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Mephisto (Automaton)
Number of games in database: 17
Years covered: 1878 to 1883
Overall record: +10 -6 =1 (61.8%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games.

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Most played openings
C30 King's Gambit Declined (3 games)
C52 Evans Gambit (3 games)
C38 King's Gambit Accepted (2 games)
C45 Scotch Game (2 games)

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(born 1871) United Kingdom

[what is this?]
The third automaton Mephisto was made by Charles Godfrey Gumpel (c.1835 - 1921) and unlike The Turk and Ajeeb it had no hidden operator and functioned by elecro-mechanical means. Gumpel took some 6 or 7 years to build it and it was first shown in 1878 at his Leicester Square home. Mephisto was operated by Isidor Gunsberg in the main but when it went to the Paris Exposition in 1889 it was worked by Jean Taubenhaus. It was shown regularly for ten years and at one time had its own club. After 1889 it was dismantled and its subsequent whereabouts are unknown.

Its name lives on in a popular brand of chess computer; see Mephisto (Computer).

 page 1 of 1; 17 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Mephisto vs T Beardsell 1-0201878Exhibition gameC30 King's Gambit Declined
2. Mephisto vs C Pearson  0-1321878Exhibition gameC33 King's Gambit Accepted
3. Mephisto vs H Lee 0-1331878Exhibition gameC30 King's Gambit Declined
4. Mephisto vs Tinsley 1-0281878LondonC57 Two Knights
5. Mephisto vs Gunsberg 1-0381878Exhibition gameC52 Evans Gambit
6. Mephisto vs Burn 1-0111878Exhibition gameC63 Ruy Lopez, Schliemann Defense
7. Mephisto vs J Minchin  1-0301878Exhibition gameB21 Sicilian, 2.f4 and 2.d4
8. Mephisto vs NN 0-1231879Exhibition gameC39 King's Gambit Accepted
9. Mephisto vs G McLennan  0-1231879Exhibition gameC38 King's Gambit Accepted
10. Mephisto vs J Ascher  1-0241879Exhibition gameC52 Evans Gambit
11. Mephisto vs J Ascher 1-0191879Exhibition gameC30 King's Gambit Declined
12. J Connell vs Mephisto 1-0341879Casual gameC52 Evans Gambit
13. Mephisto vs G McLennan 0-1161879Exhibition gameC38 King's Gambit Accepted
14. Mephisto vs NN  1-0311881Exhibition gameC45 Scotch Game
15. Mephisto vs A Marriott  ½-½441881London 5C31 King's Gambit Declined, Falkbeer Counter Gambit
16. Mephisto vs NN 1-0281883?C45 Scotch Game
17. Mephisto vs Chigorin 1-0301883London (5)C25 Vienna
 page 1 of 1; 17 games  PGN Download 
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2) | Mephisto wins | Mephisto loses  

Kibitzer's Corner
Jul-02-05  Knight13: Mephisto was the name given to a chess-playing 'pseudo-automaton' built in 1876.

Constructed by Charles Gumpel, a manufacturer of artificial limbs, Mephisto was controlled from another room by electro-mechanical means and was originally operated by the chess master Isidor Gunsberg.

It was the first automaton to win a Chess tournament when it was entered in the Counties Chess Association in London in 1878.

In 1879 Mephisto, with Gunsberg, went on tour, defeating every male player. When playing ladies however, Mephisto would first obtain a winning position before losing the game; courteously offering to shake their hand afterwards.

-- Wikipedia

This automation was much stronger than The Turk or Ajeeb, in my opinion.

Jul-12-05  jamesmaskell: lol@playing ladies. Computers showing courtesy...Hydra didnt show any courtesy to Adams during their match. Nice to see a computer with real sophistication.
Jul-12-05  farrooj: Adams isn't a lady though, that's why it crushed him
Jul-12-05  HailM0rphy: farrooj what part of lebanon are you from?
Jul-12-05  farrooj: Metn, why? (Mansourieh)
Oct-23-06  n30: pardon me for being ignorant, but what *exactly* is a "chess automation"? does the machine actually decide on the moves? Mechanically??? I'd find this really hard to imagine...
Nov-02-06  Maatalkko: <n30> No, it doesn't decide the moves. It's just a dummy that plays out moves given to it by a hidden operator. In the first automatons the operator was hidden inside and concealed somehow. Apparently Mephisto was operated by electricity, with Gunsberg directing the moves remotely.

Obviously automatons were very clever devices. The mechanical ingenuity of past generations is amazing.

Jan-04-07  McCool: This machine was so small and so cunnningly constructed that it seemed impossible to conceal a man in it. So most likely it was operated by Isidor Gunsberg secretly.
Apr-02-09  SBC: .

I've written/transcribed a series of 26 long articles on Automatons, including 3 on Mephisto, on my chess blog at -

I don't know if you need to be a member to view them (I don't think you do, but if so , joining is simple and free.)


Oct-26-17  Mendrys: The first game should have it's date corrected. If Mephisto didn't exist until 1876 then the date of 1770 makes no sense.

Research noted at Mephisto vs NN, 1770 indicates that it was Isidor Gunsburg who was playing Mephisto as white when the game took place in 1883.

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: Ken Whyld wrote a piece, <The English Devil>, on Mephisto for the 1977 <BCM>, pp.315-322. The final paragraph:

<Gumpel's interest shifted. He wrote a number of pamphlets on health and natural cures published around the turn of the century. A few months before the outbreak of the 1914-18 war his last leaflet was published - <The Solution of the Alsace-Lorraine Question and the Maintenance of Peace>. He died, largely forgotten, in 1921, and the fate of his creation remains unknown.>

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