Hajeeb

batgirl
batgirl
Jul 13, 2012, 2:26 PM |
7

 

     In 1869 the "Schachzeitung," wrote about "Der Schachautomat im Krystallpalaste zu Sydentaam bei London."  The automaton was called, "'Hajeeb', das orientalische Wunder."
     After a brief description of 'Hajeeb' and a bit of history about the Turk, the gives the following game:


     In his 1876 book, "The Lives of the Conjurers," Thomas Frost wrote:
    In 1870 another automaton chess-player, or what was professed to be automatic, was exhibited at the Crystal Palace. It was a close imitation of Kempelen's famous mechanism, and like the Hungarian baron's, the figure was that of a fierce-looking Turk, life-size, and attired in a rich Oriental costume. Hajeeb, as he was called, sat cross-legged upon a chest, which ran upon casters, so as to be easily moved over the floor, to showthat there was no communication from below. There were doors in the chest, and also in the back and breast of the figure, which were opened to enable visitors to see the interior; but no candle was introduced, as mentioned in the accounts of the exhibition of Kempelen's figure. The inspection revealed nothing but a complex arrangement of cords, wheels, and pulleys.
     Before commencing a game, the doors were all closed and locked, and the machinery wound up with a key such as is used for winding a large clock. The sound produced by the operation was similar to that which accompanies the winding of horological mechanism. Then a cushion was placed under the right arm of the figure, the chessmen were set by the attendant, and the game began. The first move was always made by the Turk, and he invariably made choice of the white men, its play corresponding in both particulars with that of Kempelen's figure. The chess-board was raised a little above the level of the chest by a circular pedestal of wood, ostensibly for the purpose of enabling Hajeeb to reach more easily the farther side of the board; but the figure had the power of bending forward from the hips, during which motion, and also that of the arm, the sound of hinges or joints could be heard.
     When he took a man, the Turk dropped it into the attendant's hand and placed its own on the vacant square. On giving check, it bent its head; on giving checkmate, it placed the fore-finger on the mated king, and nodded three times; when mate was given or announced by its opponent, it signified its abandonment of the game by removing its king, and placing it in a horizontal position at the side of the board. If his opponent made a wrong move, he shook his head and replaced the piece; if this occurred a second time, he removed the piece, and availed of the laws of the game to move; and on a third wrong move he swept the board with his arm, and ended the game. On the conclusion of a game, the figure, like Kempelen's, moved a knight over all the sixty-four squares of the board without touching any square twice, the attendant placing a white counter upon each square as it was touched, and the feat being performed in the short space of one minute.
     This was the closing marvel of the last decade.

Hajeeb, as the above two articles called the automaton when it first came on the scene, is the same mechanical player known more commonly as Ajeeb.

I've written pretty extensively on this pseudo-automaton is the following articles:
The Pride of the Eden Musée   
          a history of Ajeeb at the Eden Musée in N.Y.C.
The Mysterious Ajeeb: Chess Reporter 1932  
          A 1932 article featuring A game between Ajeeb and Charles Devidé
The Strange and Wondrous Ajeeb    
          A short esaay on Ajeeb that I had written.
Ajeeb: Odds and Ends    
          Some interesting information on a couple of Ajeeb's operators
          as well as a game between Ajeeb and W. .E. Napier.
Sarah Love Ajeeb
          Some historical sources and a game between Ajeeb and Samuel Lipschuetz

The "Columbia Chess Chronicle" published a nice little article on Ajeeb in 1888:
AJEEB! The Chess player who chances to visit the Exposition at Cincinnati this summer is generally seen to hurry past the different commercial and government exhibits and take the elevator for the second floor of Park Hall, where Ajeeb, the Chess automaton, gives his exhibitions from two to five in the alternoon and from seven to ten in the evening. The silent Turk is surrounded every moment of this time by a curious crowd.

The automaton represents a bearded Turk, somewhat larger than life-size, seated cross-legged upon a cushion, with a Chess-board before'him. The Chessboard rests upon a chest which extends from the floor to the table which supports the cushion, but is in cross-section smaller than the table. Unlike Maelzel's famous automaton, the figure moves the pieces with its right hand, while the unemployed left holds the conventional Turkish pipe. A check to the black King is denoted by an upward jerk of the carved wooden head, which moves with a sharply audible click; and checkmate is denoted by two nods in quick succession. These movements always produce a laugh among the spectators. The movements of the arm in capturing men, especially in a game of checkers, when some skillful stroke of the automaton's has gained two pieces for one, is quite lifelike.

The comments of the bystanders are sometimes very amusing. One of the automaton's opponents was touched upon the shoulder by a stranger the other day and asked what game he was playing. '"Chess." "Well, I've been watching you play for half an hour, and I'll be hanged if I understand the game yet." A woman who was watching it last week could not be persuaded that Mr. McNeill, the manager, was not making the automaton work by moving his foot.

