Chess player disguised himself as woman to compete in female division of tournament

Francis Akhalbey April 17, 2023
Stanley Omondi, 25, apologized after he was exposed

A 25-year-old Kenyan man who wanted an easy way out in a chess competition decided to participate in the female open chess tournament by disguising himself as a woman. According to the BBC, Stanley Omondi wore a burka and sunglasses and used the moniker, Millicent Awour, to register himself to participate in the competition.

However, he was exposed and later rendered an apology, claiming he competed in the female competition because he had “financial needs.” He also added that he was ready to accept any ramifications for his actions.

Though Kenya Chess president, Bernard Wanjala, revealed Omondi could possibly be banned for several years, he said that wouldn’t mean he’ll be permanently barred from playing chess competitively. 

“We didn’t have any suspicion at first, because wearing a hijab is normal,” Wanjala said. “But along the way, we noticed he won against very strong players… and it will be unlikely to have a new person who has never played a tournament [being very strong].”

Omondi also raised flags with his footwear and keeping mum. “One of the red flags we also noticed [was] the shoes, he was wearing more masculine shoes, than feminine,” said Wanjala. “We also noticed he was not talking, even when he came to collect his tag, he couldn’t speak, ordinarily, when you are playing, you speak to your opponent… because playing a chess game is not war its friendship.”

Officials also explained that they decided not to step in because they were worried their actions could be labeled as profiling because of the religious attire Omondi was wearing, per BBC. He was, however, disqualified in the fourth round. 

“When he advanced, after he won a very strong match and we called him, he was not surprised,” Wanjala revealed. “He acknowledged that indeed he is a man. He regrets what happened, apologized, and said he was only doing that because he had financial difficulties and thought winning the title will help him overcome.”

More than 400 players from 22 countries participated in the 2023 Kenya open chess tournament. The money up for grabs for the winner in the female division was over $3,000. This recent incident was also said to be the first of its kind – though the East African nation’s chess federation has initially addressed cases with regard to age cheating.

The federation’s disciplinary committee is expected to share its decision on the outcome of the case soon. Wanjala also said the international federation has been notified about the incident.

“It is an extreme case, the verdict may include a ban. I rule out a life ban, but he may be given several years’ ban from playing chess,” he said.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: April 17, 2023


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