Chess in space during the 2023 World Championship match

by Shahid Ahmed
5/4/2023 – During the FIDE World Chess Championship, a number of side events took place to capitalize on the increased interest in chess. One of these events was a unique encounter between the ISS (International Space Station) and Mission Control. The first game ended on April 16. NASA shared the game with the public on social media. They also mentioned that a second game is underway. | Photo: NASA / Woody Hoburg

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Out of this world

NASA shared on their u/NASA account that, while the World Chess Championship match was taking place last month, /u/warrenhoburg (Warren Hoburg) and his Crew-6 colleagues were playing a chess match of their own, as they were facing the flight directors in NASA’s Mission Control Center at Johnson Space Center.

Each team made about one to two moves a day, as their hectic schedules allowed, sharing updates via space-to-ground communications. Despite starting with the black pieces, the ISS crew emerged victorious, checkmating Mission Control with a cross-board queen move.

International Space Station

Crew-6 members (left to right): Frank Rubio, Woody Hoburg, Sultan Alneyadi and Steve Bowen | Photo: NASA / Woody Hoburg

Their first game wrapped up on Sunday, April 16 — and the second game is already underway! Keep an eye on the ISS blog for more scientific updates from the orbiting laboratory.

If you are wondering how the pieces are moved in space, he mentions flight controllers helping them to move the pieces at Johnson Space Center.

The game

Mission Control Center, NASA

Mission Control Center making White’s moves at Johnson Space Center | Photo: NASA

Woody Hoburg

Woody Hoburg with the first moves on the board (1.e3 e5) | Photo: NASA / Woody Hoburg

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Shahid Ahmed is the senior coordinator and editor of ChessBase India. He enjoys covering chess tournaments and also likes to play in chess events from time to time.