Dedicated Chess Computers

ChessEval Journal
About Dedicated Chess Computers

The Quest for the Daimler-Benz Chess Board (Part 1)

Written by Dietmar Lauber
Edited | 03/26/2015 | by MMO
Last edited | 02/04/2016
Additional Information:  original photos are from the ChessEval collection © MMO 2014 -  
Other Information: Maurice M Ohayon, Daimler-Benz Board, ChessEval Website, January 2014

Reference to cite: Lauber D
, The Quest for the Daimler-Benz Chess Board, ChessEval Journal, July 2015

We are living in the Information Age.
Google, our friend, delivers all the information we wish to have on various domains… and especially in the field of Chess Computers…
Every year, we obtain new information about some chess computers we believed existed only as rumors, legends, or fables…

Germany is considered to be the last country where a chess computer could go ignored…
Here, Hegener & Glazer made their famous Mephisto computers and everything seems to be transparent… no hidden facts.
What would you think if in the nineties a big manufacturer was trying to build its own chess computers? Not surprising, would you say... Germans are known to be Chess lovers.
BUT, if it was one of the most prestigious German manufacturer of cars?

The story of Dietmar Lauber is interesting and deserves attention.


The story of Dietmar Lauber
The passionate collector of chess computers tries to own every single computer ever made. 
He is collecting chess computers since so many years... 
These computers were programmed to teach how to play chess or to win.
At the beginning, they played poorly, but promptly, they played better to, finally, become impossible to beat…
Nowadays, it is better to just collect them…  

Historically, it is well known that collectors were so few at the beginning that they barely knew each other.
They knew only the other collectors close to their place. For example, it was only ten to twenty collectors in Berlin.
Then, a forum or two started.
These forums were interesting places to exchange about chess computers and about collections. The members of these forums were publishing list of computers and computer chess sales were organized.  

Nowadays, participants from the whole world are part of the big network and eBay is the big temple celebrant the hobby. 
Hundreds of chess computer specialists (real or self-proclaimed) have an opinion on this or that oldie, and there are some collectors who have real detailed knowledge on how to rebuild some of the old models by themselves.

The top collectors, who possess and catalog every device that has ever been built are, of course, at some point, confronted with a question: which piece, their collection is still missing when so many pieces are already stored in their basements in a collection that would provoke the envy, in  a collection of thousands of euros of devices built only in few copies, or unique original computers that have played at World Chess Championships?

It is not surprising that it caused a stir to hear the rumor that, in the nineties, some employees of the German luxury automaker Daimler-Benz were confronted to the following problem: what to offer to a senior executive for his retirement? 
They solved the problem in a smart way…  
They decided that it should not be a common present such as a gold watch, or a cruise to New Zealand, or a golden porch swing...
These are gifts that would have failed to impress one of the best-paid managers of Daimler-Benz…
Since many years, some collaboration between Hegener & Glazer and Daimler-Benz was existing in the electronic field.
The proximity in Munich with the Head Quarters of Hegener & Glazer, the passion of Germans for the Chess game were indubitably keys in the proposition to build… a chess computer… but not any kind of chess computer… the most luxurious and well-engineered ever made… signed Daimler-Benz…
The suggestion was enthusiastically adopted: the Special Engineering Department of Daimler-Benz received the mandate to conceive and to build the chess computer.
With its highly specialized technicians in electricity and electronics, with its top artisans for the wood, this department was already famous for its ability to develop the finest wooden interiors for cars, to design and to make electronic hardware for custom made car models.  
These experienced technicians, engineers, carpenters were given the task with the free use of the resources of the company to build the most luxurious wooden chess computer that was possible – an effort only made possible because of the unlimited financial resources ever made available for such an effort.

Thrilled, the specialists involved in this work planned, conferred, and tinkered: the best wood, the best acrylic, the best electrical equipment, and all… in a tournament board size.
After months of hard work, came out the Daimler-Benz boards, officially two pieces. 
These two boards were supposed to be the only pieces made, with the second one reserved  for a second top executive. 

Finally, we don't know if the two granted top executives were playing with these two beautiful boards, or… if, simply, they were storing their gift in a cupboard.  During years, nobody heard about these boards.
However, some rumors about these boards started to appear. There were only stories without consistent proof of the existence of these boards. 
Some people were pretending to have seen one of these boards, - it would be a feast for the eyes, and it would be too bad to play with them. They should also not be brought out to the light, so that none of these stains, called Kenner circles spots, would spoil their perfect appearance. That would have been a horror for any collector.

The collector who already has all the chess computers, sometimes stands up at night, sleepless, - he wanders through his basement, cuddling a brand new box containing a Fidelity Elite Private, lets his eyes wander lovingly over the plastic-protected World Champion machine of Mephisto - and is then easily frustrated when he returns at his PC to check if anybody on eBay has not still somewhere opened to the world some attic rarity without knowing the value of the piece and offering it at one euro as starting price. 
Such adrenalin situations are rare, but, still sometimes, they happen!

The eagle eye of one of these collectors, whose name we still wish to conceal here, discovered an auction piece that he had not seen before...What was that board?
The next step was to get the board. For that, a perfect buying strategy based on an absolute camouflage was  needed: no demands, no betting wars.  Just one offer at the last second of the auction, and the first Daimler-Benz Board was assured. 
We're not talking about prices, we are talking about euphoria.
At the time of the settlement of the auction, our collector came in touch with the seller, an heir of the Daimler-Benz executive who told him the full story of this gift to his father. 
The son knew some details, but not all the full story of the computer.
The questions were focusing essentially on the module present in the board and if it was a MMII or a MMIII.


Two years later, another board was offered on the auction platform of eBay, and our vigilant collector was able again to bid on this one. 
This time, there were quite a few other interested parties, but, again, the usual strategy worked and I am proud to have helped him to win the auction. As usual, for the shipping, our collector contacted the seller.
He learned that this second board should not have existed: it was built only as a security, in case something was going wrong during the production of the gift for the executive of Daimler. 
It was stored away at Daimler Head Quarters and dozed there. 
At one point, the board was released and the seller was taking it as a souvenir of his participation in the making of the board.
After keeping it many years, he decided to sell it on eBay.  

At this point of the story, something started to be clear: OFFICIALLY, TWO boards were made and TWO executives were granted with a board…
The seller was coming with a board that was not one of the two officials: it was a security board and not a gift.
This was confirmed by the seller (former employee of Daimler-Benz): three boards were made. Two were offered and one stored in the Daimler-Benz manufacture storage.
Consequently, it was still missing the board offered to the second executive of Daimler.
During a correspondence with the lead designer of the Daimler-Benz board, our collector discovered the name of the executive who had received the official second board. The third board was still existing and was in the hands of his wife.  

The story has to be concluded.
In this wonderful story of the quest of of the Daimler-Benz boards, it remains some facts to add.
The security board came to our collector in a case in full wood built like a car… Solid like a tank... Weighting like a piece of cast iron… Inside the box, it was all production details, planning documents, drawings…
The documents were coming:
- in part, from Hegener & Glazer: original electronic blue prints and diagrams of the Munchen board and of the MM module... signed by Hegener & Glazer;
- and for the other part, plans and diagrams made by Daimler-Benz Department of Electronics. Technical pages and blue prints signed by Daimler-Benz.

I am sure that there are many exciting hobbies over the world, but when you are infected by the strange chess computer virus, you have one of the best hobby you could imagine and you have the opportunity to correspond with like-minded people over all continents. 

Let us enjoy it!  

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