The Automaton Chess Player

I have always found the tales of Wolfgang Von Kempelen’s chess automation to be some of the most intriguing portions of the history of chess. Enjoy…


The Automaton Chess Player, famously known as “The Turk”, or the Mechanical Turk (German: Schachtürke, “chess Turk”‘ Hungarian: A Török), was a fake chess-playing machine constructed in the late 18th century by Johann Wolfgang Ritter von Kempelen de Pázmánd. From 1770 until its destruction by fire in 1854, it was exhibited by various owners as an automaton, though it was exposed in the early 1820s as an elaborate hoax.

The popularity and mystery inspired works of literary fiction and the film industry, as well as a number of inventions and imitations.

French filmmaker Raymond Bernard weaves elements from the fascinating real story of “The Turk” into an adventure tale in his silent movie “Le joueur d’échecs” (The Chess Player, France 1927):

In the next feature film from 1938 the Chess Player is portrayed in an almost grotesque way, thus a lot more likeable than the king. The interesting…

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Published by chessmusings

Chris Torres is a nationally renowned scholastic chess coach working in both Bakersfield and the San Francisco Bay Area. His classes have attracted players of strengths ranging from rank beginners to world champions. A chess professional since 1998, Chris is widely recognized as one of the main driving forces behind the explosion in popularity and sudden rise in quality of scholastic chess in California. Currently, Chris Torres has the ranking of candidate master and serves as the President of the Torres Chess and Music Academy. Mr. Torres’ hobbies include playing classical guitar and getting his students to appear on the national top 100 chess rating lists.

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