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5. The Turk 1717

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The Turk was a fake chess-playing machine of the late 18th century, promoted as an automaton but later proved to be a hoax. The Turk made its debut in 1770 at Schönbrunn Palace. Its owner, Wolfgang von Kempelen addressed the court, presenting what he had built, and began the demonstration of the machine and its parts. With every showing of the Turk, Kempelen began by opening the doors and drawers of the cabinet, allowing members of the audience to inspect the machine. Following this display, Kempelen would announce that the machine was ready for a challenger.

Kempelen would inform the player that the Turk would use the white pieces and have the first move. Between moves the Turk kept its left arm on the cushion. The Turk could nod twice if it threatened its opponent’s queen, and three times upon placing the king in check. If an opponent made an illegal move, the Turk would shake its head, move the piece back and make its own move, thus forcing a forfeit of its opponent’s move. Observers of the Turk would state that the machine played aggressively, and typically beat its opponents within thirty minutes.

The Turk was in fact a mechanical illusion that allowed a human chess master to hide inside and operate the machine. With a skilled operator, the Turk won most of the games played. The apparatus was demonstrated around Europe and the Americas for over 80 years until its destruction by fire in 1854, playing and defeating many challengers including statesmen such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin.

see The Turk on Wikipedia

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