FANTASTIQUE DECK – THE ACE OF SPADES
There were two editions of the Ace of Spades for Fantastique deck – the Fabulous Chess Automaton player and a Ventriloquist with two dolls. A mechanical chess player from the 18th century looked better in composition and was chosen for the Ace of Spades.
The Turk (also known as the Mechanical Turk or Automaton Chess Player) was a fake chess-playing machine constructed by Wolfgang von Kempelen (1734–1804) in the late 18th century to impress the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria.
The mechanism appeared to be able to play a strong game of chess against a human opponent as well as perform the knight’s tour – a puzzle that requires the player to move a knight to occupy every square of a chessboard exactly once.
A copper engraving of the Turk showing the open cabinets and working parts
The Turk was in fact a mechanical illusion that allowed a human chess master hiding inside to operate the machine. The Turk won most of the games played during its demonstrations around Europe and the Americas for nearly 84 years. It defeated many challengers including statesmen such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin.
FANTASTIQUE DECK: The Ace of Spades + The Ace of Hearts
It was exhibited by various owners from 1770 until its destruction by fire in 1854. Many books and articles were written during the Turk’s life about how it worked but most were inaccurate. It was not until Dr. Silas Mitchell’s series of articles for The Chess Monthly. The secret was fully revealed by a son of the final private owner of the Turk.
An interesting fact – Jean made one of the most detailed descriptions of the Turk in his Memoirs of Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin without seeing its work. That description was full of mistakes and fictitious facts. The clipping from the April 14, 1901 edition of the New York Times: