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Russian Chess Playing Robot Breaks 7-Year-Old’s Finger, Officials Say That Is ‘of Course Bad’

Apparently, even robots get testy under the pressure of a competitive chess match.

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When they say you have to wait until the robot finishes, they mean it.
Gif: Gizmodo / Baza

Here’s a life lesson I never thought I’d write about: Beware of robots when playing chess. Seriously. Take it from one 7-year-old chess player in Moscow, who learned (the hard way) that robot chess players can get testy and lash out.

In a video of the July 19 incident, a giant robot arm is seen playing chess against the 7-year-old normally at first. Yet, after a quick reaction from the boy to one of the robot’s moves, the robot grabs the kid’s finger and doesn’t let go, prompting onlookers to rush and help. Within seconds, they separate the boy from the robot and escort him away.

“The robot broke the child’s finger,” Sergey Lazarev, president of the Moscow Chess Federation, said, according to a translation by the Guardian. “This is, of course, bad.” Lazarev told the state-owned outlet TASS that the robot had played in previous competitions without a problem.

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News of the cranky chess-playing robot, which was reported by Russian online news outlet Baza, spread widely over the weekend, leading many to jokingly speculate that the robot uprising had begun. Alas, there is no robot uprising. Rather, the incident seems to be a case of lax robot security measures.

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Thankfully, the 7-year-old appeared to be doing fine after getting his finger broken, with officials saying that he played in the tournament the next day. Since his finger was a plaster cast, volunteers helped him make his moves.

His parents, understandably, were not fine and have reportedly gotten in touch with the public prosecutor’s office about the incident. Should the robot have to take the stand, I hope everyone in the courtroom is instructed not to make any sudden movements.

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Sergey Smagin, vice president of the Russian Chess Federation, told Baza that the child violated the safety rules which state that competitors must wait for the robot to complete its move.

“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, as told by the Guardian. He added: “This is an extremely rare case, the first I can recall.”

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Lazarev, head of the Moscow Chess Federation, thought otherwise, and said the robot’s creators were going to have to analyze the machine after the incident.

Although Smagin seemed to blame the child in this case, we have to ask: If the robot’s creators taught it how to play chess, why couldn’t they teach it how to be mindful of other hands on the board? The latter seems a lot easier, in my humble opinion. Then again, I have never created a cranky chess-playing robot.

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On the other hand, machines aren’t perfect, and humans must also take care and follow the safety measures set out by officials. It’s probably wise to really emphasize the fact that players must wait until the robot finishes its turn to make a move, even more so when the match includes a child.