The Turk, the first chess playing automata

Two engravings of the first well known chess playing automate known as the Turk. It was invented by the hungarian baron Kempelen but is in fact a trick. The automate was big enough to hide somebody small inside who operated it. A famous game exists between the 'machine' and Napoléon 1st . This game was played after the death of the machines inventor. It had meanwhile become so famous that it did world tours.

Napoléon 1er-The Turk (Allgaier) Schoenbrunn, 1809, C20

1. e4 e5 2. Qf3? Nc6 3. Bc4 The famous and elementary trap! Unfortunately for Napoléon, the player hidden in 'the Turk' was one of the best players of his time and knew the refutation.

3 ... Nf6 4. Ne2 The knight can no longer go to it's best square, f3, now occupied by the queen.

4 ... Bc5 5. a3? Wasting a tempo.

5 ... d6 6. 0-0 Bg4 7. Qd3 Nh5 8. h3 Bxe2 9. Qxe2 Nf4 10. Qe1 Nd4 The time lost in the opening by white allows black to start an attack.

11. Bb3 Nxh3+! 12. Kh2 If 12. gxh3 Nf3+ and white is lost

12 Qh4 The right time to bring out the queen, once the minor pieces have prepared the ground.

13. g3 Nf3+ 14. Kg2 Nxe1+ 15. Rxe1 Qg4 16. d3 Bxf2 17. Rh1 Qxg3+ 18. Kf1 Bd4 19. Ke2 Qg2+ 20. Kd1 Qxh1+ 21. Kd2 Qg2+ 22. Ke1 Ng1 23. Nc3 Bxc3+ 24. bxc3 Qe2+ White abandons.

The Turc was destroyed by a fire at the museum of Philadelphia in 1856. Other automata were invented later and continued to perform. The public was however no longer dupe.

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Text by Céline Roos

Last modified january 1997.