Astronaut Fuglesang receives his prize

by ChessBase
10/22/2009 – After returning safely to Earth from the 128th mission of NASA's Space Shuttle program, during which he played a game of chess against the readers of a Swedish newspaper, the astronaut Christer Fuglesang was given a prize (in spite of losing the game). It was a Rybka program, signed by five World Champions. One of his reader opponents received a similar prize. Illustrated report with videos.

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Swedish Astronaut played Chess from Space

The leading Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter covered a chess game between the astronaut Christer Fuglesang, who was 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. He returned to Earth on September 11 (Flight Day 15) at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Dagens Nyheter covered the game "move by move" in the printed version of the newspaper. Chess moderators picked out three different moves that the public, playing black, were able to choose from by voting online. The move that got the most votes is sent out to space. Two unique prizes awaited Christer Fuglesang and one lucky reader when the chess game was over. Five World Chess Champions has signed two chess games on Dagens Nyheter's behalf.

The Fritz 11 and Rybka programs were signed by Garry Kasparov, Anatoly Karpov, Vladimir Kramnik, Boris Spassky and Viswanathan Anand. One prize, Rybka, was for Christer Fuglesang and one for a reader who was raffled in a dedicated chess quiz launched on There is a video of the prize-giving.

Watch the video (in Swedish) here

Christer says that he very much enjoyed the match and that he is glad that it had so much publicity via Dagens Nyheter. He also says that he felt okay with his game, as long as he was on earth. At the time he had more time to think about his moves and work on the positions. When he was in space he was otherwise occupied and didn’t have so much time for chess. He had to make quick decisions. After the first blunder (he doesn’t mention when) he felt that the game went out of control.

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) was a pawn up and had 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 have lead to a recapture by the king and a double attack on the black rook and bishop. So the latter had to retreat. 28...Bc7

29.Rg3? Rf1+ 30.Kh2 Nc2 0-1. [Click to replay]

Fuglesang shows off the prize with the signatures which he has received

The student Anna Tylleskär won the reader’s prize. She says that she became interested in chess after continuously loosing against a school friend. Wanting to beat her friend she joined a club, got better, and started winning.

Christer shows us the Velcro board he had on the ISS. It was necessary to use it in order to avoid chessmen flying around the space station. The position on the board is the final one in the game, when he resigned.

The student and the chess playing astronaut with their prizes

There was a brief exchange between the World Champion Vishy Anand and Fuglesang, before the latter had received his prize. Anand wrote:

Dear Christer,

Wish you a safe return on Thursday (or Friday). I'll be watching on the news casts. I am following your game with interest. You seem to be in a spot of trouble. Need some help and advice? I don't know if you can save it, but you can give them a fight.

Viswanathan Anand

P.S. You have a REALLY cool job. Maybe we can trade places some day...

To which the astronaut replied:

Dear Anand,

Thanks for your nice greeting. I guess I could have made good use of your help earlier, but now it is too late (smiley). I think I put more emphasis on the job in space than the game, but I anyhow enjoyed both very much. It is an honor to get greetings from world champions and I have seen the great, signed prize waiting for me (although I lost). BTW, I was in India last year with my wife and son and we also stayed in Chennai a couple of days. We very much enjoyed it!

Best greetings

The International Space Station as seen from the approaching Space Shuttle

Christer Fuglesang, STS-128 mission specialist, is pictured floating freely in the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM), temporarily attached to the International Space Station while Space Shuttle Discovery remains docked with the station.

Astronaut Fuglesang on extravehicular activity (EVA or "space walk")

Backdropped by New Zealand and Cook Strait in the Pacific Ocean, astronaut Robert L. Curbeam Jr. (left) and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Christer Fuglesang participate in the first EVAs.

Christer Fuglesang on the mission's third and final EVA session

During the seven-hour spacewalk, Fuglesang and NASA astronaut John "Danny" Olivas deployed the Payload Attachment System (PAS), replaced the Rate Gyro Assembly #2, installed two GPS antennae and did some work to prepare for the installation of Node 3 next year. During connection of one of two sets of avionics cables for Node 3, one of the connectors could not be mated. This cable and connector were wrapped in a protective sleeve and saved. All other cables were mated successfully.

Previous ChessBase reports

Astronaut Fuglesang in trouble – in space chess game
09.09.2009 – 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.

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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