Grandmaster Vs. Cosmonauts, 50 Years Later
Sergey Karjakin playing with cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. Image courtesy VKontakte.

Grandmaster Vs. Cosmonauts, 50 Years Later

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
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40 | Chess Event Coverage

On Tuesday, GM Sergey Karjakin played a chess game against cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first-ever Space vs. Earth chess battle. The game was played on a fairly high level (both literally and figuratively!) and ended in a draw.

The event was co-organized by the Moscow Museum of Cosmonautics (from which Karjakin played), the Roscosmos State Corporation, the Russian Chess Federation, and the social network VKontakte. It was watched live by over 800,000 viewers on that platform.

The cosmonauts were 420 km above the earth on the International Space Station, which recently welcomed NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley and their SpaceX spacecraft.

The game itself was a short and fairly interesting draw which lasted about 16 minutes with Karjakin playing from the studio on a normal chess set and the astronauts using an iPad:

Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. Chess Earth vs Space
Anatoly Ivanishin, Ivan Vagner, and a floating iPad. Image courtesyVKontakte.

"It was the most extraordinary game for me, even more exciting than the world championship match in New York," Karjakin said. "I am really surprised how well prepared the cosmonauts are! And now I know that the brain works as good in space as it does on earth. It was an honor for me to be the second chess player who participated in such an interesting interplanetary game."

Sergey Karjakin Earth Space
Sergey Karjakin commenting after the game. Image courtesy VKontakte.

The match was timed precisely to align with the half-century anniversary of the first Space vs. Earth game of chess played on June 9, 1970. Back then, cosmonauts Andrian Nikolayev and Vitaly Sevastyanov played from the Soyuz 9 against Viktor Gorbakto and Nikolai Kamanin, who played from the earth. That game lasted for six hours, with the moves being sent via radio.

Space vs. Earth Chess 1970
Memorabilia from the Space vs. Earth game in 1970. Photo: Eteri Kublashvili/Russian Chess Federation.

Another Space vs. Earth game was played in 2008-2009, organized by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and US Chess Federation. Astronaut Greg Chamitoff played, and lost, against a third-grade U.S. Chess Championship team and its chess club teammates from Stevenson Elementary School in Bellevue, Washington.


The live broadcast with commentary by GM Evgeny Miroshnichenko.

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