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Maelzel's Chess-Player

PERHAPS no exhibition of the kind has ever elicited so general
attention as the Chess-Player of Maelzel. Wherever seen it has been
an object of intense curiosity, to all persons who think. Yet the
question of its _modus operandi is _still undetermined. Nothing has
been written on this topic which can be considered as decisive--and
accordingly we find every where men of mechanical genius, of great
general acuteness, and discriminative understanding, who make no
scruple in pronouncing the Automaton a _pure machine, _unconnected
with human agency in its movements, and consequently, beyond all
comparison, the most astonishing of the inventions of mankind. And
such it would undoubtedly be, were they right in their supposition.
Assuming this hypothesis, it would be grossly absurd to compare with
the Chess-Player, any similar thing of either modern or ancient days.
Yet there have been many and wonderful automata. In Brewster's
Letters on Natural Magic, we have an account of the most remarkable.
Among these may be mentioned, as having beyond doubt existed,
firstly, the coach invented by M. Camus for the amusement of Louis
XIV when a child. A table, about four feet square, was introduced,
into the room appropriated for the exhibition. Upon this table was
placed a carriage, six inches in length, made of wood, and drawn by
two horses of the same material. One window being down, a lady was
seen on the back seat. A coachman held the reins on the box, and a
footman and page were in their places behind. M. Camus now touched a
spring; whereupon the coachman smacked his whip, and the horses
proceeded in a natural manner, along the edge of the table, drawing
after them the carriage. Having gone as far as possible in this
direction, a sudden turn was made to the left, and the vehicle was
driven at right angles to its former course, and still closely along
the edge of the table. In this way the coach proceeded until it
arrived opposite the chair of the young prince. It then stopped, the
page descended and opened the door, the lady alighted, and presented
a petition to her sovereign. She then re-entered. The page put up the
steps, closed the door, and resumed his station. The coachman whipped
his horses, and the carriage was driven back to its original

The magician of M. Maillardet is also worthy of notice. We copy the
following account of it from the _Letters _before mentioned of Dr.
B., who derived his information principal!

from the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia.

"One of the most popular pieces of mechanism which we have seen, Is
the Magician constructed by M. Maillardet, for the purpose of
answering certain given questions. A figure, dressed like a magician,
appears seated at the bottom of a wall, holding a wand in one hand,
and a book in the other A number of questions, ready prepared, are
inscribed on oval medallions, and the spectator takes any of these he
chooses and to which he wishes an answer, and having placed it in a
drawer ready to receive it, the drawer shuts with a spring till the
answer is returned. The magician then arises from his seat, bows his
head, describes circles with his wand, and consulting the book as If
in deep thought, he lifts it towards his face. Having thus appeared
to ponder over the proposed question he raises his wand, and striking
with it the wall above his head, two folding doors fly open, and
display an appropriate answer to the question. The doors again close,
the magician resumes his original position, and the drawer opens to
return the medallion. There are twenty of these medallions, all
containing different questions, to which the magician returns the
most suitable and striking answers. The medallions are thin plates of
brass, of an elliptical form, exactly resembling each other. Some of
the medallions have a question inscribed on each side, both of which
the magician answered in succession. If the drawer is shut without a
medallion being put into it, the magician rises, consults his book,
shakes his head, and resumes his seat. The folding doors remain shut,
and the drawer is returned empty. If two medallions are put into the
drawer together, an answer is returned only to the lower one. When
the machinery is wound up, the movements continue about an hour,
during which time about fifty questions may be answered. The inventor
stated that the means by which the different medallions acted upon
the machinery, so as to produce the proper answers to the questions
which they contained, were extremely simple."

The duck of Vaucanson was still more remarkable. It was _of _the size
of life, and so perfect an imitation of the living animal that all
the spectators were deceived. It executed, says Brewster, all the
natural movements and gestures, it ate and drank with avidity,
performed all the quick motions of the head and throat which are
peculiar to the duck, and like it muddled the water which it drank
with its bill. It produced also the sound of quacking in the most
natural manner. In the anatomical structure the artist exhibited the
highest skill. Every bone in the real duck had its representative In
the automaton, and its wings were anatomically exact. Every cavity,
apophysis, and curvature was imitated, and each bone executed its
proper movements. When corn was thrown down before it, the duck
stretched out its neck to pick it up, swallowed, and digested it.

