Incident 241: Chess-Playing Robot Broke Child's Finger in Russia

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McNulty, Luna. (2022-07-21) Incident Number 241. in McGregor, S. (ed.) Artificial Intelligence Incident Database. Responsible AI Collaborative.

Incident Stats

Incident ID
Report Count
Incident Date
Editors
241
5
2022-07-21
Sean McGregor

Incidents Reports

A damaged ego is usually the worst injury a chess player can come out of a match with. But in Russia, a seven-year-old child playing with a robot was forced to interrupt the game when the machine suddenly snapped one his fingers, breaking it.

The incident, on July 19, was reported by state-owned news agency RIA Novosti and shared on Telegram by channel Baza, which quoted the vice president of the Chess Federation of Russia recalling what appeared to happen.

According to Sergey Smagin, the chess robot broke the boy's finger when the child went for a swift move without waiting for the necessary time for the machine to complete its action.

"The boy is all right. They put a plaster cast on the finger to heal faster. Yes, there are certain safety rules and the child, apparently, violated them and, when he made a move, did not notice that he had to wait. This is an extremely rare case, the first I can recall," said Smagin.

— 🆁🆄🆂🆂🅸🅰🅽 🅼🅰🆁🅺🅴🆃 (@russian_market) July 21, 2022

Baza reported that the child's finger was fractured and scratched.

"The robot did not like such a hurry —he grabbed the boy's index finger and squeezed it hard," said the Russian news website. "The people around rushed to help and pulled out the finger of the young player, but the fracture could not be avoided."

In a video shared by the news website, the boy appears to have his finger trapped by the robot's hand for a few seconds before a woman rushes to help him and pull at the robot to get the child's finger free. Three men intervene shortly after and manage to get the boy's finger free of the robot's hold.

They were then shown bringing the boy away from the chessboard.

According to Baza, the seven-year-old is called Christopher, and he's among the 30 strongest chess players in Moscow aged up to nine years old.

That makes him very good, in a country where chess has become something of a national source of pride and obsession. For 80 years, the best players in the world were Russian (or Soviet), with the Soviet Union being considered a chess powerhouse in the world.

It's not uncommon for chess players to start playing at a very young age. In 2020, the video of three-year-old chess prodigy Mikhail Osipov crying after losing to chess world champion Anatoli Karpov made the rounds online.

According to Baza, the chess robot had already played three matches on the day of the incident before playing with Christopher.

Baza's report on the incident ended with a cryptic line wondering "whether the robot will be put to sleep" after breaking the child's finger.

But Smagin, talking to RIA Novosti, specified that the incident was "a coincidence," stressing that the chess robot is "absolutely safe."

"This robot is unique, it performed at many open areas, where there were much more people. It happens, it's a coincidence. Apparently, children need to be warned. It is extremely strange that this happened, but it happened, it happens," he said.

"The robot has a very talented inventor, it may be necessary to install an additional protection system," he added.

Chess robot goes rogue, breaks seven-year-old player's finger

According to the organizers of the tournament in the Russian capital, it was an “accidental” attack by the robot. A seven-year-old boy named Christopher, who, by the way, according to them, is among the top 30 chess players in Moscow under the age of nine, moved a piece on the chessboard earlier than he should, which led to the non-standard behavior of the robot.

The AI robotic arm grabbed the young player’s index finger and squeezed his finger firmly. The people around the boy immediately rushed to help, but did not prevent the consequences in the form of a broken finger.

Pavel Osadchuck
@xakpc

All acquisition that advanced AI will destroy humanity is false. Not the powerful AI or breaching laws of robotics will destroy humanity, but engineers with both left hands :/

On video - a chess robot breaks a kid's finger at Moscow Chess Open today.

