Chess is usually a game of strategic thinking, synonymous with calm concentration and intellectual patience. When played by humans, violence isn’t involved. But the same can’t always be said of machines. Just last week, a chess-playing Russian robot broke the finger of a seven-year-old who was part of a tournament in the country. The AI was hired to play competitors in the Moscow Chess Open, the Tass News Agency reported.
Unsettled by the quick responses of the child, the Russian robot unceremoniously grabbed and broke his finger during a match. According to Moscow’s Chess Federation President Sergey Lazarev, the AI was finishing its move when the boy reached over the board to make his own move. That’s when the gadget pinched and broke his finger. While he admitted the incident was terrible, Lazarev told the publication that the machine had played many previous exhibitions without problems. Watch the Russian chess robot go nuts in the video below:
The above video of the incident was published on the Telegram channel of the independent Russian news site Baza. The footage shows the child struggling to pull his finger away from the Russian robot for several seconds as three people rush to help. Once he breaks free, the boy is escorted away from the standard industrial robot arm which is customized to move pieces on three chess boards simultaneously.
Fortunately, the little boy wasn’t injured too badly and was able to finish the chess tournament in a cast the following day. Interestingly, Vice President of the Russian Chess Federation Sergey Smagin said the robot only had grabbed the kid’s finger because he broke the rules. Speaking to the Russian state news agency Ria Novosti, he explained that the child violated the safety rules. After making his move, he was supposed to give the robot time to respond.
But the boy hurried, and the robot grabbed him, probably mistaking his finger for a chess piece. Either way, the suppliers of the Russian robot are going to have to take a look at their AI’s programming. Sergey added that the boy’s parents were considering pressing charges. But the chess tournament organizers are willing to communicate and figure out the best way to help the family in any way they can. Baza named the boy as Christopher, saying he was one of the 30 best chess players in the Russian capital in the under-nine category.
While organizers try to downplay the incident, the chess-playing child may have been lucky to leave the Russian tournament with just a fracture. Robots are becoming more and more sophisticated, with the most modern AI units capable of interacting and actively cooperating with humans. But even the simplest repeat actions can end in chaos as these machines don’t care if people get in the way. A 2015 study found that one person is killed by an industrial robot in America each year. While this can be explained as a basic work-related tragedy, the U.S occupational safety administration says most occupational accidents involving robots since around 2000 have ended with fatalities.