But if these machines were ingenious, what shall we think of the
calculating machine of Mr. Babbage? What shall we think of an engine
of wood and metal which can not only compute astronomical and
navigation tables to any given extent, but render the exactitude of
its operations mathematically certain through its power of correcting
its possible errors? What shall we think of a machine which can not
only accomplish all this, but actually print off its elaborate
results, when obtained, without the slightest intervention of the
intellect of man? It will, perhaps, be said, in reply, that a machine
such as we have described is altogether above comparison with the
Chess-Player of Maelzel. By no means--it is altogether beneath
it--that is to say provided we assume (what should never for a moment
be assumed) that the Chess-Player is a _pure machine, _and performs
its operations without any immediate human agency. Arithmetical or
algebraical calculations are, from their very nature, fixed and
determinate. Certain _data _being given, certain results necessarily
and inevitably follow. These results have dependence upon nothing,
and are influenced by nothing but the _data _originally given. And
the question to be solved proceeds, or should proceed, to its final
determination, by a succession of unerring steps liable to no change,
and subject to no modification. This being the case, we can without
difficulty conceive the _possibility _of so arranging a piece of
mechanism, that upon starting In accordance with the _data _of the
question to be solved, it should continue its movements regularly,
progressively, and undeviatingly towards the required solution, since
these movements, however complex, are never imagined to be otherwise
than finite and determinate. But the case is widely different with
the Chess-Player. With him there is no determinate progression. No
one move in chess necessarily follows upon any one other. From no
particular disposition of the men at one period of a game can we
predicate their disposition at a different period. Let us place the
_first move _in a game of chess, in juxta-position with the _data _of
an algebraical question, and their great difference will be
immediately perceived. From the latter--from the _data--_the second
step of the question, dependent thereupon, inevitably follows. It is
modelled by the _data. _It must be _thus _and not otherwise. But from
the first move in the game of chess no especial second move follows
of necessity. In the algebraical question, as it proceeds towards
solution, the _certainty _of its operations remains altogether
unimpaired. The second step having been a consequence of the _data,
_the third step is equally a consequence of the second, the fourth of
the third, the fifth of the fourth, and so on, _and not possibly
otherwise, _to the end. But in proportion to the progress made in a
game of chess, is the _uncertainty _of each ensuing move. A few moves
having been made, _no _step is certain. Different spectators of the
game would advise different moves. All is then dependent upon the
variable judgment of the players. Now even granting (what should not
be granted) that the movements of the Automaton Chess-Player were in
themselves determinate, they would be necessarily interrupted and
disarranged by the indeterminate will of his antagonist. There is
then no analogy whatever between the operations of the Chess-Player,
and those of the calculating machine of Mr. Babbage, and if we choose
to call the former a _pure machine _we must be prepared to admit that
it is, beyond all comparison, the most wonderful of the inventions of
mankind. Its original projector, however, Baron Kempelen, had no
scruple in declaring it to be a "very ordinary piece of mechanism--a
_bagatelle _whose effects appeared so marvellous only from the
boldness of the conception, and the fortunate choice of the methods
adopted for promoting the illusion." But it is needless to dwell upon
this point. It is quite certain that the operations of the Automaton
are regulated by _mind, _and by nothing else. Indeed this matter is
susceptible of a mathematical demonstration, _a priori. _The only
question then is of the _manner _in which human agency is brought to
bear. Before entering upon this subject it would be as well to give a
brief history and description of the Chess-Player for the benefit of
such of our readers as may never have had an opportunity of
witnessing Mr. Maelzel's exhibition.

The Automaton Chess-Player was invented in 1769, by Baron Kempelen, a
nobleman of Presburg, in Hungary, who afterwards disposed of it,
together with the secret of its operations, to its present possessor.
{2*} Soon after its completion it was exhibited in Presburg, Paris,
Vienna, and other continental cities. In 1783 and 1784, it was taken
to London by Mr. Maelzel. Of late years it has visited the principal
towns in the United States. Wherever seen, the most intense curiosity
was excited by its appearance, and numerous have been the attempts,
by men of all classes, to fathom the mystery of its evolutions. The
cut on this page gives a tolerable representation of the figure as
seen by the citizens of Richmond a few weeks ago. The right arm,
however, should lie more at length upon the box, a chess-board should
appear upon it, and the cushion should not be seen while the pipe is
held. Some immaterial alterations have been made in the costume of
the player since it came into the possession of Maelzel--the plume,
for example, was not originally worn. {image of automaton}

At the hour appointed for exhibition, a curtain is withdrawn, or
folding doors are thrown open, and the machine rolled to within about
twelve feet of the nearest of the spectators, between whom and it
(the machine) a rope is stretched. A figure is seen habited as a
Turk, and seated, with its legs crossed, at a large box apparently of
maple wood, which serves it as a table. The exhibiter will, if
requested, roll the machine to any portion of the room, suffer it to
remain altogether on any designated spot, or even shift its location
repeatedly during the progress of a game. The bottom of the box is
elevated considerably above the floor by means of the castors or
brazen rollers on which it moves, a clear view of the surface
immediately beneath the Automaton being thus afforded to the
spectators. The chair on which the figure sits is affixed permanently
to the box. On the top of this latter is a chess-board, also
permanently affixed. The right arm of the Chess-Player is extended at
full length before him, at right angles with his body, and lying, in
an apparently careless position, by the side of the board. The back
of the hand is upwards. The board itself is eighteen inches square.
The left arm of the figure is bent at the elbow, and in the left hand
is a pipe. A green drapery conceals the back of the Turk, and falls
partially over the front of both shoulders. To judge from the
external appearance of the box, it is divided into five
compartments--three cupboards of equal dimensions, and two drawers
occupying that portion of the chest lying beneath the cupboards. The
foregoing observations apply to the appearance of the Automaton upon
its first introduction into the presence of the spectators.

