Although chess is considered a rational sport, sometimes even famous grandmasters have superstitions or follow certain rituals. Some believe in lucky pen, shirt, or shoes, others stop shaving during the tournaments, like hockey players during play-offs. Mikhail Tal once blamed a loss to Mikhail Botvinnik on a loss of his lucky pencil. So it is only natural to expect such behavior from children, who tend to believe in miracles and magic. The press office of the World Youth Championships inquired the players about their lucky charms.
For five straight years the Russian Kirill Shubin shows up at the chess events accompanied by two soft toys, heroes of the Sponge Bob cartoon. “This is my favorite cartoon”, says the young player, “and these toys are helping me to cope with stress during the game. I keep them on my knees and press them from time to time. It makes me more comfortable.”
Ching-An Shih, the girl playing for Chinese Taipei, prefers to keep her lucky charm hidden in a bag. She got this plush kitten at the Olympiad in Baku, where she received the WFM title. The player is confident that the lucky charm will help her future chess career.
Simona Suchomelova from Czech Republic has a lucky hat. “I bought it three years ago at the 2013 World Junior Championship in the UAE. I just liked the way it looks, and the price was reasonable. First I wore it just as a fashion accessory, but eventually started to believe it brings me luck during the games. I bought another hat at another Junior Championship in South Africa, and received a third hat, black and white, as a gift. Now I am used to play wearing hats. It is easier to concentrate on a position, when you do not see the opponent’s face.”
Lara Schulze from Germany puts a teddy bear and a plush bird next to the board. The soft couple follows her everywhere for about two years. The player believes these lucky charms are making her play more successful.
The Chinese Yao Lan, like many other famous players, believes in her lucky pen. After she wins a game, she always uses the same pen for writing the moves down during the next one. Let us see how many different pens Yao Lan (who scored 4/5 so far) will use during these championships.
Apart from using lucky charms, many chess players follow another good tradition: they bring pens, magnets, badges, toys, and snacks as presents for their opponents. “This is a good tradition”, says Rachel Long-Xin Tao from Canada, “a nice way of telling the opponents from all over the world about our country and its culture.”