back to article Russian ChessBot breaks child opponent's finger

A Russian chess robot has broken the finger of a child. The incident happened at a Moscow tournament on July 19, when a robotic arm that uses AI to help it play three games at once went rogue. Its antics went viral after video appeared in the Telegram post embedded below. There's no need to fear the rise of the machines, or …

  1. Cereberus

    it just me or .....

    did anyone else have the thought 'Is the child Ukrainian?'

    Break their trigger fingers early so they can't fight later on. Hope the youngsters finger mends without any problems, and he / she continues playing chess into the future without and trauma from the incident.

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: it just me or .....

      "did anyone else have the thought 'Is the child Ukrainian?'"

      If only warfare could be replaced with a game of chess. So much cheaper, so many lives saved, a terrible increase in the use of plaster casts.

      1. BenDwire Silver badge

        Re: it just me or .....

        If only warfare could be replaced with a game of chess

        <In a 1970's computer voice> Would you like to play a game ... ?

        1. G Watty What?

          Re: it just me or .....

          Yes. Global Thermonuclear War please.

    2. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: it just me or .....

      it just me or ..... or has the embedded video not embedded correctly, I don't see it, yes, I've turned off all means of AdBlocking, changed to a No Pi-hole network, still it doesn't show? I don't have telegram...?

      1. Khaptain Silver badge

        Re: it just me or .....

        I don't see any embedded video at all, nor any placement that is could be used..

        The page has possibly been changed between times..

  2. Hawkeye Pierce

    Questionable Explanation

    I find it hard to believe - or understand - the official explanation. The robot had just made its move and the human (child) supposedly played too quickly? What possible reason is there for the robot to grab the human's finger? Having made its move, it simply needed to retract its arm and wait to recognise the human having made their move. If anything, the human playing too quickly might conceivably make the robot not realise the human's move had been made, but certainly not to go all out into vindictive mode.

    Be worried.... very worried...

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Questionable Explanation

      I can think of no good reason why a chessbot needs to be able to grab anything at all.

      If I were designing it, it would work by moving magnets around beneath the board.

      1. Natalie Gritpants Jr

        Re: Questionable Explanation

        With a suitably strong reverse polarity for removing pieces from the board.

        1. Kabukiwookie

          Re: Questionable Explanation

          Then you get people complaining about having to dislodge chess pieces from their eye socket...

          Yarrr.... it was a chess accident...

      2. IGotOut Silver badge

        Re: Questionable Explanation

        So how do you remove a piece from play or move a Knight?

        1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

          Re: So how do you ... move a Knight?

          Or Castle the King, or move a Bishop or Queen diagonally past other pieces without disturbing them. Suggestion implies lack of pretty basic chess knowledge.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: So how do you ... move a Knight?

            There were chess computers in the '80s which moved the pieces by themselves, so this has been done before. One way would be to make the pieces small relative to the squares so they fit past when moved diagonally. For castling, I think some of them moved the king off the board, out of the way, in order to do the move.

          2. that one in the corner Silver badge

            Re: So how do you ... move a Knight?

            You could try building one for yourself and see


            as an A-level student did:


          3. Richard Pennington 1

            Re: So how do you ... move a Knight?

            Perhaps a more interesting question would be how does it accomplish a pawn promotion (possibly also including a capture on the promotion square)? Remember that the pawn can promote to something other than a queen if the game position suits such a move.

            Also interesting: en passant captures.

        2. chivo243 Silver badge

          Re: Questionable Explanation

          So how do you remove a piece from play or move a Knight?

          Eject seats! Or compressed air!

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Questionable Explanation

          These have actually been built, and use several approaches, most based on simply clearing the other pieces from the path and replacing them once the piece is cleared. There is plenty of room on a standard board.

          In the castling example it is not shifting much material as the castling rules are pretty restrictive, but if you are a chessboard masochist there are more tangled messes that could result from aggressive use of knights. That said I expect removing material from the board from regular captures is often probably more complicated. Clever work for the 80's-90's era example I remember.

          A less clever method, but more elegant in some ways would be to use a bigger board and smaller pieces, so there is space to drag them between the rows and ranks without resetting pieces.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Questionable Explanation

        You're assuming that the chess board is part of the robot. Maybe the robot is just a player and one of its features is to be able to play using any normal chess board and pieces.

    2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: Questionable Explanation

      It's a really grotty video. And doesn't make much sense.

      It looks like the robot removes the White Queen on D1. (Why?) The kid then moves the castle from its starting position to that square. It's look like he's still holding onto the piece (castling?) when the robot goes for his finger

      Speculation: the AI thinks the arm failed to pick up white queen and is re-attempting the move.

