Sun-Herald, October 7

Since heading for the European circuit just over a year ago following a stellar Australian season, Alex Wohl has experienced an extraordinarily lean run; so lean, that voices had been raised questioning his near-automatic selection for the 2002 Olympic team. 

However after this week's easy win in the Santa Olaya Open in Gijon, Spain, any such doubts should be quashed. 

Wohl, the top seed in Gijon, won his first six games and then offered an early draw to a grateful seventh round opponent to ensure tournament victory with a round to spare. 

In the final round Wohl was forced to concede another draw, although under strange circumstances. 

Having pushed hard with the black pieces, Wohl reached the diagrammed position, where Black has minimal chances of converting his extra pawn. 


With less than two minutes left on the clock, Wohl's opponent, Javier Menendez, claimed a draw, as he was entitled to do, on the grounds that Wohl was trying to win on the clock, not the position. 

Menendez then undermined his own claim by saying that although he thought the position to be technically drawn, he was worried that Wohl might 'trick' him. 

If there are chances for the defender to go wrong, an arbiter is obliged to ask the players to continue the game, which the Spanish arbiter did, correctly pointing out that the claim could be reconsidered in the light of the position on the board when White's time expired. 

However Menendez refused to play on, letting his clock run down to zero. 

Since the player with the pawn less had shown no indication he knew how to draw the game, the arbiter was then obliged to award the game to Wohl but, incredibly, he declared the game a draw. 

In a sign of goodwill, the organisers allowed Wohl to appeal the decision, ignoring a recent FIDE rule which forbids appeals against an arbiter's ruling on a draw claim. 

Unfortunately the Appeals Committee split 4/3 against Wohl. 

Apparently the decisive vote was cast by a swimmer, present on the Committee only in an honorary capacity, who admitted that all he knew about chess was how some of the pieces moved! 

Wohl's next tournament will be in Arco, Italy, the scene of Wohl's career-best victory in 1996.