Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pestaño: Machines that play chess in pre-PC era

Thursday, October 17, 2013

BEFORE the advent of chess computers, there were also chess playing “machines” in the 18th and 19th centuries. The most famous were the “Turk”, ”Ajeeb” and “Mephisto.”
The Turk was a fake chess-playing machine constructed in the late 18th century. 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.
Constructed and unveiled in 1770 by Wolfgang von Kempelen to impress the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, the mechanism appeared to be able to play a strong game of chess against a human opponent.
The Turk was in fact a mechanical illusion that allowed a human chess master hiding inside to operate the machine. It played and defeated many challengers, including statesmen such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin.
Napoleon was one of the world’s worst losers and, true to form, he tried to cheat the machine by making illegal moves, He also tried to upset the machine with an enormous magnet. Despite these efforts , he was soundly beaten and it is reported he threw the chessmen off the board and stormed out of the room shouting “Bagatelle.”
Another celebrated automaton was Ajeeb, constructed by Englishman Charles Alfred Hooper in the 1860s. Among its famous opponents whom it soundly defeated were the critic John Ruskin, the later King Edward VII, the Princess of Wales and Prince Leopold.
Peter Hill, one of Ajeeb’s operators, was twice attacked. A lady stabbed him with a hairpin and an angry Westerner shot him,wounding Hill on the shoulder.
Among the celebrities who played Ajeeb were Admiral Dewey, Teddy Roosevelt, Houdini, Sarah Bernhardt and O’Henry.
The third of the famous automatons was Mephisto, constructed by Charles Gumpel. Unlike Ajeeb and the Turk, the operator was in an adjacent room. The moves were transmitted electro-mechanically.
Mehisto participated in tournaments and even founded its own chess club.
Cepca results. Our lady journalist KC Morala sent in this report.
“NM Merben Roque and Rhenzi Kyle Sevillano finished tied for the top in the 23rd Cepca Chess Anniversary Open held in SM City Cebu Entertainment Center last Oct. 12 and 13.
Roque defeated eight opponents before losing in the final round against Eden Diano in the nine-round tournament.
Meanwhile, 14-year-old Sevillano wrapped up an astounding victory against Rogelio Enriquez, Jr. in the last round to finish with a tie with his former USC coach Roque at eight points.
Having beaten the chess prodigy in the sixth round, Roque secured his champion’s trophy and won P7,000 while Kyle settled for P5,000 and another P700 for winning the Kiddies section.
Diano was solo third placer at 7.5 points.
The rest of the top 20 were Richard Natividad, Bryll Arellano, Edsel Montoya, Ramil Wadim, Leonardo Alidani, Rogelio Enriquez, Jr, Joel Pacuribot, Glicerio Pardillo, Jr., Yves Fiel, Erwin Ababat, Felix Shaun Balbona, Bonn Tibod, Mark Mangubat, Michael Pinar, Allan Pason, Mark Sy, and Michael Pagaran.
Top Cepcans were Carlo Maraat, Peterson Sia and Jimmy Ty, Jr., while Leonardo Alidani, Erwin Ababat and Carlos Moreno III were the Top Seniors. Yves Fiel, Felix Shaun Balbona, and Allan Pason were the top juniors players and Laila Nadera, Airene Robillos and Quennie Cablao were the top ladies players.
This event was sponsored by Cepca and Rose Pharmacy Inc. A total of 156 players took part in the tournament.”
Cepca honorary member Mayor Mike Rama was the guest of honor and gave an inspirational talk.
Monthly tournament. Our tournament for October will be this Sunday at 1 pm in Handuraw Lahug.

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