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Ajeeb

  • Last updated on 7/31/07, 8:41 PM.

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The name of the chess automaton built by Charles Alfred Hopper, a Bristol cabinet-maker, in 1865.  Several chess and checker masters (such as Albert Hodges, Ferdinand Burille, and Harry Pillsbury) operated the life-size Indian figure.  One opponent shot at Ajeeb after losing a game, wounding the operator.   One of the operators of Ajeeb was chess and checker master Constant Ferdinand Burille.  During his years as operator, he played over 900 games of chess and only lost 3 games.  He never lost a single checker game.  Pillsbury was its hidden operator from 1898 to 1904.  When Ajeeb was on display in New York at the Eden Musee, it played checkers for a dime and chess for a quarter.  Opponents included Theodore Roosevelt, Houdini, Admiral Dewey, O. Henry and Sarah Bernhardt.  Ajeeb was 10 feet high.  Ajeeb was first exhibited at the Royal Polytechnical Institute in London in 1868.  It was lodged at the Crystal Palace between 1868 and 1876 and then went to the Royal Aquarium at Westminster until 1877.  It was then taken to Berlin where over 100,000 saw it in three months.  It came to New York in 1885.  It was destroyed by fire at Coney Island in 1929.  Charles Barker, US checkers champion, also worked Ajeeb, never losing a single game.

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