Kenyan man wears hijab, competes in women chess tournament to win 500K prize

The male chess player Stanley Omondi, who disguised himself in a hijab to play in the women’s division of the 2023 Kenya Open Chess Championship, is facing a protracted suspension from the game.

Upon receiving a formal complaint from the Executive Committee of the Bernard Wanjala-led federation, according to Victor Ng’ani, the Chess Kenya Disciplinary Committee will begin investigating the situation.

Stanley Omondi chess
Stanley Omondi chess

If the committee finds Omondi guilty of the offense, Ng’ani said he won’t be barred from sports for life but predicted a lengthy suspension.

“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.”

Omondi disguised herself in a hijab to compete in the ladies division of the competition, which attracted 444 players from 22 nations in the incident that stunned both the local and international chess communities. Nairobi’s Sarit Exhibition Center hosted the competition from April 5 to April 10.

He completely covered his head, face, and eyes, and the small opening that showed his eyes was covered by spectacles.

He didn’t interact with other gamers as much as the others did.

Omondi entered the competition under the name Millicent Awuor, and it was only after he handily defeated Ampaira Shakira of Uganda and Gloria Jumba, the former champion of the women’s division of the Kenya National Chess Championship (rated 1487), that he began to draw attention (1702).

The local chess players who were taking part in the competition began to wonder where “she” had been at past significant national chess competitions.

He only acknowledged being a man after being questioned by the tournament’s arbiters in a secret room. He also claimed that his university’s financial issues drove him to cheat in the competition.

The KSh500,000 cash award for the female section winner was something he had planned to take home.

He claimed that due to intense competition, he avoided playing in the Open Section, which was only open to men and willing women and in which KSh1 million was at risk.

He stood out in the Open Section, which featured seven Grandmasters, seven International Masters, seven Fide Masters, and five Candidate Masters.

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