A mysterious participant in the women’s section of the Kenya Open Chess Championship in Nairobi, Kenya was exposed as a male imposter and removed from the tournament. The player, whose identity is not made public, admitted to the cheating and said it was motivated by financial problems.
The player had registered under the name Millicent Awuor for the women’s section of the Kenya Open which is currently underway. He raised suspicion when he beat former national champion Gloria Jumba (rated 1487) and Ugandan top player Ampaira Shakira (rated 1702).
To keep his identity hidden, he was wearing a niqab each day which left only his glasses and eyes visible. After the end of his games, he wouldn’t talk to anyone. When registering for the tournament, the player “never uttered a word” and “simply wrote on a paper his name,” according to organizer and Kenyan Chess Federation President Benard Wanjala.
Chief arbiter Antony Kionga told Chess.com that the staff initially was cautious to interfere, as they were taking into account the possibility that they were dealing with an orthodox muslim woman. However, as the tournament went underway, both players and arbiters noticed that the person in question had an odd walking style and was wearing shoes commonly used by men.
After the fourth round, Kionga decided to take the player to a private room where he asked for an identification document. The player, a university student, then admitted to his wrongdoing. “The reason was due to financial needs but I deeply regret my action and [am] ready to accept all consequences,” he wrote in a letter.
Thanks to exceptional sponsorship, this year’s Kenya Open tournament has a total prize fund of $42,000. There are 10 prizes in the women’s section, which has a first prize of 500,000 Kenyan Shillings ($3,815). The open section, where the first prize is one million Kenyan Shillings ($7,630), attracted seven international grandmasters.
The imposter player, who has an international rating close to 1500 and blitz rating close to 1750, has been expelled from the tournament pending disciplinary action. The points that he scored were reversed and awarded to his opponents.
The Kenya Open Chess Championship has attracted almost 450 players from 22 federations. The tournament takes place April 6-10, 2023, at the Sarit Expo Center in Nairobi, Kenya.