Astronaut Fuglesang in trouble – in space chess game

by ChessBase
9/9/2009 – On August 28 Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang blasted off into space, on the 128th mission of NASA's Space Shuttle program. He conducted a seven-hour space walk at the International Space Station, and also continued his chess game against the readers of a Swedish newspaper. Both the astronaut, who has a tough position, and his opponents have lovely prizes waiting for them.

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Swedish Astronaut to play Chess from Space

The leading Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter is covering a chess game between the astronaut Christer Fuglesang, who is orbiting Earth in the International Space Station, and the Swedish public. Fuglesang was transported to the ISS by the space shuttle Discovery, which blazed into orbit on August 28 with seven astronauts on board (see images below).

Dagens Nyheter is covering the game "move by move" in the printed version of the newspaper. Chess moderators pick out three different moves that the public, playing black, are able to choose from by voting online. The move that gets the most votes is sent out to space. Anyone can join in, and there are some interesting prizes to win, as the newspaper reports:

A unique prize awaits Christer Fuglesang and one lucky reader when the chess game is over. Five World Chess Champions have signed two chess games on Dagens Nyheter's behalf.

Garri Kasparov, Anatoli Karpov, Vladimir Kramnik, Boris Spasskij and Viswanathan Anand, all World Champions, and the latter, Anand, in fact the reigning one. They became so interested when they heard about's chess game, with Christer Fuglesang playing from space against the newspaper's readers, they agreed to jointly sign two software chess game as prizes – one for Christer and one for the readers who will be raffled in a dedicated chess quiz launched shortly here on

That so many chess greats were all gathered together at one time is extremely rare, and happened recently when the world's oldest chess club celebrated its anniversary in Zurich. "It's like a conjunction of planets that occurs only once every hundred years," says Frederic Friedel of the German company ChessBase, who attended the meeting in Zurich and made sure that the autographs were collected. He also says that the reigning world champion Viswanathan Anand and other grandmasters have agreed to help Christer Fuglesang if he gets into trouble during his game.

"It is unique that all these World Champions come together simultaneously, and it is unique to have these autographs in the same place," says Robert Unt from the Swedish Chess Academy, the association who were the driving force behind space game, the idea for which originated with Christer Fuglesang himself, who is also a member of the Chess Academy.

In the meantime Christer Fuglesang appears to be in a spot of trouble in his chess game against the Dagens Nyheter readers.

Fuglesang,Christer - Dagens Nyheter readers [D23]
ISS-Sweden Zurich, 20.08.2009
1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 Bg4 5.Bxc4 e6 6.h3 Bh5 7.0-0 Be7 8.Nc3 0-0 9.g4 Bg6 10.Ne5 Nbd7 11.Nxg6 fxg6 12.Bxe6+ Kh8 13.f3 Nb6 14.Qb3 c6 15.Ne2 Nfd5 16.e4 Nc7 17.Be3 Nxe6 18.Qxe6 Bd6 19.Qb3 Qe7 20.Qd3 Rae8 21.Nc3 Qh4 22.Qe2 Nc4 23.Bf2 Qxh3 24.Be1 Ne3 25.Rf2 Qg3+ 26.Rg2 Qxf3 27.Qxf3 Rxf3 28.e5

Black (the readers) is a pawn up and has brought tremendous pressure to bear on White's king. With his last move the astronaut has set a little trap: capturing the rook on g2 with the knight would lead to a recapture by the king and a double attack on the black rook and bishop. So the latter must retreat, but where should it go? [Click to replay]

128th NASA Space Shuttle mission

The midnight launch of NASA's space shuttle Discovery at 11:59 p.m. EDT on Friday, August 28, 2009, was one of the most spectacular in recent memory. It is well documented by photos provided by the Space Agency.

Rollout of space shuttle Discovery was slow-going due to the onset of lightning in the area of Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo Courtesy of Justin Dernier/EPA

Billows of smoke and steam rise above Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida alongside space shuttle Discovery as it races toward space on the STS-128 mission. The STS-128 mission is the 30th International Space Station assembly flight and the 128th space shuttle flight. The 13-day mission will deliver more than seven tons of supplies, science racks and equipment, as well as additional environmental hardware to sustain six crew members on the International Space Station. The equipment includes a freezer to store research samples, a new sleeping compartment and the COLBERT treadmill. Image: NASA/Sandra Joseph and Kevin O'Connell.

Viewed from the Banana River Viewing Site at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, space shuttle Discovery arcs through a cloud-brushed sky, lighted by the trail of fire after launch on the STS-128 mission. Liftoff from Launch Pad 39A was on time at 11:59 p.m. EDT. The first launch attempt on Aug. 24 was postponed due to unfavorable weather conditions. The second attempt on Aug. 25 also was postponed due to an issue with a valve in space shuttle Discovery's main propulsion system. Image: NASA/Ben Cooper.

