MANILA, Philippines – Wesley So vaulted into No. 3 in the list of the world’s top junior players in the newest rating list released by the International Chess Federation (FIDE) for January 2011.

The 17-year-old Filipino champion raised his Elo rating by four points – from 2669 to 2673 – to climb to third place overall behind GMs Fabiano Caruana of Italy and Anish Giri of the Netherlands.

Caruana is now on top of the list with an Elo 2771, replacing super GM Magnus Carlsen of Norway, who has left the junior category.

Giri, one of the few junior players with a plus record over So, is now second with 2686.

So’s top Southeast Asian rival, GM Le Quang Liem of Vietnam, dropped to fourth place with   2664. Le lost 25 points in the same period.

Also in the list of Top 10 junior players in the world GMs Sebastian Feller of France (2656), Anton Kovalyov of Argentina (2629), Eltaj Safarli of Azerbaijan (2629), Ivan Salgado Lopez of Spain (2626), Sana Sjugirov of Russia (2626) and Maxim Matlakov of Russia (2613).

GM Parimarjan Negi of India (2607) and GMs Yu Yangyi (2607) and Hou Yifan (2602) occupy the next three places. 

Overall, So also moved into No. 64 in the world. He is only two points behind GM Vladimir Akopianof Armenia for 63rd place and one point ahead of GM Ernesto Inarkiev of Russia.

In the November 2010 rating list of FIDE, So is ranked No. 9 in the junior category and No. 73 in the world.

Previously, So’s highest rating was No. 60 in the world when he reached Elo 2674 during the July 2010 period. He first broke the elite Top 100 list — No. 92 – with 2646 in July 2009.

In the list of top chess-playing countries, the Philippines is now No. 33 with an average rating of 2531, ahead of Asian rivals Vietnam, Iran, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.

The Philippines now has 62 titled players, including 12 GMs and 23 IMs.

National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) president/chairman Prospero “Butch” Pichay lauded So and other Filipino players for their exceptional showing in the year just ended.

Pichay said So can easily breach the 2700 mark this year, judging from his superb play last year.

Newly-elected FIDE Southeast Asian zone president and Tagaytay Mayor Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino also expressed confidence that Filipino players will perform even better in 2011.

So also kept his top spot in the list of leading Filipino players.

Four other Filipinos – GMs Rogelio Antonio Jr., Roland Salvador, John Paul Gomez and Mark Paragua – also made significant improvements.

Antonio kept second place with 2589 – up by 16 points from his previous Elo of 2573. He achieved his highest rating since becoming the country’s third GM in Baguio City in 1993. He is now ranked No. 254 in the world.