Canberra Times, June 10
The European Championship, currently underway in Ohrid, Macedonia, is arguably the strongest open tournament in history yet the event seems to be operating in a publicity vacuum.
Despite being the most prestigious World Championship qualifier, only 205 of the almost 1,000 eligible players and fewer than a handful of non-Macedonian journalists arrived at the 'Pearl of Macedonia' to report on the contest.
The reason is the venue.
Ohrid is a picturesque town of 65,000 residents but it is also very close to the Albanian border.
In March Georgievski put the Ohrid battalion on a state of heightened military readiness and this week Prime Minister Georgievski stated that only by declaring a state of war would the problem of "Albanian terrorists" be solved. (Albanians make up a third of the Macedonian population.)
Ohrid is about 150kms from the major trouble-spot in Macedonia, Tetovo, but pressure grew to move the qualifier to a safer country.
However the organising committee - which included no members of the Albanian minority - insisted that there would be no problems in Ohrid and the tournament went ahead as scheduled.
Macedonia's troubles, added to exorbitant hotel charges, kept many players away, with the expected field of 500+ for the 46 World Championship places reduced by 60%.
However 172 of Europe's Grandmasters evidently decided that the attractive prize fund - $A75,000 for first down to $1,300 for 35th place - justified the risk.
Despite the policemen and soldiers who surround the Desaret Hotel complex, the tournament venue, the event has already been described by one player as "the best organised in which I have ever played".
The play itself is dramatic but uneven, as one might expect from a tournament using FIDE's new fast time limit, with the following game being one of the best.
Click here to see the game in Palview
1.g3 d5 2.Nf3 c5 3.Bg2 Nc6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 e5 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.c4 Bb4+ 8.Nc3!?
Gutsy play, but 8.Bd2 doesn't offer White much.
8...d4 9.Qa4 Rb8 10.Bxc6+ Bd7 11.a3 Bxc3+ 12.bxc3 dxc3 13.Be3 Ne7 14.Bxd7+ Qxd7 15.Qxd7+ Kxd7 16.0-0-0+ Ke6 17.Bxa7?!
17.Rd3 Rb3 is roughly equal but White wants more.
17...Rbc8! 18.c5 Rc6 19.Rd6+
Saving the stranded bishop at the cost of a pawn, but Black is in no hurry to regain material.
19...Rxd6 20.cxd6 Nc6! 21.Bc5 Kd5! 22.Bb6 Ra8! 23.Kc2
White can win a piece with 23.d7 Rxa3 24.d8Q+ Nxd8 25.Rd1+ but disaster follows 25...Kc4 26.Rxd8 Kb3!.
This loses by force, but after 24.Rb1 Kc4 25.Be3 Ra2+ 26.Kc1 Rxe2 White is not out of the woods because 27.d7? allows 27...Kd3!.
24...Nb4+ 25.Kb1 Rb3+! 26.Ka1
Perhaps only now did White realise that 26.Kc1 fails to 26...Kc4!! 27.d8Q Na2+ 28.Kd1 c2+ 29.Ke1 c1(Q)+ 30.Qd1 Qxd1+ 31.Kxd1 Rxb6, etc.
After 27.Ka2, Rb2 is checkmate.
A Canberra tradition, Street Chess, continues every Saturday morning at 10.30am, City Walk. Street Chess now attracts some of Canberra's stars, with Shervin Rafizadeh edging out Vladimir Smirnov is last week's contest.