Chess-playing robot breaks finger of seven-year-old opponent

The parents of the child, who is said to be one of the best 30 chess players under the age of nine in the Russian capital, are in contact with the public prosecutor's office over the incident.

Chess pieces (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Chess pieces
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

A chess-playing robot grabbed and broke the finger of a 7-year-old boy who was competing against it during the Moscow Chess Open, Russian media outlet TASS News reported on Monday.

According to reports of the event, the child, Christopher, was playing against a robotic arm that can play multiple games of chess at a time, when he rushed through his moves, cutting off the robot midway through its turn.

As a result, and likely due to a software error in the machine, the robot grabbed the boy's hand.

Moscow Chess Federation president Sergey Lazarev said that the robot had been confused by the quick movements of the Russian child when he "rushed" through his moves without giving the robot ample time to respond.

"The robot broke a child's finger -- this is, of course, bad," said Lazarev speaking to TASS, adding that although the robot had played against opponents numerous times before, operators missed some problems.

Denso Corp's robot arm ''Denoute-san'' plays Japanese chess, also known as Shogi, at a booth during Niconico Chokaigi 2015 in Makuhari, east of Tokyo, Japan, April 26, 2015. (credit: REUTERS/YUYA SHINO)Denso Corp's robot arm ''Denoute-san'' plays Japanese chess, also known as Shogi, at a booth during Niconico Chokaigi 2015 in Makuhari, east of Tokyo, Japan, April 26, 2015. (credit: REUTERS/YUYA SHINO)

Videos of the incident published by the Baza Telegram channel show Christopher's fingers being grabbed by the robotic arm for several moments before a woman rushed to his assistance. By that time, however, the damage had already been done and the child's finger was broken.

"The robot was rented by us, it has been exhibited in many places by specialists for a long time."

Moscow Chess Federation president Sergey Lazarev

Is this the child's fault?

According to a report in The Guardian, Vice-President of the Russian Chess Federation Sergey Smagin told Baza that Christopher had most likely bypassed the safety laws in his rush to move his pieces. 

"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,” Smagin said. “This is an extremely rare case, the first I can recall,” he added.

Corroborating with Smagin's account of the incident, Lazarev added that "the child made a move, and after that, it is necessary to give time for the robot to respond, but the boy hurried, the robot grabbed him. We have nothing to do with the robot."

Lazarev recounted to TASS News that the child did not seem overly affected by the incident, saying that his finger has put in a plaster cast and he returned the next day to finish the tournament, with the help of volunteers.

The parents of the seven-year-old, who is said to be one of the best 30 chess players under the age of nine in the Russian capital, are in contact with the public prosecutor's office over the incident.