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A STAR AMONG CHESS COMPUTERS  (23 november 2005)

Those who visit this site regularly must have noticed that it houses a rather large collection of chess computers (click ).

Most of these computers look more or less the same: a chessboard with chessmen and a few buttons:

Sphinx Sierra

Of course, manufacturers try to make their computers look special: special colours different shapes, etc.

Mephisto Bistro

A computer that definitely stands out from the rest of the crowd is the Kishon Chesster .

Kishon Chesster

With its star shape, the Chesster does not only look special. It has the voice of a great comedian, Ephraim Kishon (1924-2005).

   Ephraim Kishon

Ephraim Kishon was born in Budapest, Hungary, as Ferenc Hoffmann. Being a jew, he was imprisoned by the Nazis in several concentration camps. At one camp, his chess talent helped him survive as the commander of the camp was looking for an opponent. In another camp the Germans lined up the inmates shooting every tenth person, passing him by. He later wrote in his book The Scapegoat, "They made a mistake they left one satirist alive." He managed to escape while being transported to the Sobibor death camp in Poland. After 1945 he changed his surname from Hoffmann to Kishont and returned to Hungary to study art and publish humorous plays. When he emigrated to Israel in 1949 to escape the Communist regime, an immigration officer gave him the name Ephraim Kishon.

Kishon was a great teller of stories, such as the one in which an Egyptian spy, posing as an Israeli carpenter, is exposed when he uses all three screws on a door hinge. No Israeli carpenter, in historical time has done that they either use the top two holes or the top and bottom one. Never all three.

When the first chess computers were produced, Kishon was immediately interested. Soon he had quite a nice collection.

Kishon got in touch with German chess computer manufacturer Hegener und Glaser. This contact led to the production of the Chesster, which was made in 1990.

Kishon vs Chesster

The computer's voice issues all kinds of funny comment like "Hadn't we better stop, my friend?" and "Even a thirty-dollar computer plays better than you", but also more "technical" phrases like "pawn e2 to e4." and "white castles king side."

So you can imagine how much I was looking forward to receiving this computer through eBay ... and how great my disappointment was when it did not work ( click).

A short while ago, I saw it again on eBay and made a bid. And yesterday it arrived ... and appeared to function correctly.

So if you see me these days and detect a happy smile on my face, you'll understand why.

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