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Chess Federation cries foul

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Leemisa Thuseho

THE Chess Federation of Lesotho (CFL) is crying foul after one of its top female players, Naleli McPherson was disqualified from the just ended 2021 African Online Chess Championship allegedly for cheating.

The tournament started on Monday and ended on Friday afternoon.

CFL public relations officer Khiba Selatela said they were told that McPherson was disqualified from the tournament after being flagged by the organisers for seemingly using some form of assistance during one or more of her games despite continuously on video during the games. The games were played on Zoom.

Selatela believes that McPherson’s consistency and outstanding performance triggered the concerns as she easily outplayed some of the players who are rated higher than herself.

“They said she was dodgy during her games and was always looking to the sides as if she was getting some assistance from a computer,” Selatela said.

“They also said her facial expressions during the games was doubtful. It is sad because there is no evidence that the player was cheating. The other issue is that they couldn’t believe how she beat some of the players who were rated higher than herself.”

Selatela said by the time McPherson was disqualified, she was second after six rounds and there was no doubt that she was on the right track towards finishing in a top position. She was yet to play only three rounds.

Selatela said they have already lodged an appeal. However, the appeal may not do much good given that the tournament has already ended and winners have already been handed prizes.

They are therefore, unaware what will happen afterwards.

However, CFL is unhappy the move has traumatised the concerned player and others who were part of the tournament.

“We don’t understand how such a decision was taken without convincing evidence. We didn’t perform well in the tournament because after that incident, our players started performing badly. We believe that they experienced psychological trauma after the incident and that is why they lost many games,” Selatela said.

Although McPherson was not the only disqualified player in the tournament, tournament coordinator Benard Wanjala said the decisions were made after careful considerations that include the Tornelo platform analysis, Kenneth Regan screening, behavioural observation and human assessment in specific games.

“We start with the assumption that players are fair and honest. However, when all the four indicators tell the same story and point to a player being highly likely to have unfair assistance, then we have no choice but to accept this is the mostly likely outcome,” Wanjala said.

Lesotho had eight players in tournament but the performance was under par. Only Joang Molapo finished in the top five in the senior section with 4.5 points.

The other players who were in the tournament are ‘Malehloa Likhomo, Maboloko Leboela and ‘Malillo Phera in female category. Apart from Molapo the male contingent was made up of Sechaba Khalema, Lebajoa Tšephe, and Motlomelo Monaheng.

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