Maelzel now informs the company that he will disclose to their view
the mechanism of the machine. Taking from his pocket a bunch of keys
he unlocks with one of them, door marked ~ in the cut above, and
throws the cupboard fully open to the inspection of all present. Its
whole interior is apparently filled with wheels, pinions, levers, and
other machinery, crowded very closely together, so that the eye can
penetrate but a little distance into the mass. Leaving this door open
to its full extent, he goes now round to the back of the box, and
raising the drapery of the figure, opens another door situated
precisely in the rear of the one first opened. Holding a lighted
candle at this door, and shifting the position of the whole machine
repeatedly at the same time, a bright light is thrown entirely
through the cupboard, which is now clearly seen to be full,
completely full, of machinery. The spectators being satisfied of this
fact, Maelzel closes the back door, locks it, takes the key from the
lock, lets fall the drapery of the figure, and comes round to the
front. The door marked I, it will be remembered, is still open. The
exhibiter now proceeds to open the drawer which lies beneath the
cupboards at the bottom of the box--for although there are apparently
two drawers, there is really only one--the two handles and two key
holes being intended merely for ornament. Having opened this drawer
to its full extent, a small cushion, and a set of chessmen, fixed in
a frame work made to support them perpendicularly, are discovered.
Leaving this drawer, as well as cupboard No. 1 open, Maelzel now
unlocks door No. 2, and door No. 3, which are discovered to be
folding doors, opening into one and the same compartment. To the
right of this compartment, however, (that is to say the spectators'
right) a small division, six inches wide, and filled with machinery,
is partitioned off. The main compartment itself (in speaking of that
portion of the box visible upon opening doors 2 and 3, we shall
always call it the main compartment) is lined with dark cloth and
contains no machinery whatever beyond two pieces of steel,
quadrant-shaped, and situated one in each of the rear top corners of
the compartment. A small protuberance about eight inches square, and
also covered with dark cloth, lies on the floor of the compartment
near the rear corner on the spectators' left hand. Leaving doors No.
2 and No. 3 open as well as the drawer, and door No. I, the exhibiter
now goes round to the back of the main compartment, and, unlocking
another door there, displays clearly all the interior of the main
compartment, by introducing a candle behind it and within it. The
whole box being thus apparently disclosed to the scrutiny of the
company, Maelzel, still leaving the doors and drawer open, rolls the
Automaton entirely round, and exposes the back of the Turk by lifting
up the drapery. A door about ten inches square is thrown open in the
loins of the figure, and a smaller one also in the left thigh. The
interior of the figure, as seen through these apertures, appears to
be crowded with machinery. In general, every spectator is now
thoroughly satisfied of having beheld and completely scrutinized, at
one and the same time, every individual portion of the Automaton, and
the idea of any person being concealed in the interior, during so
complete an exhibition of that interior, if ever entertained, is
immediately dismissed as preposterous in the extreme.

M. Maelzel, having rolled the machine back into its original
position, now informs the company that the Automaton will play a game
of chess with any one disposed to encounter him. This challenge being
accepted, a small table is prepared for the antagonist, and placed
close by the rope, but on the spectators' side of it, and so situated
as not to prevent the company from obtaining a full view of the
Automaton. From a drawer in this table is taken a set of chess-men,
and Maelzel arranges them generally, but not always, with his own
hands, on the chess board, which consists merely of the usual number
of squares painted upon the table. The antagonist having taken his
seat, the exhibiter approaches the drawer of the box, and takes
therefrom the cushion, which, after removing the pipe from the hand
of the Automaton, he places under its left arm as a support. Then
taking also from the drawer the Automaton's set of chess-men, he
arranges them upon the chessboard before the figure. He now proceeds
to close the doors and to lock them--leaving the bunch of keys in
door No. 1. He also closes the drawer, and, finally, winds up the
machine, by applying a key to an aperture in the left end (the
spectators' left) of the box. The game now commences--the Automaton
taking the first move. The duration of the contest is usually limited
to half an hour, but if it be not finished at the expiration of this
period, and the antagonist still contend that he can beat the
Automaton, M. Maelzel has seldom any objection to continue it. Not to
weary the company, is the ostensible, and no doubt the real object of
the limitation. It Wits of course be understood that when a move is
made at his own table, by the antagonist, the corresponding move is
made at the box of the Automaton, by Maelzel himself, who then acts
as the representative of the antagonist. On the other hand, when the
Turk moves, the corresponding move is made at the table of the
antagonist, also by M. Maelzel, who then acts as the representative
of the Automaton. In this manner it is necessary that the exhibiter
should often pass from one table to the other. He also frequently
goes in rear of the figure to remove the chess-men which it has
taken, and which it deposits, when taken, on the box to the left (to
its own left) of the board. When the Automaton hesitates in relation
to its move, the exhibiter is occasionally seen to place himself very
near its right side, and to lay his hand, now and then, in a careless
manner upon the box. He has also a peculiar shuffle with his feet,
calculated to induce suspicion of collusion with the machine in minds
which are more cunning than sagacious. These peculiarities are, no
doubt, mere mannerisms of M. Maelzel, or, if he is aware of them at
all, he puts them in practice with a view of exciting in the
spectators a false idea of the pure mechanism in the Automaton.

The Turk plays with his left hand. All the movements of the arm are
at right angles. In this manner, the hand (which is gloved and bent
in a natural way,) being brought directly above the piece to be
moved, descends finally upon it, the fingers receiving it, in most
cases, without difficulty. Occasionally, however, when the piece is
not precisely in its proper situation, the Automaton fails in his
attempt at seizing it. When this occurs, no second effort is made,
but the arm continues its movement in the direction originally
intended, precisely as if the piece were in the fingers. Having thus
designated the spot whither the move should have been made, the arm
returns to its cushion, and Maelzel performs the evolution which the
Automaton pointed out. At every movement of the figure machinery is
heard in motion. During the progress of the game, the figure now and
then rolls its eyes, as if surveying the board, moves its head, and
pronounces the word _echec _(check) when necessary. {*3} If a false
move be made by his antagonist, he raps briskly on the box with the
fingers of his right hand, shakes his head roughly, and replacing the
piece falsely moved, in its former situation, assumes the next move
himself. Upon beating the game, he waves his head with an air of
triumph, looks round complacently upon the spectators, and drawing
his left arm farther back than usual, suffers his fingers alone to
rest upon the cushion. In general, the Turk is victorious--once or
twice he has been beaten. The game being ended, Maelzel will again if
desired, exhibit the mechanism of the box, in the same manner as
before. The machine is then rolled back, and a curtain hides it from
the view of the company.