      1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

        Re: Questionable Explanation

        Speculation: the AI thinks the arm failed to pick up white queen and is re-attempting the move.

        It looked like that to me. I was wondering why, if it were doing that, it didn't keep doing that, lift the piece, finger and boy, and try and dump all in the tupperware box.

        A better quality video shows the arm had picked up a Bishop and was placing that where the boy had moved his Castle to. So more a crushing injury than a grabbing injury.

        Full marks to the observer who was heading for the Escape key as soon as the arm was returning to where the kid had placed his piece.

        "Hit F10 to throw a punch"

        1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

          Re: Questionable Explanation

          Ahhh, yes; that makes sense. The kid's effectively gone, "don't bother putting that bishop down - my rook's going to feast on it." But, as good as the AI is at chess, it's useless at anticipating a rudimentary social interaction, even within the confines of a chess board.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. wallyb

      Re: Questionable Explanation

      Robots move... takes queen with black bishop

      - picks up queen from the board - drops in container

      - picks up bishop and puts in on queens location

      During this move kids picks up castle and moves it to queens location. The robot had not finished its move so the puts the bishop down on his finger

  3. Natalie Gritpants Jr

    Give every player an angle grinder.

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

      An EPO button would be quicker in that situation. The angle grinder would be primarily useful for revenge.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Standard practice here is a light curtain. If thevlight curtain is broken (from the user reaching in) you lock out the robot's movements.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          I was going to add something similar, along with torque limiting everything(*) and a stall sensor

          It doesn't NEED to have 500N force behind it to move pieces and an arm which can be stopped by anything substantial in its way is much safer than one which can't be, for the same reason you don't (normally) use a JCB digger to pat your dog

          (*) With appropriate size stepper motors or gearing, you don't sacrifice speed

          It seems the robot arm is from the "Sledgehammer to crack a peanut" school of problem solving, when tongs might be better suited

          (There are a number of "toy" desktop robot arms available and none of them have enough power available to hurt people)

    2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      You called?

    3. Argh

      If the robot player has an angle grinder, that is likely to be even worse for the fingers of children.

      1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        But if you put down a lump of wood, it can carve the piece that's needed...

    4. Stoneshop

      Give every player an angle grinder.

      Show the AI a few games of Battle Chess.

  4. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Will the next news be that a chess Robot is caught bashing the bishop...

    Now that really would be sentient behaviour.

    1. Mike 125

      Re: Will the next news be that a chess Robot is caught bashing the bishop...

      TBBT (back when it was funny)

  5. KittenHuffer Silver badge

    In Soviet Russia ....

    .... the Pawn sacrifices you!

  6. Dynamite
    Thumb Up

    They probably let this story through so that they could finger someone else as being behind the issue. Somewhere down the line they will reveal the fingerprints of a US or European hacker or even will a Ukrainian hacker as having pushed the button that harmed the child. As always the evidence that points the finger outside the country will be one that cast the rest of the world in a poor light while showing that the local security forces have their finger on the pulse and are working bravely to protect their citizens from harm.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    story made it to Russian readers and then out of the country

    And it seems to have widely made it onto all sorts of news sources. I can understand why tech news sites publish it : it is on the face of it a story of badly implemented tech, and appealing in a sort of "shucks, the poor kid had to go to the doctor because of the bad robot, but he's really OK" sort of way.

    Let's just remember that many many kids are being shot and blown to smithereens by that country, which is much less cute, and probably a good reason to be wary of stuff that sounds a lot like propaganda for the purposes of distraction from that fact.

    1. Kabukiwookie

      Re: story made it to Russian readers and then out of the country

      War is never good and should always be avoided with diplomacy if possible. A lot of people have been blown up by many countries. But why point the finger specifically at Russia, which compared to some other countires >cough<US>cough< is relatively benign if one compares body counts.

      Regarding russians not getting real news; wasn't Ukraine kicking Russia's ass? Then why are they not only still in Ukraine, they are moving west every day.

      Wishful thinking is not news.

      Bravo for the Reg editors to make this piece of tech news political btw.

  8. Danny 2

    Chess anecdotes

    Me and my ex-fiancee would play chess naked in a big bath. I miss baths. Her too.

    Me and my best pal played chess on LSD. I was the better player, he won. It was psychology 101, he would take 30 minutes to make a move and I'd respond instantly freaking him out. "I won!"

    Did you?

    Drugs and chess are far more fun than drugs and sex. Not just chess, al sorts of games - Crossfire on speed!

