This iconic wizened head loomed large over my childhood. It is the image of the Chessmaster, a fictional chess opponent who stars in a software series of the same name.
That series began way back in 1986 with The Chessmaster 2000, a comprehensive chess simulator that first appeared on 8-bit computer platforms like the Apple II, Atari 800, and Commodore 64. Published by The Software Toolworks, it spawned a series of at least 16 titles that quickly became the best-selling chess software franchise of all time.
My older brother always loved chess games, so I saw that aged face — a perennial feature of Chessmaster box art — many times throughout the 1980s and 1990s. I always wondered: who was the Chessmaster, really? Who was the real man behind that wise old face? Was he really that old or was he just wearing a wig?
Fast forward to 2006. Thinking I'd write about it on this blog, I emailed Ubisoft (the current publisher of The Chessmaster series) and asked them if they knew who portrayed the Chessmaster. Of course, they had no idea — institutional memory is sorely lacking in most tech companies, and it's even worse in the software industry. Today I know better than to even bother asking.
Instead of tracking down everyone who worked on Chessmaster 2000 and interrogating them (although I considered it), I figured I'd bide my time and put the somewhat trivial issue on the back burner. The Internet has a way of consuming information and making it available to everyone online, so I thought the answer would pop up one day.