A Chess Robot Broke the Finger of Its 7-Year-Old Opponent

A chess-playing robot grabbed its 7-year-old opponent and wouldn’t let go during a match in Russia. The child was quickly freed by nearby adults but ended up with a broken finger. According to The Guardian, the boy returned to play again the following day. The outlet also shared a video of the incident, which thankfully isn’t graphic. It looks like the robot hadn’t finished its turn before the boy began his next move. Both the robotic arm and kid’s hand end up on the same square but how and why the robot grabbed his finger and held on tight is unclear. And probably under investigation. We hope this doesn’t signal that the machines are starting to turn against us. If even the chess robots are angry, that’s not good news.

Screenshot of footage of a chess-playing robot just before it grabs a child player's finger
The Guardian

We learned about this unhappy robot incident at a Moscow chess competition thanks to The Verge. Based on the footage, it looks like the robot is designed to play multiple games at once. In order to take an opponent’s piece, it first removes the captured piece from the board. Then it goes back to move its own piece into that spot. In this case, the boy starts to move his own piece to take the open square before the robot finishes. The chess-playing robot apparently clamps onto the boy’s finger and doesn’t let go, which is obviously not ideal. Adults quickly rush in to help and manage to free him.

A robot hand lifts a chess piece
Jiuguang Wang

Us hobbyists aren’t likely to play against a chess-playing robot. But if we want that same experience (without the risk of injury), there’s this AI-assisted self-moving chess board reminiscent of Wizard’s Chess from Harry Potter. This potentially safer version lets you play a virtual opponent or even the computer. Or, if this incident puts you off the challenge of robot chess altogether, maybe try the three-dimensional chess made popular by Star Trek instead. Hopefully, we don’t see many more stories about robots gone rogue.

Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth. 

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