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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