Anti-Israel Boycott in World Chess Olympiad

by Ismail Sloan

SALONIKA - NOVEMBER 1988 - Isak Al Mulla of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates lost a game in the International Open Chess Tournament held during the World Chess Olympiad in Thessaloniki, Greece in an unfortunate manner.

In this tournament, it happened that the country of the players was not revealed on the official wall chart.

After he had achieved a winning position in the opening against a player named Nagar, Al Mulla casually leaned over and asked his opponent where he was from. He was shocked when his opponent said that he was from Israel.

The United Arab Emirates is one of the many Arab countries which is officially boycotting Israel. For this reason, Al Mulla immediately reported this situation to the head of his delegation, Mr. Awad Ali.

Under normal circumstances, a player from the UAE cannot play an official chess game against anyone from Israel. However, Al Mulla contended that now that the game was in progress and indeed he had achieved a winning position, there was no point in forfeiting the game now. Mr. Awad overruled him, stating that since, when the game started, nobody had any reason to know that the opponent was from Israel, but now they had become aware of this fact, there was no choice but to terminate the game now. Accordingly, Mr. Awad stopped the clock and the game was forfeited.

A representative from another Arab country expressed dismay at the fact that, for some reason, players from countries like the UAE are always being paired against Israelis but, until now, nobody from Palestine has ever been paired against an Israeli. He said that unlike the other Arab countries, Palestine was quite anxious to play a match against Israel. One reason for this was that in that case Israel would refuse to play and the match would be awarded by forfeit to Palestine.

Palestine finished the World Chess Olympiad in 88th place with only 24.5 points, as opposed to Israel, which was in 11th place with 33 points.

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