Apr

5

 I spent some time reviewing the DS site and the discussions of deception. I did this after noting that the upcoming featured article on Wikipedia is a piece on one of the most amazing deceptions in the history of chess, "The Turk." Apparently many of its age were drawn in by the fake computer/machine, including Charles Babbage, Fredrick the Great, Catherine the Great, Edgar Allan Poe, Benjamin Franklin, and Napoleon Bonaparte. The ruse was made all the more credible by the construction that allowed the cynic to look through the cabinet and the fact that a Hungarian grandee, Wolfgang von Kempelen, was its creator and sponsor. There were vocal critics, however, the machine continued to attract attention as long as it remained on display in Europe.

The Turk was purchased by Maelzel and brought to America, which allowed Poe to create an account. It is interesting to note the skepticism and fascination in the following passage by Poe:

"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." 

How many times do market operators take for granted that some function of the market is beyond being gamed, a mere logical extension arising from "certain data" and the ensuing calculation? Might the artifice we see be constructed to allow for examination, but concealing the kernel of deception? Might sponsorship of the esteemed be the final cog that turns the deception to its highest degree?

I saw many of the items at work in the late 90s in the OTC market as large bids or offers were flashed by proprietary traders on Instinet creating the perception that a natural buyer/seller was available in size. The ensuing stampede would generate the desired profit courtesy of the deception. 

Nigel Davies adds: 

A book has been written about the history of the Turk. The idea of human intervention in 'machine' decisions was echoed by Kasparov's 'hand of god' accusations during his match with Deep Blue. But now the focus is on humans receiving machine help, signifying that there's been a turning point during the last decade. 

Victor Niederhoffer adds: 

Turk in its modern incarnation is somewhere on 42nd street with Pillsbury playing inside it and another checker midget champion. I believe I may have played against it in the 42nd street freak shop that Larry Ritter wrote about in some of his NY stories, next to a great former pitcher.

From
Alan Millhone:

Was this the checker playing automaton that was at Eden's old Musee? 'Ajeeb' was another one that appeared for some years at Coney Island and you played against it for a dime a game. Samuel Gonotsky reportedly played inside of 'Ajeeb' for some time as well as other checker players. Pillsbury was a terrific 'blindfold' chess & checker player. Branch Rickey loved checkers as well as Christy Matthewson. You can find a little information on 'Ajeeb' in William T. Call's long out of print Vocabulary of Checkers. The art of playing both games 'blindfolded' is another interesting story.

I quote Mr. Call on page 12 of Vocabulary of Checkers. He describes "automaton" as follows:

A lay figure that apparently plays the game mechanically, the moving arm being operated by- but the ethics of the pastime forbid details, because of the harmless pleasure the public finds in telling how it is probably done. The impassive attendant, when pressed for an explanation, gives rapid vent to something like the following: 'The board is sensitized by that the move you make operates a corresponding change in the power of the piece controlling the square reflecting the correct reply.' Ajeeb, Mazam, Ali, and Akimo are the names of some famous automatons.

Recently Durgin's Single Corner, by E.A. Durgin 1894 was sold on eBay for $13,000.00 becaue this little book belonged to Baseball great Christy Matthewson and he signed his name inside of the book showing that it was his.

Checker's is deep in history and dates back to the Egyptians.


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