There have been many attempts at solving the mystery of the
Automaton. The most general opinion in relation to it, an opinion too
not unfrequently adopted by men who should have known better, was, as
we have before said, that no immediate human agency was employed--in
other words, that the machine was purely a machine and nothing else.
Many, however maintained that the exhibiter himself regulated the
movements of the figure by mechanical means operating through the
feet of the box. Others again, spoke confidently of a magnet. Of the
first of these opinions we shall say nothing at present more than we
have already said. In relation to the second it is only necessary to
repeat what we have before stated, that the machine is rolled about
on castors, and will, at the request of a spectator, be moved to and
fro to any portion of the room, even during the progress of a game.
The supposition of the magnet is also untenable--for if a magnet were
the agent, any other magnet in the pocket of a spectator would
disarrange the entire mechanism. The exhibiter, however, will suffer
the most powerful loadstone to remain even upon the box during the
whole of the exhibition.

The first attempt at a written explanation of the secret, at least
the first attempt of which we ourselves have any knowledge, was made
in a large pamphlet printed at Paris in 1785. The author's hypothesis
amounted to this--that a dwarf actuated the machine. This dwarf he
supposed to conceal himself during the opening of the box by
thrusting his legs into two hollow cylinders, which were represented
to be (but which are not) among the machinery in the cupboard No. I,
while his body was out of the box entirely, and covered by the
drapery of the Turk. When the doors were shut, the dwarf was enabled
to bring his body within the box--the noise produced by some portion
of the machinery allowing him to do so unheard, and also to close the
door by which he entered. The interior of the automaton being then
exhibited, and no person discovered, the spectators, says the author
of this pamphlet, are satisfied that no one is within any portion of
the machine. This whole hypothesis was too obviously absurd to
require comment, or refutation, and accordingly we find that it
attracted very little attention.

In 1789 a book was published at Dresden by M. I. F. Freyhere in which
another endeavor was made to unravel the mystery. Mr. Freyhere's book
was a pretty large one, and copiously illustrated by colored
engravings. His supposition was that "a well-taught boy very thin and
tall of his age (sufficiently so that he could be concealed in a
drawer almost immediately under the chess-board") played the game of
chess and effected all the evolutions of the Automaton. This idea,
although even more silly than that of the Parisian author, met with a
better reception, and was in some measure believed to be the true
solution of the wonder, until the inventor put an end to the
discussion by suffering a close examination of the top of the box.

These bizarre attempts at explanation were followed by others equally
bizarre. Of late years however, an anonymous writer, by a course of
reasoning exceedingly unphilosophical, has contrived to blunder upon
a plausible solution--although we cannot consider it altogether the
true one. His Essay was first published in a Baltimore weekly paper,
was illustrated by cuts, and was entitled "An attempt to analyze the
Automaton Chess-Player of M. Maelzel." This Essay we suppose to have
been the original of the _pamphlet to _which Sir David Brewster
alludes in his letters on Natural Magic, and which he has no
hesitation in declaring a thorough and satisfactory explanation. The
_results _of the analysis are undoubtedly, in the main, just; but we
can only account for Brewster's pronouncing the Essay a thorough and
satisfactory explanation, by supposing him to have bestowed upon it a
very cursory and inattentive perusal. In the compendium of the Essay,
made use of in the Letters on Natural Magic, it is quite impossible
to arrive at any distinct conclusion in regard to the adequacy or
inadequacy of the analysis, on account of the gross misarrangement
and deficiency of the letters of reference employed. The same fault
is to be found in the '`Attempt &c.," as we originally saw it. The
solution consists in a series of minute explanations, (accompanied by
wood-cuts, the whole occupying many pages) in which the object is to
show the _possibility _of _so shifting the partitions _of the box, as
to allow a human being, concealed in the interior, to move portions
of his body from one part of the box to another, during the
exhibition of the mechanism--thus eluding the scrutiny of the
spectators. There can be no doubt, as we have before observed, and as
we will presently endeavor to show, that the principle, or rather the
result, of this solution is the true one. Some person is concealed in
the box during the whole time of exhibiting the interior. We object,
however, to the whole verbose description of the _manner _in which
the partitions are shifted, to accommodate the movements of the
person concealed. We object to it as a mere theory assumed in the
first place, and to which circumstances are afterwards made to adapt
themselves. It was not, and could not have been, arrived at by any
inductive reasoning. In whatever way the shifting is managed, it is
of course concealed at every step from observation. To show that
certain movements might possibly be effected in a certain way, is
very far from showing that they are actually so effected. There may
be an infinity of other methods by which the same results may be
obtained. The probability of the one assumed proving the correct one
is then as unity to infinity. But, in reality, this particular point,
the shifting of the partitions, is of no consequence whatever. It was
altogether unnecessary to devote seven or eight pages for the purpose
of proving what no one in his senses would deny--viz: that the
wonderful mechanical genius of Baron Kempelen could invent the
necessary means for shutting a door or slipping aside a pannel, with
a human agent too at his service in actual contact with the pannel or
the door, and the whole operations carried on, as the author of the
Essay himself shows, and as we shall attempt to show more fully
hereafter, entirely out of reach of the observation of the

In attempting ourselves an explanation of the Automaton, we will, in
the first place, endeavor to show how its operations are effected,
and afterwards describe, as briefly as possible, the nature of the
_observations _from which we have deduced our result.

