The Turk A Chess Playing Hoax

In this day and age the thought of a mechanical device being able to best a human opponent in a game of chess may not sound too impressive.

However, long before the the computer age, The Turk successfully overcame and baffled a long line of competitors.



Wolfgang von Kempelen constructed a device that baffled people from the time of it’s construction in 1770 until it’s untimely demise in 1854.

“The Turk” appeared as a life-sized man from the waist up, clothed in robes and a turban.

Sitting next to a cabinet, which opened to reveal all kinds of cogs and gears and complicated-looking machinery, no-one ever realised that a person was able to hide underneath on a sliding seat.

That person was able to maneuver around inside the cabinet, concealing themself as the presenter opened various cabinet doors in order to ‘prove’ that there was nothing was inside but machinery.

The concealed person would then use various levers to make the Turk move, pick up chess pieces and even shake his head disapprovingly when opponents attempted to cheat.


The Turk claimed many victims over the years, including the likes of Benjamin Franklin and Napoleon Bonaparte.

All that came to an end, however, on July 5th 1854 when The Turk was destroyed in a fire.

Three years later, in 1857, the son of the Turk’s final owner decided to reveal the Turk’s secrets.

He wrote a series of articles for The Chess Monthly in which he revealed most of the device’s secrets.

About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.


  1. Do you think it was first scam ever?

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