5:00 PM · Jul 21, 2022

“A robot broke a child’s finger – that’s bad, of course. We rented the robot, it used to be with experts in many places for a long time. Apparently the operators overlooked that. The child moved the figure, then the robot must be given time to react. But the boy was in a hurry and the robot grabbed him. We have nothing to do with the robot,” commented Moscow Chess Federation President Sergey Lazarev.

“The kid continued the tournament the next day, finished it in plaster,” Lazarev added, adding that the boy’s parents are now considering filing a lawsuit.

“You want to contact the prosecutor. We will contact them and help them to solve the situation. Robot operators should probably consider increasing security to prevent the situation from repeating itself in the future,” he concluded.

A chess robot in Moscow has broken the finger of its human opponent

Played by humans, chess is a game of strategic thinking, calm concentration and patient intellectual endeavour. Violence does not usually come into it. The same, it seems, cannot always be said of machines.

Last week, according to Russian media outlets, a chess-playing robot, apparently unsettled by the quick responses of a seven-year-old boy, unceremoniously grabbed and broke his finger during a match at the Moscow Open.

“The robot broke the child’s finger,” Sergey Lazarev, president of the Moscow Chess Federation, told the TASS news agency after the incident, adding that the machine had played many previous exhibitions without upset. “This is of course bad.”

Video of the 19 July incident published by the Baza Telegram channel shows the boy’s finger being pinched by the robotic arm for several seconds before a woman followed by three men rush in, free him and usher him away.

Sergey Smagin, vice-president of the Russian Chess Federation, told Baza the robot appeared to pounce after it took one of the boy’s pieces. Rather than waiting for the machine to complete its move, the boy opted for a quick riposte, he said.

“There are certain safety rules and the child, apparently, violated them. When he made his move, he did not realise he first had to wait,” Smagin said. “This is an extremely rare case, the first I can recall,” he added.

Lazarev had a different account, saying the child had “made a move, and after that we need to give time for the robot to answer, but the boy hurried and the robot grabbed him”. Either way, he said, the robot’s suppliers were “going to have to think again”.

Baza named the boy as Christopher and said he was one of the 30 best chess players in the Russian capital in the under-nines category. “People rushed to help and pulled out the finger of the young player, but the fracture could not be avoided,” it said.

Lazarev told Tass that Christopher, whose finger was put in a plaster cast, did not seem overly traumatised by the attack. “The child played the very next day, finished the tournament, and volunteers helped to record the moves,” he said.

His parents, however, have reportedly contacted the public prosecutor’s office. “We will communicate, figure it out and try to help in any way we can,” he said. Smagin told RIA Novosti the incident was “a coincidence” and the robot was “absolutely safe”.

The machine, which can play multiple matches at a time and had reportedly already played three on the day it encountered Christopher, was “unique”, he said. “It has performed at many opens. Apparently, children need to be warned. It happens.”

A Russian grandmaster, Sergey Karjakin, said the incident was no doubt due to “some kind of software error or something”, adding: “This has never happened before. There are such accidents. I wish the boy good health.”

Christopher may have been lucky. While robots are becoming more and more sophisticated, with the most modern models capable not just of interacting but actively cooperating with humans, most simply repeat the same basic actions – grab, move, put down – and neither know nor care if people get in the way.

According to one 2015 study, one person is killed each year by an industrial robot in the US alone. Indeed, according to the US occupational safety administration, most occupational accidents since 2000 involving robots have been fatalities.

Robert Williams, widely considered the first, was crushed to death by the arm of a one-tonne robot on Ford’s Michigan production line in 1979. In 2015, a robot killed a 22-year old contractor at one of Volkswagen’s German plants, grabbing him and crushing him against a metal plate.

Robots used in medical surgery were also held responsible for the deaths of 144 people between 2008 and 2013. More recently, Elaine Herzberg was killed by an Uber autonomous car that hit the 49-year-old at 40mph as she was crossing the road in Tempe, Arizona in 2018.

Generally, however, human error – or a lack of human understanding of robotic processes – is the most frequent cause. It pays to be careful around robots, even if they are only playing chess.

