When Lanying wants to be nice to me she calls me Chucky. This is not because she thinks I look like a killer voodoo doll but because I am cute like Charlie Brown, affectionately known as Chuck to Peppermint Patty.
It’s a bit embarrassing when she calls out “Chuck!” in the supermarket and everyone looks round in bewilderment (no-one is called Chuck in England) but generally I don’t mind.
There is another Chucky I have been thinking about a lot recently — Vassily Ivanchuck, who is one of the world’s top chess players. In January he was ranked third, in July he was ranked thirtieth and in August he crushed all opposition to win the FIDE Grand Prix in Armenia.
I’ve always thought rankings in chess were invidious. What I admire is creativity. Chucky is a very creative player. He’s even invented his own variant of chess called “Kissing the Queen.” Chucky is so good at chess that he probably doesn’t realise how difficult his game is. Even to play within the rules you have to have a very sharp eye because the queen cannot be taken or sacrificed and an attack on the queen must be treated like a check so anything that puts your queen in danger is not allowed.
But a couple of weeks ago he was knocked out of the chess world cup by sixteen-year-old Wesley So from the Philippines.
“I should leave professional chess,” he declared. “Chess is killing me. Chess is playing against me! Chess is destroying me!”
The following week he had to issue an apology. “I ask the forgiveness of my supporters, friends, colleagues in arms, and numerous chess lovers, for the emotional interview. I was very upset after losing, but am not in any circumstances planning to give up chess!”
This outburst and subsequent retraction has only made me think more highly of Chucky. Chess is an emotional game. It appears to be a game of logic but it is in fact very emotional and can be very creative, as long as you are not thinking about your ranking. If you are thinking about your ranking you play safe. You play like a computer. The game becomes dull and ends in a draw.
I like players who use their imagination and take risks. Chess players should be emotional about what they are doing. If they never feel like giving up, they are not committing themselves enough.
If you watch Vassily Ivanchuck in these videos, you can see how excitable he is, particularly when he is explaining how to kiss the naked queen, which wins the game.