Chess Robot Breaks Finger of 7-Year-Old Opponent

'This is, of course, bad,' says head of Moscow Chess Federation
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 25, 2022 7:23 AM CDT

(Newser) – It might be a first in the annals of chess: After one player makes a move his opponent doesn't like, the opponent breaks his finger. As the Guardian reports, it actually happened last week at the Moscow Open, under unusual circumstances: One player was a robot, the other a 7-year-old boy. It seems the boy was moving too quickly—he perhaps didn't wait long enough for the robot to complete a move of its own—and the robotic arm grabbed the boy's finger, as seen in video posted by the Baza Telegram news channel.

“The robot broke the child’s finger,” Sergey Lazarev of the Moscow Chess Federation tells Russia's TASS news agency. In a remarkable understatement, he added, “This is, of course, bad.” The video shows people rushing to the table to attempt to free the boy from the robot's grip. The good news: The kid, identified only as Christopher, didn't seem too upset by the whole thing and actually returned to play the following day—with his finger in a cast, per CNN.

The Verge assesses the video and concludes that the robot's designers missed the boat on installing some basic safety features that could have prevented this. It appears "the device was designed only to identify and move chess pieces—not respond to the appearance of a human hand in its playing area." A camera above the board that picks up on foreign objects and stops the robot's movement if one is detected might have helped. And if nothing else, they could have limited the robot's pinching power. (Read more robots stories.)

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