NASA literally took chess out of this world in April as the International Space Station (ISS), situated in space, played against the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Mission Control, on Earth. The first game occurred concurrently with the FIDE World Chess Championship 2023, where GM Ding Liren beat GM Ian Nepomniachtchi to become the 17th world champion.
The ISS won the first game on April 16, the same day as game six of the world championship. According to a Reddit post by NASA, each team made one or two moves per day. Playing from space, Frank Rubio, Woody Hoburg, Sultan Alneyadi, and Steve Bowen took on flight directors playing from Earth in NASA’s Mission Control Center at the Johnson Space Center.
The second game is already underway.
For the past few weeks we’ve been playing chess, ISS vs Mission Control. We each make about one move per day, and flight controllers help us with physically moving our pieces on the board at @NASA_Johnson. We are very much amateur chess players, but we were nevertheless… pic.twitter.com/ZPl7N2lxAv
— Woody Hoburg (@Astro_Woody) May 1, 2023
Check out our expert analysis of this extraterrestrial game, provided by GM Rafael Leitao, below.
Chess In Space
The first-ever game between astronauts and people on Earth took place in 1970—it was played between Russian astronauts and “representatives of the Earth” over the radio and ended in a draw. In 2020, GM Sergey Karjakin played a chess game against cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this cosmic feat.
NASA and the U.S. Chess Federation (USCF) organized the “Earth vs. Space” match in 2008-2009, where Greg Chamitoff’s Expedition 17 (from ISS) played Earth’s team, comprised of the United States K-3 champions and chess club teammates from Stevenson Elementary School in Bellevue, Washington. The Earth won that one—and Chess.com published an article including the game here.
Now that there is a world champion and a global champion, how far can we take our beloved game of 64 squares?