Omondi’s bold move was unmasked, however, with the organizers becoming suspicious of the unknown player’s success.
In his defence, Stanley Omondi later wrote in an apology letter quoted by the BBC that he had “financial needs”. He also said that he was “ready to accept all the consequences”.
Kenyan chess president Bernard Wanjala has said that while he may receive a ban of “a few years”, Stanley Omondi will not be banned from chess forever.
“I didn’t have any suspicion at first because wearing a hijab is normal,” Wanjala told BBC Sport Africa. “But along the way, I’ve noticed that he’s won against some very strong players … and it’s unlikely that a new person who’s never played a tournament is going to be very strong.”
His footwear and the fact that Omondi did not speak added to the concerns.
“One of the red flags I also noticed was the footwear, he was wearing male rather than female shoes,” Wanjala said.
“I also noticed that he wasn’t talking, even when he came to pick up his piece, he couldn’t talk, normally when you play, you talk to your opponent… because the game of chess is not a war, but a friendship”.
Despite their reservations, officials allowed him to continue, fearing he might be accused of profiling because of his religious attire, and only expelled him in the fourth round.
“When he advanced, after winning a very strong match and I called him, he was not surprised,” Wanjala said.
“He admitted that he was indeed a man. He regrets what happened, he apologized and said he only did it because he had financial difficulties and thought that maybe winning the title would help him get over them.”
The Kenya Open, which took place last week, is an annual competition that takes place in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. This year’s edition attracted over 400 players from 22 countries. Ninety-nine entered the women’s category, where the winner would take home over $3,000.
Omondi is a well-known chess player, but Wanjala believes the youngster thought his chances would be better in the women’s category given the higher level of play in the men’s side of the tournament.
While the Kenyan chess federation has faced cases of age cheating before, this type of fraud is a first of its kind.
The case has been referred to the body’s disciplinary committee, which is expected to make a decision in the next two days.
“It is an extreme case, the verdict may include a ban. I rule out a lifetime ban, but he could receive a ban of several years from playing chess,” explained Wanjala.
The case will also be submitted to the international federation, he added.
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