Cosmonaut Ivanishin holds Karjakin in "Space-to-Earth" game

Fifty years after the first “Space-to-Earth” game, Russian GM Sergey Karjakin and cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin dished out a 21-move draw in a commemorative event of symbolic value.

Sergey Karjakin (top) played from the Moscow Museum of Cosmonautics, while Anatoly Ivanishin, along with Ivan Vagner, played from the International Space Centre - their home in space since April 9, 2020.   -  Twitter @FIDE_Chess

Fifty years after the first “Space-to-Earth” chess game ended in a 35-move draw, Russian Grandmaster Sergey Karjakin and fellow-Russian, Cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin dished out a 21-move deadlock in a commemorative event of symbolic value.

The game marked the 50th anniversary of the first space-versus-earth game, when Cosmonauts Andrian Nikolayev and Vitaly Sevastyanov from Soyuz 9 flight took on General Nikolai Kamanin and cosmonaut Viktor Gorbatko, who played from Moscow.

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For the record, Karjakin, playing black, offered a draw in the game that followed the opening lines of Ruy Lopez exchange variation. Ivanishan managed to trap Karjakin’s queen and forced Karjakin to make an offer following perpetual checks.

“It is an honour not to lose to a player like Karjakin,” said Ivanishin after accepting the draw. A smiling Karjakin, the 2016 World championship finalist, immediately returned the compliment, saying, “It was an hour to play a cosmonaut.”

Karjakin played from the Moscow Museum of Cosmonautics, while Ivanishin, along with Ivan Vagner, played from the International Space Centre - their home in space since April 9, 2020.

Unlike the game played on 9 June, 1970, there was no need for a specially-designed board to beat the zero-gravity in space. Ivanishin made his moves on a tablet and announced it, while Karjakin physically moved the pieces on a digital board. There was a seven-second lag between the times of moves made and its transmission. This was mainly because the cosmonauts were approximately 420 kilometres from earth.

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On this occasion, the Curator of the Chess Museum, Dmitry Oleynikov, reflected on how things unfolded and led to that historic game in 1970.

“Fifty years ago , chess overcame the force of gravity. In the summer of 1970, before the first Space-to-Earth chess match was played, two great chess fans, cosmonauts Vitaly Sevastyanov and Andriyan Nikolayev asked to take their favourite game aboard for the unprecedented long flight.

“At first, psychologists were against the idea, saying that the cosmonauts could have psychological conflicts, as one of them was stronger than the other. Finally, it was agreed the cosmonauts would take a chess set, but they would play against the team on Earth.

“The “Earth” team consisted of Colonel General Nikolai Kamanin, flight director and Viktor Gorbatko, pilot cosmonaut. During four revolutions, when the spaceship was flying over the Soviet Union, and when there was a direct line, they made the moves. The encounter was a very interesting draw. They made history.

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“The game also was of interest to psychologists, who wanted to check how the brain works. The playing-strengths of both cosmonauts were approximately equal to first category players. It was interesting to see whether they would play, better or worse than usual. It turned out that they played as always.

“There was one more hero in this story - Mikhail Klevstov, an engineer who invented the gravity-free chess set, which can be used in space, not being afraid to lose a piece. Even magnetic chess pieces, unfortunately, can be torn off and lost, or, as Sevastyanov joked, fly inside a sleeping cosmonaut’s throat.

“The set had a simple fixation system with no magnets. There were strings, and a person could move a piece via sockets. This idea of Klevstov was later realised in an industrial set - Space Chess.”

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