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CFL decries foul play at international tourney


Chris Theko

The Chess Federation of Lesotho (CFL) has cried foul over the way one of their top female players Naleli McPherson was disqualified from the 2021 African Online Chess Championship which was held last week allegedly for cheating. 

The tournament started on Monday and ended on Friday afternoon.

CFL Public Relations Officer Khiba Selatela said that they were told that McPherson got disqualified from the tournament after being flagged by the organizers for seemingly using some kind of assistance during one or more of her games despite continuously being on video during the games as they played through zoom. 

McPherson’s outstanding performance as well as her consistency is believed to have been the trigger of the concerns due to her being able to easily outplay players who are rated higher than herself.  

“She was said to be dodgy during her games and was always looking to the sides as if she was getting some assistance from a computer.  They also put in question her facial expressions during the games,” Selatela said. 

“It is sad because there is no evidence that the player was cheating.  The other issue is that they just could not believe that she beat some of the players who are rated higher than her,” he said.

When McPherson was disqualified, she was second after six rounds and there was no doubt that she was on the right track to finishing top position.  She was left with three rounds to go before wrapping up a successful competition. 

Selatela said they have already lodged an appeal although that appeal will not do any good as the tournament has already ended and winners have been awarded prices. 

“Although the tournament is over at this point, we are seeking to clear McPherson’s reputation as she is still a young player with a bright future in the game of chess.  If this is left as it is, chances are it will demotivate her,” he said. 

He also explained that the incident has not only traumatised the player in question but also the rest of the other players from Lesotho.

“We are shocked at how such a decision was taken without convincing evidence.  Our players started performing badly after that incident and that caused us not to have a good tournament at all.  We believe they experienced psychological trauma after that incident,” Selatela said. 

In the tournament McPherson was not the only one disqualified, however the other two had admitted to wrongdoing. The reasons given by the tournament coordinator Benard Wanjala is that the decision was made after careful consideration with Tornelo plartform analysis, Kenneth Regan screening, behavioural observation and human assessment of specific games. 

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

Lesotho had seven players in total in the tournament, in the open section there were Sechaba Khalema, Motlomole Monaheng.  In the women section there were four; namely Naleli McPherson, Maboloko Leboela, ‘Malehloa Likhomo and Malillo Phera, while Joang Molapo was the only senior section player and he was the only one who finished in the top five.              e

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