Chess Federation fumes over player’s disqualification

Chess Federation fumes over player’s disqualification

MASERU-The Chess Federation of Lesotho (CFL) is fuming over the disqualification of Naleli McPherson from last week’s African Online Individual Chess Championship because of alleged cheating.
The association feels McPherson was a victim of a witch-hunt after she beat two players who are rated higher than her.

McPherson was in second place with three matches to go in the tournament and the CFL feels she could have won the championship if she was allowed to continue.
The association says maybe organisers did not want a Mosotho to win the tournament. The prize money for first place was US$2 000 which is equivalent to about M30 000.
The CFL has lodged an appeal against McPherson’s disqualification but says they will take their grievances to court if they do not succeed.

McPherson is accused of looking sideways during her games which is a sign of receiving assistance from another computer.
She is one of three players that were disqualified from African Online Individual Chess Championship, the two others are Algeria’s Rami Tedjeddine Beghriche and Mauritania’s Hemam Moulaye Brahim.

The decision to kick the trio out was reached after the African Chess Confederation (ACC) used analysis from the tournament’s Tornelo host platform which screened behavioural patterns for indicators of cheating.
In a communication to CFL, the championship’s coordinator, Benard Wanjala, who is also the African Chess Confederation vice-president, said they always start under the assumption players are fair and honest when competing online.

However, when all four indicators they use tell the same story and point to a player being “highly likely” to have had unfair assistance, then they have no choice but to accept that as the mostly likely outcome.
“Our standard of proof is ‘comfortable satisfaction’ that the evidence is all pointing towards assistance. We are comfortably satisfied this was the correct decision. So far none of the players removed has made any admission of wrongdoing,” one of Wanjala’s texts to the CFL reads.

The Tornelo analysis of which McPherson was judged on suggests that the first signal a player is cheating is their eyes because players normally focus straight ahead on the chess board.
Micro-eye movements are normal because they are looking around the chess board, however, frequent looking to the same spot outside the field of vision of the screen is concerning.
The second indicator is the players’ computer mouse.

If the player is thinking of their next move you will see their mouse moving around a little as it hovers over the board. However, if their hand is on a second device the mouse is completely still.
Time gaps after moves are another indicator.
Organisers of the African Online Individual Chess Championship said McPherson had a score of +4 on Tornelo, which is high for her chess rating.

They said she had an ROI reading of 61.8 on the Kenneth Regan report which checks cheating, which was the fourth highest at the event.
The CFL’s spokesperson, Selatela Khiba, said having a reputation of being a cheater is very damaging and may have consequences in future when scholarship opportunities are available.
He said opponents also have a poor opinion of you when you go into tournaments.
“The tournament was played from Monday and we were in round six when (McPherson) was disqualified,” Khiba said.

“They are saying she was looking sideways and therefore was getting help from another computer. She beat two players who are rated higher than her, and we think because she was already second place with three rounds to go they didn’t want a Mosotho child to win it. The players that were left in the tournament were weak, she would have won it,” Khiba said.

Khiba said it is surprising because in the same game she is being accused of cheating, McPherson made mistakes that an opponent could have capitalised on and won if they were aware.
He said McPherson, who is not taking the accusations well, has admitted to looking sideways but that’s because she was scared as she had lost a key component in chess which is known as the ‘Queen’, but she eventually recovered it.

“She wanted to quit playing (chess) totally but we have been speaking to her, she is not doing well,” Khiba said.
“We are now focused on clearing her name. If we can’t we will go to court.”

Tlalane Phahla

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