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 of 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.
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 is 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, speaking 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.