First chessboard flown into space to go on display at Expo 2020 Dubai

Highlighting the game’s longstanding universal appeal, the first chessboard to be launched into space will be on display at the Expo 2020 Dubai site from October 1, 2021-March 31, 2022.

The historic chess set was specially made in the former Soviet Union and went into space onboard Soviet Soyuz 3 and Soyuz 4 capsules between 1968 and 1969.

Soviet space mission controllers did not permit magnetic chess pieces to be carried onboard Soviet spacecraft, as the pieces could get lodged in unexpected places and where they could interfere with onboard instruments.

Special design

The special chessboard was therefore designed with unique pegs and grooves, to keep the individual chess pieces in place, in zero-gravity environments.

Arkady Dvorkovich, President of the International Chess Federation (FIDE), recently inspected the all-new Dubai Exhibition Centre, co-located within the giant Expo 2020 Dubai site.

The first chessboard that went into space features pegs and grooves. Credit: National Air and Space Museum, Washington/Chad Cullen

The 2021 FIDE World Chess Championship takes place from November 24-December 16, 2021 at Dubai Exhibition Centre as part of the Expo’s calendar of events.

During his visit to the Dubai Exhibition Centre Dvorkovich met Omar Shehadeh, Chief International Participants Officer, Expo 2020 Dubai.

The 2020 FIDE World Chess Championship was postponed in 2020 because of the global Covid-19 pandemic, as was Expo 2020 Dubai, which was originally scheduled to be held from October 20, 2020-April 10, 2021.

Soviet cosmonauts – including Yuri Gagarin – the first human to be sent into space – habitually played recreational chess, both on Earth and in space.

While chess was one of the very first human leisure activities taken into and enjoyed by Soviet cosmonauts in space, American astronauts were also fans of the game.

Neil Armstrong

For instance, NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the Moon, was an avid chess follower.

In fact, Armstrong played chess with his six-year-old son Mark, while he was quarantined upon his return from the Moon.

Unlike the Russian cosmonauts, American astronauts did not use elaborately designed chess sets.

Instead, the Americans played in space with simple plastic chess pieces fitted with velcro.

In August 2018 NASA Astronaut Greg Chamitoff carried such a simple chessboard and played a chess match against Houston Mission Control and won two games against ground control while playing from the International Space Station.

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