Stanley Omondi, a male chess player, made headlines in the chess world after wearing a hijab to participate in the women’s section of the 2023 Kenya Open Chess Championship.
However, his actions have landed him in hot water, and he faces a potentially lengthy ban from the sport for cheating.
Victor Ng’ani, a Chess Kenya Disciplinary Committee member, said they would begin dealing with the matter once they receive a formal complaint from the Executive Committee of the Bernard Wanjala-led federation. Although Ng’ani has ruled out a life ban, he believes that Omondi will face a significant ban from the sport if found guilty of the offense.
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“It (the offence) is serious enough to warrant an extensive penalty,” said Ng’ani, who is also the founding chairman of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU). “Previously, we have punished some small offences, including age cheating, with a six-month ban. This being a fraud incident, the player will get a lengthy ban if found guilty.”
Omondi’s actions shocked both the local and international chess communities. He registered for the championship as Millicent Awuor. He only raised suspicion after easily defeating former Kenya National Chess Championship Women’s section winner Gloria Jumba (rated 1487), and Ugandan top player Ampaira Shakira (1702).
Many local chess players competing in the tournament started questioning where “she” had been during other important national chess tournaments. After interrogating in a private room by the tournament’s arbiters, he admitted to being male, saying the financial problems he grappled with at the university pushed him to cheat in the tournament. He had hoped to pocket the Sh500,000 cash prize for the women’s section winner.
Omondi admitted to being a good chess player, having started playing early. He plays for a top university in the Kenya National Chess Premier League and has a rating of around 1200.
Jumba, who Omondi defeated in the tournament, said she did not notice anything fishy about him throughout their play. “I was quite surprised (by the news that he was a man) because I did not notice anything odd about him. He is a skillful player because his pieces were highly active (well placed on the board), and he always capitalised on the mistakes that I was making,” she told Nation Sport.
Chess is a game of strategy and intellect; players should compete on a level playing field. Cheating in sports is unacceptable as it undermines the sport’s integrity.
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