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J. Caleb Wherry

Scientist. Engineer. Musician.

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ISBN-10: 0-082713912

tl;dr: It’s an interesting read but there is too much extra information that doesn’t pertain to the story so I found it boring at times.

The history of chess is a pretty interesting topic and I enjoyed most this book because of that. However, the full story of the Mechanical Turk is just not interesting for long parts. This comes out in the text and is hard to read at points. The book isn’t that long so it’s not too hard to hammer through it. I wish the text was a bit more engaging at times instead of being like a history book though. A lot of people have praised this book as being the opposite of what I just wrote so maybe I am the wrong person to review this book. I did find the different explanations of chess maneuvers to be fascinating and the tie in with the more modern aspects of chess pretty cool. All-in-all a fun read that has some really interesting engineering explanations for automaton. It would be neat to re-create the Mechanical Turk and have it actually play against people and not be a gimmick. Maybe that would be a cool makers project for me…

A part of the world of chess that I follow these days is the area of catching chess players when they are cheating. The expert in this area is Ken Regan who is one of the co-bloggers in one of my favorite CS blogs: Gordel’s Lost Letters and P=NP. Dr. Lipton and Dr. Regan post some great material on all things CS and Math. Dr. Regan sometimes posts about his dealings with how to catch people cheating at chess (apparently it is a big enough problem that there warrants research on it) which are pretty cool posts.