Endeavour performs a backflip, officially known as the Rendezvous Pitch Maneuver, shortly before docking with the International Space Station. The backflip allows astronauts on the station to photograph the orbiter's underside, one of several procedures designed to inspect the shuttle's heat shield. Photo NASA.

European Space Agency astronaut Christer Fuglesang is visible in the reflection of NASA astronaut Danny Olivas's helmet visor during this, the STS-128 mission's third and final spacewalk. Olivas and Fuglesang deployed the Payload Attachment System, replaced the Rate Gyro Assembly #2, installed two GPS antennae and worked to prepare for the installation of Node 3 next year. Image NASA.

Before boarding a space shuttle to leave the International Space Station Christer Fuglesang showed how "sweet" a space mission can be. During a special video downlink held with Swedish officials and celebrities early Monday morning, Fuglesang and fellow European Space Agency astronaut Frank De Winne from Belgium let loose several small space shuttle shaped candies, before catching them with their mouths, Pac-Man style.

Return to Earth

Space shuttle Discovery and its seven-member crew are expected to return to Earth Thursday. Two landing opportunities at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida are available at 7:05 p.m. and 8:42 p.m. EDT. NASA will evaluate weather conditions at Kennedy before permitting Discovery and its crew to land. If bad weather prevents a return on Thursday, both Kennedy and the backup landing site at Edwards Air Force Base in California will be activated for consideration on Friday.

Christer Fuglesang, ESA Astronaut

ESA Astronaut Christer Fuglesang [Image NASA]

Born March 18, 1957 in Stockholm, Sweden. Graduated from Bromma Gymnasium, Stockholm, Sweden, in 1975; received a master of science degree in Engineering Physics from the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm, Sweden, in 1981; received a doctorate in Experimental Particle Physics from the University of Stockholm in 1987. He became a Docent in Particle Physics at the University of Stockholm in 1991. Honorary Doctorate from Umeå University, Sweden (1999). Honorary Doctorate from the University of Nova Gorica, Slovenia (2007). NASA Space Flight Medal (2007). H.M. The King’s Medal (Stockholm, 2007). Married to Elisabeth Walldie, three children. He enjoys sports, sailing, skiing, frisbee, games and reading.

As a graduate student, Fuglesang worked at CERN (European Research Center on Particle Physics) in Geneva on the UA5 experiment, which studied proton-antiproton collisions. In 1988 he became a Fellow of CERN, where he worked on the CPLEAR experiment studying the subtle CP-violation of Kaon-particles. After a year he became a Senior Fellow and head of the particle identification subdetector. In November 1990, Fuglesang obtained a position at the Manne Siegbahn Institute of Physics, Stockholm, but remained stationed at CERN for another year working towards the new large hadron collider project. Since 1980, when stationed in Sweden, Fuglesang taught mathematics at the Royal Institute of Technology.

Fuglesang during an EVA (extra-vehicular activity) – Image NASA

Christer Fuglesang entered the Mission Specialist Class at NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, in August 1996, and qualified for flight assignment as a mission specialist in April 1998. From May to October 1998, he resumed training at TsPK on Soyuz-TM spacecraft operations for de-docking, atmospheric re-entry and landing. He was awarded the Russian 'Soyuz Return Commander' certificate, which qualifies him to command a three-person Soyuz capsule on its return from space.

Christer is a member of ESA’s European Astronaut Corps, whose home base is the European Astronaut Center located in Cologne, Germany. He was assigned collateral duties in the NASA-JSC Astronaut Office and was assigned to the ISS Payload Branch. He has logged over 308 hours in space, including three EVAs (spacewalks) totalling 18 hours and 14 minutes.

Previous ChessBase reports

Swedish Astronaut to play Chess from Space
21.08.2009 – Remember American astronaut Greg Chamitoff, who a year ago played chess against the NASA ground stations. Well, now European Space Agency astronaut Christer Fuglesang, Sweden, is going to do the same, playing a game against the Swedish public. Right now Fuglesang is in quarantine awaiting an August 24th launch. But the game has already started, and you can take part.

Get Ready for Earth vs. Space
26.09.2008 – On Monday, September 29 Greg Chamitoff, travelling 210 miles above the earth at five miles a second, will challenge team earth to a ground-breaking Space Match. It is a unique event, pitting the International Space Station astronaut against the residents of Earth, guided by a team of schoolchildren. Rate of play is one move per day. Press release.

Chess in Space: Houston, we have a checkmate
29.08.2008 – How's this for an unusual chess match: US astronaut Greg Chamitoff, who is currently aboard the International Space Station, is playing against the Ground Stations. The first game was won convincingly by Chamitoff, who is a decent amateur player. Now he is playing six simultaneous games against different Ground Stations. We have pictures and an indepth interview with the astronaut.

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