Chess-Playing Robot Breaks 7-Year-Old Boy’s Finger During Moscow Tournament

A computer-operated robotic arm reportedly grabbed and broke the finger of a seven-year-old boy during an exhibition chess match at the Moscow Open, last week.

Chess is probably one of the safest sports anyone can play, at least as far as potential bodily harm is involved. But when one of the players happens to be a powerful robotic arm and the other a 7-year-old-boy, things can apparently get pretty violent. In what has been described as an unprecedented incident, a chess-playing robot recently grabbed and broke the finger of a young boy during an exhibition match. The video of the shocking incident has been doing the rounds online and putting into question the safety of having children play against mechanical, computer-powered opponents.

Video footage published on the Baza Telegram channel last week shows the robot grabbing the 7-year-old’s finger, a the child hurries to make a move. As the boy, reportedly named Christopher, struggles to pull his finger free from the robot’s tight grip, bystanders can be seen stepping in to pry the robot’s vice-like fingers open and release the finger. They manage to do so eventually, but at that point, the boy’s finger was already fractured.

“The robot broke the child’s finger — this, of course, is bad,” Captain Obvious Sergey Lazarev, President of the Moscow Chess Federation, told Russian news agency, TASS. “The robot was rented by us, it has been exhibited in many places by specialists for a long time. Apparently, the operators overlooked some flaws.”


Lazarev explained that, technically, it wasn’t the robot’s fault, saying that the child had “made a move, and after that we need to give time for the robot to answer, but the boy hurried and the robot grabbed him.”

Sergey Smagin, vice-president of the Russian Chess Federation, also agreed that the accident had to do with Christopher’s quick reaction to the robot’s move. He told RIA Novosti that “there are certain safety rules and the child, apparently, violated them. When he made his move, he did not realize he first had to wait.”


Chess Federation officials tried to downplay the incident, claiming that it was an extremely rare occurrence, that the robot was “absolutely safe”, and that Christopher – one of the 30 best chess players under the age of nine in the Russian capital – was able to play another game the next day, with his right hand in a cast.

The Guardian reports that human error and lack of understanding of how industrial robots work is the main cause of accidents. The above case is proof that when it comes to interacting with robots, even a chess game cannot be deemed safe without proper knowledge.

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