It will be necessary for a proper understanding of the subject, that
we repeat here in a few words, the routine adopted by the exhibiter
in disclosing the interior of the box--a routine from which he _never
_deviates in any material particular. In the first place he opens the
door No. I. Leaving this open, he goes round to the rear of the box,
and opens a door precisely at the back of door No. I. To this back
door he holds a lighted candle. He then _closes the back door, _locks
it, and, coming round to the front, opens the drawer to its full
extent. This done, he opens the doors No. 2 and No. 3, (the folding
doors) and displays the interior of the main compartment. Leaving
open the main compartment, the drawer, and the front door of cupboard
No. I, he now goes to the rear again, and throws open the back door
of the main compartment. In shutting up the box no particular order
is observed, except that the folding doors are always closed before
the drawer.

Now, let us suppose that when the machine is first rolled into the
presence of the spectators, a man is already within it. His body is
situated behind the dense machinery in cupboard No. T. (the rear
portion of which machinery is so contrived as to slip _en masse,
_from the main compartment to the cupboard No. I, as occasion may
require,) and his legs lie at full length in the main compartment.
When Maelzel opens the door No. I, the man within is not in any
danger of discovery, for the keenest eve cannot penetrate more than
about two inches into the darkness within. But the case is otherwise
when the back door of the cupboard No. I, is opened. A bright light
then pervades the cupboard, and the body of the man would be
discovered if it were there. But it is not. The putting the key in
the lock of the back door was a signal on hearing which the person
concealed brought his body forward to an angle as acute as
possible--throwing it altogether, or nearly so, into the main
compartment. This, however, is a painful position, and cannot be long
maintained. Accordingly we find that Maelzel _closes the back door.
_This being done, there is no reason why the body of the man may not
resume its former situation--for the cupboard is again so dark as to
defy scrutiny. The drawer is now opened, and the legs of the person
within drop down behind it in the space it formerly occupied. {*4}
There is, consequently, now no longer any part of the man in the main
compartment--his body being behind the machinery in cupboard No. 1,
and his legs in the space occupied by the drawer. The exhibiter,
therefore, finds himself at liberty to display the main compartment.
This he does--opening both its back and front doors--and no person Is
discovered. The spectators are now satisfied that the whole of the
box is exposed to view--and exposed too, all portions of it at one
and the same time. But of course this is not the case. They neither
see the space behind the drawer, nor the interior of cupboard No. 1
--the front door of which latter the exhibiter virtually shuts in
shutting its back door. Maelzel, having now rolled the machine
around, lifted up the drapery of the Turk, opened the doors in his
back and thigh, and shown his trunk to be full of machinery, brings
the whole back into its original position, and closes the doors. The
man within is now at liberty to move about. He gets up into the body
of the Turk just so high as to bring his eyes above the level of the
chess-board. It is very probable that he seats himself upon the
little square block or protuberance which is seen in a corner of the
main compartment when the doors are open. In this position he sees
the chess-board through the bosom of the Turk which is of gauze.
Bringing his right arm across his breast he actuates the little
machinery necessary to guide the left arm and the fingers of the
figure. This machinery is situated just beneath the left shoulder of
the Turk, and is consequently easily reached by the right hand of the
man concealed, if we suppose his right arm brought across the breast.
The motions of the head and eyes, and of the right arm of the figure,
as well as the sound _echec _are produced by other mechanism in the
interior, and actuated at will by the man within. The whole of this
mechanism--that is to say all the mechanism essential to the
machine--is most probably contained within the little cupboard (of
about six inches in breadth) partitioned off at the right (the
spectators' right) of the main compartment.

In this analysis of the operations of the Automaton, we have
purposely avoided any allusion to the manner in which the partitions
are shifted, and it will now be readily comprehended that this point
is a matter of no importance, since, by mechanism within the ability
of any common carpenter, it might be effected in an infinity of
different ways, and since we have shown that, however performed, it
is performed out of the view of the spectators. Our result is founded
upon the following _observations _taken during frequent visits to the
exhibition of Maelzel. {*5}

I. The moves of the Turk are not made at regular intervals of time,
but accommodate themselves to the moves of the antagonist--although
this point (of regularity) so important in all kinds of mechanical
contrivance, might have been readily brought about by limiting the
time allowed for the moves of the antagonist. For example, if this
limit were three minutes, the moves of the Automaton might be made at
any given intervals longer than three minutes. The fact then of
irregularity, when regularity might have been so easily attained,
goes to prove that regularity is unimportant to the action of the
Automaton--in other words, that the Automaton is not a _pure

2. When the Automaton is about to move a piece, a distinct motion is
observable just beneath the left shoulder, and which motion agitates
in a slight degree, the drapery covering the front of the left
shoulder. This motion invariably precedes, by about two seconds, the
movement of the arm itself--and the arm never, in any instance, moves
without this preparatory motion in the shoulder. Now let the
antagonist move a piece, and let the corresponding move be made by
Maelzel, as usual, upon the board of the Automaton. Then let the
antagonist narrowly watch the Automaton, until he detect the
preparatory motion in the shoulder. Immediately upon detecting this
motion, and before the arm itself begins to move, let him withdraw
his piece, as if perceiving an error in his manoeuvre. It will then
be seen that the movement of the arm, which, in all other cases,
immediately succeeds the motion in the shoulder, is withheld--is not
made--although Maelzel has not yet performed, on the board of the
Automaton, any move corresponding to the withdrawal of the
antagonist. In this case, that the Automaton was about to move is
evident--and that he did not move, was an effect plainly produced by
the withdrawal of the antagonist, and without any intervention of

This fact fully proves, ~--that the intervention of Maelzel, in
performing the moves of the antagonist on the board of the Automaton,
is not essential to the movements of the Automaton, 2--that its
movements are regulated by _mind--_by some person who sees the board
of the antagonist, 3--that its movements are not regulated by the
mind of Maelzel, whose back was turned towards the antagonist at the
withdrawal of his move.

3. The Automaton does not invariably win the game. Were the machine a
pure machine this would not be the case--it would always win. The
_principle _being discovered by which a machine can be made to _play
_a game of chess, an extension of the same principle would enable it
to win a game--a farther extension would enable it to win _all
_games--that is, to beat any possible game of an antagonist. A little
consideration will convince any one that the difficulty of making a
machine beat all games, Is not in the least degree greater, as
regards the principle of the operations necessary, than that of
making it beat a single game. If then we regard the Chess-Player as a
machine, we must suppose, (what is highly improbable,) that its
inventor preferred leaving it incomplete to perfecting it-- a
supposition rendered still more absurd, when we reflect that the
leaving it incomplete would afford an argument against the
possibility of its being a pure machine--the very argument we now

4. When the situation of the game is difficult or complex, we never
perceive the Turk either shake his head or roll his eyes. It is only
when his next move is obvious, or when the game is so circumstanced
that to a man in the Automaton's place there would be no necessity
for reflection. Now these peculiar movements of the head and eves are
movements customary with persons engaged in meditation, and the
ingenious Baron Kempelen would have adapted these movements (were the
machine a pure machine) to occasions proper for their display--that
is, to occasions of complexity. But the reverse is seen to be the
case, and this reverse applies precisely to our supposition of a man
in the interior. When engaged in meditation about the game he has no
time to think of setting in motion the mechanism of the Automaton by
which are moved the head and the eyes. When the game, however, is
obvious, he has time to look about him, and, accordingly, we see the
head shake and the eyes roll.

5. When the machine is rolled round to allow the spectators an
examination of the back of the Turk, and when his drapery is lifted
up and the doors in the trunk and thigh thrown open, the interior of
the trunk is seen to be crowded with machinery. In scrutinizing this
machinery while the Automaton was in motion, that is to say while the
whole machine was moving on the castors, it appeared to us that
certain portions of the mechanism changed their shape and position in
a degree too great to be accounted for by the simple laws of
perspective; and subsequent examinations convinced us that these
undue alterations were attributable to mirrors in the interior of the
trunk. The introduction of mirrors among the machinery could not have
been intended to influence, in any degree, the machinery itself.
Their operation, whatever that operation should prove to be, must
necessarily have reference to the eve of the spectator. We at once
concluded that these mirrors were so placed to multiply to the vision
some few pieces of machinery within the trunk so as to give it the
appearance of being crowded with mechanism. Now the direct inference
from this is that the machine is not a pure machine. For if it were,
the inventor, so far from wishing its mechanism to appear complex,
and using deception for the purpose of giving it this appearance,
would have been especially desirous of convincing those who witnessed
his exhibition, of the _simplicity _of the means by which results so
wonderful were brought about.

6. The external appearance, and, especially, the deportment of the
Turk, are, when we consider them as imitations of _life, _but very
indifferent imitations. The countenance evinces no ingenuity, and is
surpassed, in its resemblance to the human face, by the very
commonest of wax-works. The eyes roll unnaturally in the head,
without any corresponding motions of the lids or brows. The arm,
particularly, performs its operations in an exceedingly stiff,
awkward, jerking, and rectangular manner. Now, all this is the result
either of inability in Maelzel to do better, or of intentional
neglect--accidental neglect being out of the question, when we
consider that the whole time of the ingenious proprietor is occupied
in the improvement of his machines. Most assuredly we must not refer
the unlife-like appearances to inability--for all the rest of
Maelzel's automata are evidence of his full ability to copy the
motions and peculiarities of life with the most wonderful exactitude.
The rope-dancers, for example, are inimitable. When the clown laughs,
his lips, his eyes, his eye-brows, and eyelids--indeed, all the
features of his countenance--are imbued with their appropriate
expressions. In both him and his companion, every gesture is so
entirely easy, and free from the semblance of artificiality, that,
were it not for the diminutiveness of their size, and the fact of
their being passed from one spectator to another previous to their
exhibition on the rope, it would be difficult to convince any
assemblage of persons that these wooden automata were not living
creatures. We cannot, therefore, doubt Mr. Maelzel's ability, and we
must necessarily suppose that he intentionally suffered his Chess
Player to remain the same artificial and unnatural figure which Baron
Kempelen (no doubt also through design) originally made it. What this
design was it is not difficult to conceive. Were the Automaton
life-like in its motions, the spectator would be more apt to
attribute its operations to their true cause, (that is, to human
agency within) than he is now, when the awkward and rectangular
manoeuvres convey the idea of pure and unaided mechanism.

