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Photo of "Ajeeb the Wonderful", 1886
An advertisement for an exhibition of Ajeeb, including an illustration of its appearance. Ajeeb was an imitation of the Turk.

Ajeeb was a chess-playing "automaton", created by Charles Hooper (a cabinet maker),[1] first presented at the Royal Polytechnical Institute in 1868. A particularly intriguing piece of faux mechanical technology (while presented as entirely automated, it in fact concealed a strong human chess player inside), it drew scores of thousands of spectators to its games, the opponents for which included Harry Houdini, Theodore Roosevelt, and O. Henry. The device's name was derived from the Arabic/Urdu/Persian word عجيب (ʿajīb) meaning "wonderful, marvelous."

The genius behind "Ajeeb" were players such as Harry Nelson Pillsbury (1898–1904),[1] Albert Beauregard Hodges, Constant Ferdinand Burille,[2] Charles Moehle, and Charles Francis Barker. The machine also played checkers, matching against figures such as 1920s American champ Sam Gonotsky, who would also direct the machine under the ownership of Hattie Elmore.[3]

In the history of such devices, it succeeded "The Turk" and preceded "Mephisto".[4][5]


  1. ^ a b Schaeffer, Jonathan (1997). One jump ahead. Springer. p. 90. ISBN 0-387-94930-5. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
  2. ^ "Chessville :: History :: Constant Ferdinand Burille". Archived from the original on 2010-09-19. Retrieved 2010-02-14.
  3. ^ Kidwell, Peggy Aldrich. "Playing Checkers with Machines—from Ajeeb to Chinook." Information & Culture 50, no. 4 (2015): 578-587.
  4. ^ Chess Automatons Archived 2008-10-08 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ ChessBase :: Spotlights :: Der Schachtürke Archived 2009-03-12 at the Wayback Machine.