Russian Cosmonauts Aboard the ISS Battle a Grandmaster Here on Earth For a Round of Chess


50 years ago, on June 9, 1970, the first-ever Space-Earth game of chess happened. Now, in celebration of its 50th anniversary, the Russian Chess Federation and space agency Rocosmos organized another round of chess with two Russian astronauts aboard the International Space Station and an Earth-bound chess grandmaster.

In a report by Borneo Bulletin, the event happened on Tuesday, June 9, with astronauts Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin equipped with an electronic chessboard in zero gravity.

The two Russian astronauts are playing against a former child prodigy and now chess grandmaster Sergei Karyakin, who was playing from the Museum of Cosmonautics in Moscow.

The game was broadcasted live for about 15 minutes before the match ended in a draw.

“It’s a huge honor for us not to lose to a grandmaster,” said Ivaneshin after the game, while Vagner added that as the game was going on, astronauts from the US that are also aboard the ISS are watching and giving them tips.

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Meanwhile, Karyakin said that he was jittery during the game.

The 30-year-old chess grandmaster even had trouble falling asleep the night before the match, saying he was only able to fall asleep at around four in the morning.

“They played well,” Karyakin said. “I can say that the human brain functions very well in space, and I have seen this today.”

Half a century ago, the astronauts who battled with a chess grandmaster for the first-ever Space versus Earth chess match only communicated their moves through a radio, according to NPR.

But thanks to technology, astronauts today used an iPad to play the game.

From 2008 to 2009, a similar match happened between astronaut Greg Chamitoff against the third grade US Chess Championship Team.

Karyakin is known as the world’s youngest chess grandmaster, achieving the title when he was just 12 years old. The distance didn’t matter when you’re having fun.

Meanwhile, Russian astronauts Vagner and Ivaneshin, along with U.S. cosmonaut Chris Cassidy, arrived on the ISS in April and was recently followed by two more astronauts from the United States, Doug Hurley, and Bob Behnken.

Hurley and Behnken arrived via the first crewed private flight to the ISS via the Crew Dragon spacecraft, which was developed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company.

Besides the new and improved spacecraft, both astronauts also donned the new, all-white spacesuits that are also developed by SpaceX that are custom-made to fit them and designed with their functionality in mind.

They were also the first ones to wear the new spacesuit in a space mission.

In a recent post by TechTimes, Hurley and Behnken said that they would give the new suits a five-star rating as they seemed to enjoy the suits very well, especially as they were able to get in and out of it quite quickly in zero-G, especially when compared to the “pumpkin” suit or the Advanced Crew Escape Suit.

The take-off happened on May 31 from Florida, which is the first time since 2011 that a manned spaceflight launched from the area after the space shuttle program ended.

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