Ajeeb takes the white pieces, and generally opens with the Evans Gambit or the Kieseritsky, if given a chance. He makes his opening moves very quickly, and continues playing rapidly through the entire game, unless the defense manages to gain an advantage. Up to the present dale, the automaton has won every game of Chess it has played except three, of which

two were drawn. The only player who has won his game so far is James F. Burns, of Columbus, who played the automaton the third day it was exhibited at the Exposition.

The player who undertakes to defend a game against Ajeeb is under obvious disadvantages. He is obliged to stand before the railing which separates the automaton from the spectators, and is hemmed in behind and on either side by lookers-on, whose comments distract his attention and annoy him if he be of a nervous disposition. Whenever his move is not forthcoming with the desired haste, the figure lifts up its hand and the exhibitor calls the player's attention to the fact that it is his turn to move. Taking everything into consideration, the difference of circumstances is equal to the odds of a Knight in favor of the figure. Of course, it is evident that the figure cannot make its moves without the guidance of a human brain; and as the figure is entirely without connection with the floor or the w;.lls of the room, the idea of electrical communication with a player at a distance is out of the question ; but when the doors in the breast of the figure and in the chest beneath the table are opened, as is done between every game played, it is hard to comprehend how a man can be concealed in the narrow space which is not shown.

The player who accepts one of Ajeeb's gambits without knowing the correct defenses is likely to be caught in a trap, as in the following case—not an accurately played match game, but a fair sample of the treatment Ajeeb generally gives his adversaries:



Although it won the vast majority of it's games Ajeeb didn't win them all.
The same magazine relates:
Cincinnati—Ajeeb, the famous Chess and Checker automaton, now giving exhibitions at the Exposition Buildings in this city, has stirred up quite an excitement among the local players. Up to date he has lost one game of Chess to James F. Burns, of Dayton, O., and one game was drawn by William Strunk, Jr.*, of the Mt. Auburn Club of this city, both young men arc about 18 years old. Several of our strongest players have crossed swords with him, but have still to win a game. At Checkers he is not so successful, having lost several games to our local experts. Ajeeb will remain at the Exposition for several weeks.
* William Strunk, Jr. earned a PhD from Cornell where he taught English for 46 years, becoming well-known for his influential book, "The Elements of Style."

 

Ajeeb played both chess and checkers.  The Aug. 8, 1891 issue of the "Illustrated American" offered a humorous story called "Draughts In The Far West,"  depicting Ajeeb the checker-player:

     A Correspondent favors us with another extract from the Colorado Boot-Jack, which is given below:

     We admire Major Albro—in fact, we did respect him until two weeks ago, when he turned up at Corn-Cob Babbitt's funeral in a razzle-dazzled condition, yellow pants stuck in his boots, and his rusty black stock tied under his left ear. The next day he was still on the tear. We were having the editorial chin scraped in Jack Weinheimer's barber shop, when he entered and opened on us with:
     "You advertise that you can beat any man in the State at checkers ?" he began.
      "We think so," we gently replied.
     "I've got fifty dollars to twenty-five that says you can't!"
     The Boot-Jack never likes to be bluffed in a barber's shop, so we put up the greenbacks in Jake's hands. "Who is your man ?' we inquired.
     "He's now at Denver; he'll be at the public hotel next Monday night. His name's ' Ajeeb,' the automaton chessand checker-player—he's a wooden man, but he'll scoop you."
     For once we had been a little too previous. We suddenly remembered that either Jimmy Reed or Charley Barker (two old friends of ours, by the way) was working this automaton. We felt scared—things looked decidedly blue. We waited with no little anxiety for Monday night.
     Our cadaverous contemporary sent Judge Limit to put up another fifty at the same odds. Sooner than be bluffed by the backer of a one-horse sheet, we blew in another twenty-five. Below is our more or less esteemed contemporary's account of the contest:

"A novel checker match of six games took place at the Pueblo Hotel last Monday night, between 'Ajeeb,' the automaton, and the ex-horse-doctor who claims to edit an advertising circular in this town. The automaton man was evidently ' fixed,' for he lost five of the six games played. It is more than likely the Ajeeb man and the ex-horse-doctor were in collusion, for the former left the town early Tuesday morning, and no swindle is too contemptible for the latter."

     There was no swindle or collusion. Our old friend (who shall be nameless) was simply not accustomed to playing checkers on Pueblo Countv whiskey, while we were; and, as we enjoyed together the hospitality of Gus Wagner's private bar before the play began, the best man (under the conditions) won. We still live, let it be understood.

 

Below is a game between Ajeeb and the redoubtable Otho Michaelis: