Advent calendar: December 13

by André Schulz
12/13/2016 – From December 1 to December 24 we invite our readers every day to open a door in our advent calendar. Click and enjoy a little chess treat. Advent calendar, door 13.

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


Mind Over Mayhem

Peter Falk alias "Columbo" was the hero of a famous TV series that ran from 1968 to 2003 over ten seasons and 69 episodes. (By the way: Steven Spielberg directed episode 3 of season 1.)

Columbo was not a classical "whodunit". Instead, each episode began by showing the crime and its perpetrator. Now the audience derived pleasure and excitement from watching Columbo - who in his trademark beige raincoat appears dishevelled and neither clever nor particular dangerous - encircle and convict the criminal.

Peter Falk himself was a passionate chessplayer and occasionally chess appeared in the Columbo series, for instance, in "The Most Dangerous Match" (season two, episode seven), in which Columbo proves to be more than a match for a murderous chessplayer.

Chess also is a topic in "Mind Over Mayhem", (season 3, episode 6), from 1974. Guest star is the chess playing robot MM 7.

In this episode Howard Nicholson, a scientist at an institute for cyber research, finds out that Neill Cahill,  the son of the institute's director  Marshall Cahill, plagiarized the work of another scientist. Nicholson asks Neill to admit to this and threatens to make the  misdeed public. However, Cahill senior wants to prevent at all costs that his son loses his reputation and finally decides to kill Nicholson.

Another member of the institute is the 13-year old genius Steve, who developed the robot MM 7. MM 7 can do everything, including playing chess.

A very young and an old scientist

MM 7 in action

Two propellers turn in the glass head of MM 7. They are probably important: tablebases,
permanent brain or cooling the processor? However, what's the use of the silver ring on the right?

The robot shows emotions: after losing a game he throws pieces and board through the room.
This scene also shows that people in the 1970s believed that a computer could lose a game of chess against a human.

MM 7 not only plays chess but also helps Columbo to disprove Marshall Cahill's alibi and to make him confess.

Columbo talks to the robot


The robot who "plays" MM 7 was also the star in another movie. In 1956 he was "Robbie the Robot" in Forbidden Planet, a sci-fi version of Shakespeare's Tempest. Commercially, Forbidden Planet was a flop but the movie inspired the Science Fiction genre and thus helped to pave the way for the tremendously successful Star Trek series.

André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register