7. When, a short time previous to the commencement of the game, the
Automaton is wound up by the exhibiter as usual, an ear in any degree
accustomed to the sounds produced in winding up a system of
machinery, will not fail to discover, instantaneously, that the axis
turned by the key in the box of the Chess-Player, cannot possibly be
connected with either a weight, a spring, or any system of machinery
whatever. The inference here is the same as in our last observation.
The winding up is inessential to the operations of the Automaton, and
is performed with the design of exciting in the spectators the false
idea of mechanism.

8. When the question is demanded explicitly of Maelzel-- "Is the
Automaton a pure machine or not?" his reply is invariably the
same--"I will say nothing about it." Now the notoriety of the
Automaton, and the great curiosity it has every where excited, are
owing more especially to the prevalent opinion that it is a pure
machine, than to any other circumstance. Of course, then, it is the
interest of the proprietor to represent it as a pure machine. And
what more obvious, and more effectual method could there be of
impressing the spectators with this desired idea, than a positive and
explicit declaration to that effect? On the other hand, what more
obvious and effectual method could there be of exciting a disbelief
in the Automaton's being a pure machine, than by withholding such
explicit declaration? For, people will naturally reason thus,--It is
Maelzel's interest to represent this thing a pure machine--he refuses
to do so, directly, in words, although he does not scruple, and is
evidently anxious to do so, indirectly by actions--were it actually
what he wishes to represent it by actions, he would gladly avail
himself of the more direct testimony of words--the inference is, that
a consciousness of its not being a pure machine, is the reason of his
silence--his actions cannot implicate him in a falsehood--his words

9. When, in exhibiting the interior of the box, Maelzel has thrown
open the door No. I, and also the door immediately behind it, he
holds a lighted candle at the back door (as mentioned above) and
moves the entire machine to and fro with a view of convincing the
company that the cupboard No. 1 is entirely filled with machinery.
When the machine is thus moved about, it will be apparent to any
careful observer, that whereas that portion of the machinery near the
front door No. 1, is perfectly steady and unwavering, the portion
farther within fluctuates, in a very slight degree, with the
movements of the machine. This circumstance first aroused in us the
suspicion that the more remote portion of the machinery was so
arranged as to be easily slipped, _en masse, _from its position when
occasion should require it. This occasion we have already stated to
occur when the man concealed within brings his body into an erect
position upon the closing of the back door.

10. Sir David Brewster states the figure of the Turk to be of the
size of life--but in fact it is far above the ordinary size. Nothing
is more easy than to err in our notions of magnitude. The body of the
Automaton is generally insulated, and, having no means of immediately
comparing it with any human form, we suffer ourselves to consider it
as of ordinary dimensions. This mistake may, however, be corrected by
observing the Chess-Player when, as is sometimes the case, the
exhibiter approaches it. Mr. Maelzel, to be sure, is not very tall,
but upon drawing near the machine, his head will be found at least
eighteen inches below the head of the Turk, although the latter, it
will be remembered, is in a sitting position.

11. The box behind which the Automaton is placed, is precisely three
feet six inches long, two feet four inches deep, and two feet six
inches high. These dimensions are fully sufficient for the
accommodation of a man very much above the common size--and the main
compartment alone is capable of holding any ordinary man in the
position we have mentioned as assumed by the person concealed. As
these are facts, which any one who doubts them may prove by actual
calculation, we deem it unnecessary to dwell upon them. We will only
suggest that, although the top of the box is apparently a board of
about three inches in thickness, the spectator may satisfy himself by
stooping and looking up at it when the main compartment is open, that
it is in reality very thin. The height of the drawer also will be
misconceived by those who examine it in a cursory manner. There is a
space of about three inches between the top of the drawer as seen
from the exterior, and the bottom of the cupboard--a space which must
be included in the height of the drawer. These contrivances to make
the room within the box appear less than it actually is, are
referrible to a design on the part of the inventor, to impress the
company again with a false idea, viz. that no human being can be
accommodated within the box.

12. The interior of the main compartment is lined throughout with
_cloth. _This cloth we suppose to have a twofold object. A portion of
_it _may form, when tightly stretched, the only partitions which
there is anv necessity for removing during the changes of the man's
position, viz: the partition between the rear of the main compartment
and the rear of the cupboard No. 1, and the partition between the
main compartment, and the space behind the drawer when open. If we
imagine this to be the case, the difficulty of shifting the
partitions vanishes at once, if indeed any such difficulty could be
supposed under any circumstances to exist. The second object of the
cloth is to deaden and render indistinct all sounds occasioned by the
movements of the person within.

13. The antagonist (as we have before observed) is not suffered to
play at the board of the Automaton, but is seated at some distance
from the machine. The reason which, most probably, would be assigned
for this circumstance, if the question were demanded, is, that were
the antagonist otherwise situated, his person would intervene between
the machine and the spectators, and preclude the latter from a
distinct view. But this difficulty might be easily obviated, either
by elevating the seats of the company, or by turning the end of the
box towards them during the game. The true cause of the restriction
is, perhaps, very different. Were the antagonist seated in contact
with the box, the secret would be liable to discovery, by his
detecting, with the aid of a quick car, the breathings of the man

14. Although M. Maelzel, in disclosing the interior of the machine,
sometimes slightly deviates from the _routine _which we have pointed
out, yet _reeler in _any instance does he _so _deviate from it as to
interfere with our solution. For example, he has been known to open,
first of all, the drawer--but he never opens the main compartment
without first closing the back door of cupboard No. 1--he never opens
the main compartment without first pulling out the drawer--he never
shuts the drawer without first shutting the main compartment--he
never opens the back door of cupboard No. 1 while the main
compartment is open--and the game of chess is never commenced until
the whole machine is closed. Now if it were observed that _never, in
any single instance, _did M. Maelzel differ from the routine we have
pointed out as necessary to our solution, it would be one of the
strongest possible arguments in corroboration of it--but the argument
becomes infinitely strengthened if we duly consider the circumstance
that he _does occasionally _deviate from the routine but never does
_so _deviate as to falsify the solution.

