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Two Great Tastes - Chess & Astronomy

In my life away from HQ I am, among many other things, a competitive chess player. (Now, before anyone gets any ideas, remember, I never said I was good!) If anyone has been following me on any social media outlets you can't help but know this because my activities tend to have the same curves as a cataclysmic variable, and right now my chess activity is in outburst.

What does this have to do with astronomy? Well, at the risk of being stereotypical, chess is seen as a smart person's game. Astronomy is seen as being a smart person's activity as well. If Stephanie Slater's research is any indication AAVSO members tend to be even moreso "smarter than your average bear."

On the evening of 7 December this year the world of Astronomy and Chess collided in a rather nice and educational fashion.

At the beginning of December the London Chess Classic, one of the strongest chess tournaments in the yearly schedule, is held. This year the players included World Champion Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand of India, the highest rated player in the world Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen of Norway, former World Champion Grandmaster Vladimir Kramnik of Russia, former World Champion Contender Grandmaster Nigel Short of Britain, and current United States Champion Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura.

In chess tournaments of this caliber, the players play one game a day, and there are actually "free days" when games don't take place. But other things do. This year during a free day, World Champion Grandmaster "Vishy" Anand, British Grandmaster Dr. John Nunn, and Dr. Christian Sasse gave a lecture and demonstration on the use of robotic telescopes in modern amateur astronomy. Yes, that's right, folks, the current World Chess Champion and one of the best British players of modern times are one of us!

Grandmaster Dr. Nunn presented several of the astronomical images that he's done and developed over the years, including one of the Horsehead Nebula that he used as the cover to his book, Nunn's Chess Endings, Vol. 2. Grandmaster Anand displayed images he'd taken, including one last June of SN2011dh in M51.

More examples of Grandmaster Annand's work can be downloaded here.

What might it take to turn the World Chess Champion into a Variable Star Observer??

Remember, this is the 21st century, so the entire lecture and demonstration was saved for your viewing pleasure on the Internet.




There we have it! Astronomy and Chess - two great tastes that taste great together!

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