Chess robot grabs and breaks finger of seven-year-old opponent

During a tournament in Moscow, a chess-playing robot fractured a 7-year-old boy's finger when the youngster attempted a quick move without giving the device enough time to finish its task. On July 19, at the Moscow Chess Open competition, the incident took place. The youngster is fine, but one of his fingers has been broken, according to Sergey Smagin, vice president of the Russian Chess Federation, who spoke to state-run news organisation RIA Novosti.

The boy, Christopher, is one of the top 30 young chess players in Moscow, and he is just nine years old. In a nation where chess has essentially become a national obsession and source of pride, that makes him very good.

All acquisition that advanced AI will destroy humanity is false. Not the powerful AI or breaching laws of robotics will destroy humanity, but engineers with both left hands :/

On video - a chess robot breaks a kid's finger at Moscow Chess Open today. pic.twitter.com/bIGIbHztar

— Pavel Osadchuk 👨‍💻💤 (@xakpc) July 21, 2022

Sergey Smagin claims that the boy's finger was broken by the chess robot because the youngster attempted a quick move without giving the device the time to finish its task.

According to reports, the robot did not appreciate the boy's haste and grabbed his index finger and gave it a firm squeeze. The young player's finger was taken out by the onlookers who sprang in to aid, but the fracture was unavoidable.

"The boy is all right. They put a plaster cast on the finger to heal faster. Yes, there are certain safety rules and the child, apparently, violated them and, when he made a move, did not notice that he had to wait. This is an extremely rare case, the first I can recall," Smagin said.

The incident was captured on camera, and the footage has now gone viral. It reveals that the child was briefly held by the robot's grasp until a woman rushed to save him. The boy's finger is eventually rescued from the robot's grasp by three guys who step in.

“All acquisition that advanced AI will destroy humanity is false. Not the powerful AI or breaching laws of robotics will destroy humanity, but engineers with both left hands," Smagin said while defending AI (Artificial Intelligence).

AI gone wrong? Chess robot breaks child's finger at Russia tournament

A chess-playing robot broke the finger of a 7-year-old boy who was competing against it during a recent tournament in Moscow.

According to officials from the Moscow Chess Federation, the child continued his participation in the event after his finger was placed in a plaster cast.

World chess champion to give up title because he’s just ‘not motivated’

Both officials, in comments to a pair of state news agencies translated from Russian, appeared to place at least some of the blame for the incident on the boy.

“The child made a move, and after that we need to give time for the robot to answer, but the boy hurried, the robot grabbed him,” Sergey Lazarev, president of the Moscow Chess Federation, told TASS. “We have nothing to do with the robot.”

“The robot broke the child’s finger — this, of course, is bad,” added Lazarev. “The robot was rented by us, it has been exhibited in many places, for a long time, with specialists.”

“It happens, a coincidence. It is necessary, apparently, to warn the children additionally,” federation vice president Sergey Smagin told RIA Novosti. “It is extremely strange that this happened, but it happened, it happens.”

Baza, a Russian online news outlet, reported that the robot “grabbed the boy’s index finger and squeezed it hard.” Tournament staffers rushed over to help extricate him from the robot’s grip.

At the time, the robot was playing a chess match against three children at once. Baza described the victim as one of the “30 strongest” chess players in Moscow under 9 years old.

The child’s parents “want to contact the prosecutor’s office,” said Lazarev, who asserted his organization would try to assist the family.

The robot was familiar to chess officials, having been in use, according to Smagin, for approximately 15 years. He added that, to his recollection, it was the first time anything like this had happened.

Smagin said that there was no talk of banning the robot, but both he and Lazarev suggested its operators look into updated safety measures.

“It will be necessary to analyze why this happened,” Smagin said in Russian. “The robot has a very talented inventor. It may be necessary to install an additional protection system.”

Chess-playing robot breaks finger of 7-year-old boy during match