15. There are six candles on the board of the Automaton during
exhibition. The question naturally arises--"Why are so many employed,
when a single candle, or, at farthest, two, would have been amply
sufficient to afford the spectators a clear view of the board, in a
room otherwise so well lit up as the exhibition room always is--when,
moreover, if we suppose the machine a _pure machine, _there can be no
necessity for so much light, or indeed any light at all, to enable
_it _to perform its operations--and when, especially, only a single
candle is placed upon the table of the antagonist?" The first and
most obvious inference is, that so strong a light is requisite to
enable the man within to see through the transparent material
(probably fine gauze) of which the breast of the Turk is composed.
But when we consider the arrangement of the candles, another reason
immediately presents itself. There are six lights (as we have said
before) in all. Three of these are on each side of the figure. Those
most remote from the spectators are the longest--those in the middle
are about two inches shorter--and those nearest the company about two
inches shorter still--and the candles on one side differ in height
from the candles respectively opposite on the other, by a ratio
different from two inches--that is to say, the longest candle on one
side is about three inches shorter than the longest candle on the
other, and so on. Thus it will be seen that no two of the candles are
of the same height, and thus also the difficulty of ascertaining the
_material _of the breast of the figure (against which the light is
especially directed) is greatly augmented by the dazzling effect of
the complicated crossings of the rays--crossings which are brought
about by placing the centres of radiation all upon different levels.

16. While the Chess-Player was in possession of Baron Kempelen, it
was more than once observed, first, that an Italian in the suite of
the Baron was never visible during the playing of a game at chess by
the Turk, and, secondly, that the Italian being taken seriously ill,
the exhibition was suspended until his recovery. This Italian
professed a _total _ignorance of the game of chess, although all
others of the suite played well. Similar observations have been made
since the Automaton has been purchased by Maelzel. There is a man,
_Schlumber0er, _who attends him wherever he goes, but who has no
ostensible occupation other than that of assisting in the packing and
unpacking of the automata. This man is about the medium size, and has
a remarkable stoop in the shoulders. Whether he professes to play
chess or not, we are not informed. It is quite certain, however, that
he is never to be seen during the exhibition of the Chess-Player,
although frequently visible just before and just after the
exhibition. Moreover, some years ago Maelzel visited Richmond with
his automata, and exhibited them, we believe, in the house now
occupied by M. Bossieux as a Dancing Academy. _Schlumberg_er was
suddenly taken ill, and during his illness there was no exhibition of
the Chess-Player. These facts are well known to many of our citizens.
The reason assigned for the suspension of the Chess-Player's
performances, was _not _the illness of _Schlumberger. _The inferences
from all this we leave, without farther comment, to the reader.

17. The Turk plays with his _left_ arm. A circumstance so remarkable
cannot be accidental. Brewster takes no notice of it whatever beyond
a mere statement, we believe, that such is the fact. The early writers
of treatises on the Automaton, seem not to have observed the matter
at all, and have no reference to it. The author of the pamphlet
alluded to by Brewster, mentions it, but acknowledges his inability
to account for it. Yet it is obviously from such prominent discrepancies
or incongruities as this that deductions are to be made (if made at all)
which shall lead us to the truth.

The circumstance of the Automaton's playing with his left hand cannot
have connexion with the operations of the machine, considered merely
as such. Any mechanical arrangement which would cause the figure to
move, in any given manner, the left arm--could, if reversed, cause it
to move, in the same manner, the right. But these principles cannot
be extended to the human organization, wherein there is a marked and
radical difference in the construction, and, at all events, in the
powers, of the right and left arms. Reflecting upon this latter fact,
we naturally refer the incongruity noticeable in the Chess-Player to
this peculiarity in the human organization. If so, we must imagine
some _reversion--_for the Chess-Player plays precisely as a man
_would not. _These ideas, once entertained, are sufficient of
themselves, to suggest the notion of a man in the interior. A few
more imperceptible steps lead us, finally, to the result. The
Automaton plays with his left arm, because under no other
circumstances could the man within play with his right--a
_desideratum _of course. Let us, for example, imagine the Automaton
to play with his right arm. To reach the machinery which moves the
arm, and which we have before explained to lie just beneath the
shoulder, it would be necessary for the man within either to use his
right arm in an exceedingly painful and awkward position, (viz.
brought up close to his body and tightly compressed between his body
and the side of the Automaton,) or else to use his left arm brought
across his breast. In neither case could he act with the requisite
ease or precision. On the contrary, the Automaton playing, as it
actually does, with the left arm, all difficulties vanish. The right
arm of the man within is brought across his breast, and his right
fingers act, without any constraint, upon tile machinery in the
shoulder of the figure.

We do not believe that any reasonable objections can be urged against
this solution of the Automaton Chess-Player.

Edgar Allan Poe