NASA Astronaut to Play Chess Versus Earthlings

It will be Earth versus space in a unique chess match, and you can help Earth win. NASA and the U.S. Chess Federation (USCF) are teaming up to host the first public chess match between International Space Station astronaut Greg Chamitoff and the inhabitants of the Earth, beginning tomorrow, September 29.

Key players in the game will be the kindergarten through third grade U.S. Chess Championship Team and its chess club teammates from Stevenson Elementary School in Bellevue, Washington. The K-3 champions will select up to four possible moves on Earth’s turn. The public then will vote on the move transmitted to orbit. The USCF will facilitate the match on its web site at www.uschess.org/nasa2008.

Chamitoff, a space station flight engineer speeding about 210 miles above the Earth at five miles a second, is a chess aficionado. He brought a chess set with him when he arrived at the complex on the STS-124 space shuttle mission in June. Chamitoff has added Velcro to the chess pieces to keep them from floating away in weightlessness. He has been playing long-distance chess during his mission in his off time with station control centers around the world. So far, he is undefeated.

The game against the public will move at a pace of one move per day on weekdays only. Play may be slower, however, because Chamitoff only makes moves when his workload permits.

Good. Otherwise, they could have just asked him to stay on Earth if he’s just going to play chess from space.

(As of posting time, Chamitoff’s first move has arrived according to the US Chess Federation. It’s 1.d4.)