In a daring move, a 25-year-old Kenyan chess player disguised himself as a woman to participate in his country’s female open chess tournament.
Stanley Omondi dressed head to toe in a burka, and under the name of Millicent Awour, he registered himself for the event. However, his gambit was soon exposed when organizers got suspicious of the unknown player’s success.
In his defense, Omondi later explained in an apologetic letter seen by the BBC that he disguised himself due to financial needs.
He admitted that he was “ready to accept all consequences.” However, Omondi did not respond to the BBC’s request for comment.
Chess Kenya president Bernard Wanjala stated that Omondi was likely to receive a ban of “several years,” but he would not be excluded from chess forever.
According to Wanjala, there was no suspicion at first since wearing a hijab was normal. But they grew concerned when they noticed Omondi was winning against very strong players, and it would be unlikely for a new person to be so skilled.
Officials grew even more suspicious due to Omondi’s footwear and the fact that he did not speak.
Wanjala said that one of the red flags they noticed was that Omondi wore more masculine shoes than feminine. Moreover, he did not speak when he came to collect his tag, and he didn’t speak during the game.
Wanjala explained that when playing chess, it’s not war, but friendship, and players usually talk to their opponents.
Despite their suspicions, officials allowed Omondi to continue playing because they were afraid of being accused of profiling due to the religious attire.
However, they eventually ejected him in the fourth round after he won a strong match and acknowledged that he was indeed a man. He apologized for his actions, stating that he did it out of financial difficulties, and he thought winning the title would help him overcome them.
The Kenya Open is an annual competition held in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, and this year’s edition attracted over 400 players from 22 countries.
Ninety-nine players registered in the women’s category, where the winner would take home over $3,000 (£2,400).
Omondi is a known chess player, but Wanjala believes that he thought his odds would be better in the women’s category since the men’s part of the tournament had a higher standard of play.
Since 2014, Benny A. King has been fully immersed in the world of combat sports. Starting with a blog about Greco Roman wrestling, Benny’s passion for combat sports has led him to explore various disciplines.