By Nation Africa
Stanley Omondi, the male chess player who was camouflaged in a hijab in order to compete in the women’s section of the 2023 Kenya Open Chess Championship, is staring at a lengthy ban from the sport.
Victor Ng’ani, a member of the Chess Kenya Disciplinary Committee, said they will start dealing with the matter once they receive a formal complaint from the Executive Committee of the Bernard Wanjala-led federation.
While Ng’ani ruled out a life ban for Omondi should the committee find him guilty of the offence, he said he will be banned from the sport for a long time.
“It (the offence) is serious enough to warrant an extensive penalty,” said the 2018 Kenya National Chess Championship winner, and 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.”
In the incident that shocked both the local and international chess community, Omondi camouflaged in a hijab to compete in the ladies section of the tournament that attracted 444 participants from 22 countries. The championship was held at Sarit Expo Centre in Nairobi from April 5 to 10.
He covered his head, and face completely, and wore spectacles on the small opening that revealed his eyes.
Unlike the rest of the players he hardly spoke to anyone.
Omondi registered for the championship as Millicent Awuor, and only raised suspicion after he easily defeated former Kenya National Chess Championship Women’s section winner Gloria Jumba (rated 1487), and Ugandan top player Ampaira Shakira (1702).
Many of the local chess players competing in the tournament started questioning where “she” has been during other important national chess tournaments.
It was after he was interrogated in a private room by the tournament’s arbiters that he admitted to being male, saying the financial problems that he is grappling with at the university pushed him to cheat in the tournament.
He had hoped to pocket the KSh500,000 cash prize for the women’s section winner.
He said he avoided playing in the Open Section, where KSh1 million was at stake, and which was reserved for all men and willing ladies, because of stiff competition.
With seven Grandmasters, seven International Masters, seven Fide Masters and five Candidate Masters competing in the Open Section, he definitely stood no chance of winning.
When contacted by Nation Sport, Omondi declined to delve much on the incident, only stating that he is waiting to defend himself before the Chess Kenya Disciplinary Committee.
But he admitted to being a good chess player, having started playing at a young age.
Nation Sport has established that he plays for a top university in the Kenya National Chess Premier League, and has a rating of around 1200.
Jumba said she did not notice anything fishy about him throughout the time that they played.
“I was quite surprised (by the news that he was a man) because I did not notice anything odd about him. He is a good player because his pieces were very active (well placed on the board) and he always capitalised on the mistakes that I was making,” she told Nation Sport.