welfare and help him carve out the independence he wants, she sleeps in his own hotel room. She creates and manages his personal website, wesleyso.com, and made him transfer to a new email account hosted by her same host.
She accompanied him to the Netherlands, the Philippines, and Ireland. She took his previous trophies in the Philippines from his previous supporter, who held them for safekeeping, and packed them over to her own house, without telling his family.
Furthermore, she personally told us, when enumerating all the benefits that Wesley got form her, that she has to accompany him 24/7, that she takes care of all his social media—meaning Wesley doesn’t interact personally when messaging in his internet, that she takes care of all his diet, his clothing, and helps him prepare to look like a champion.
Does this look like independence? No.
It is very scary for all of us, especially my husband and I. We see the transformation of our son, a strong independent young man, to now needing someone to comb his hair, dress him, feed him, and a becoming a dependent zombie.
Isolating him from his friends, former coach, and from his own family is very strange. We are at the end of our rope and don’t know how to proceed.
This pattern of what Wesley is facing now is similar to Bobby Fischer in Pasadena. We all know what happened to Bobby Fischer after Pasadena. He was never the same. It scared us even more after what Lotis wrote publicly:
“Bobby Fischer lived in my older sister’s house in Pasadena. There is no mystery to Wesley wanting to live with us. He is a good fit here, as we all enjoy each other’s company.”
Chessdom: Very sorry to hear all of this. Hope you can resolve all the problems.
Leny So: Thank you. I have done everything to protect my son. But my heart broke to think that he has changed in such a short period of time and I worry for him.