  9. b0llchit Silver badge

    Russion Asimov?

    • 1. A robot should injure a human being or, through action, allow a human being to come to harm.
    • 2. A robot may disregard the orders given it by human beings except where such orders might not conflict with the First Law.
    • 3. A robot should protect its own existence even if such protection may conflict with the First or Second Law.

    1. xanadu42

      Re: Russion Asimov?

      I presume "tongue in cheek" as Asimov was born in Russia

      So along the same lines:

      Zeroth Law:

      A robot may harm humanity, or, by action, harm humanity.

      1. b0llchit Silver badge

        Re: Russion Asimov?

        I presume "tongue in cheek" ...

        Tongue well managed to the side and biting it in the process.

        And, see icon of that post.

  10. FlamingDeath Silver badge


    Please stop it, or I’m just going to block the site and never visit again. K?

  11. trevorde Silver badge

    Incorrect behaviour

    Once the robot realised it was losing, it should've upended the board!

    1. Freddie

      Re: Incorrect behaviour

      The difficulty in implementing robotic board-upending is why making robo monopoly players is seen as so much more difficult that robo chess players. Also, a robot finds sulking for a sufficiently long period of time taxing.

      1. Stoneshop
        Thumb Up

        Re: Incorrect behaviour

        Also, a robot finds sulking for a sufficiently long period of time taxing.

        Unless they have a basement to sulk in, as a Rather Unhappy Vertical People Transporter.

  12. cawfee

    In unrelated news...

    Extended tests of our new finger breaking robot have been a great success!

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: great success!

      In other breaking news, Putin has ordered the Russian government to redefine great success to mean at least one plannned outcome in 15 years. In a rousing display of patriotism and forward-thinking, the Duma voted unanimously to approve this glorious new interpretation.

      All Russian citizens, busisness, academic institutions, government departments, and the country's armed forces, will immediately apply definition this to all ongoing endeavours, and retrospectively to past failures, proving to the world once and for all how greatly successful Russia is at anything and everything.

  13. that one in the corner Silver badge

    Premature test of new software

    to be used for the human/robot Chessboxing tournament

  14. Cederic Silver badge


    Telegram seems to be mostly immune to the Russian censorship. A lot of Russian reports and comments on the war in Ukraine are on there, and non-Russians are sharing reality in return.

  15. adam 40 Silver badge

    What next

    the "Chessinator"??

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    People suffering...

    It's strangely comforting to see Russians in pain these days.

  17. Francis Boyle

    Pluck Yew!

    It's seems the robot has heard the old (and false) story about the French cutting off captured English archer's fingers.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No need to fear

    > There's no need to fear the rise of the machines

    > ...the Chessbot has been used in tournaments for 15 years and has never done anything like this before.

    This coming so soon after a human is punished for trying to protect an AI? I wouldn't be so nonchalant about the motives of the robots!

    "There's no need to fear a revolution, the serfs have been placid for hundreds of years and have never done anything like this "communism" rally before."

  19. StephenTompsett

    No Safety Barrier

    Should have been IR safety barrier as used to protect operators of machine tools like punching machines.

  20. JDPower666

    People thinking this is an accident, the robot knew what it was doing. Kids will think twice about trying to embarrass it in future.

    1. Munchausen's proxy

      Let the Wookie win.

      1. Ken G Silver badge

        Nobody worries about upsetting a droid. That’s cause a droid don’t pull people’s arms out of their sockets when they lose.

        Now it's a fair game.

  21. Lordrobot

    Break Rules and Bones Break

    The child was playing finger-on chess... He needed a lesson in chess etiquette.

  22. LionelB Silver badge

    This brought to mind a video that was doing the rounds of robotics labs in the mid 90s (I happened to be adjacent to one at the time).

    Some researchers were demoing their latest elegant software upgrade for their experimental robot (large, solid, clunky) for the company execs. It was supposed to retrieve a bottle of beer from the fridge. It had done the job perfectly in trials of course, but with the extra attention it decided, for reasons never made clear, to go route one. With calm deliberation, it punched its arm straight through the fridge door, grabbed a beer bottle, retrieved it, and to the consternation of the assembled onlookers, swung round, pulling the fridge door off its hinges in the process.

    (You had to be there - just had a look online, but can't seem to find it. I've probably remembered it wrong.)

  23. sipke

    What would Macready do?

    If I ever play against this robot, I'll keep a glass of scotch ready to pour on it if it tries any funny business.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe the Mechanical Turk or Automaton Chess Player had been sipping Smirnoff? ;-)

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