Sun Herald, June 17

When one of Loek Van Wely's team mates was asked whether the Dutch number one would be reluctant to travel to a possible war zone to play the European Championship in Macedonia he replied, "Not at all - it would just make the event more attractive to him!"

Sure enough, as Macedonia descended into war this week, Van Wely was leading 171 of his GM colleagues in Ohrid to the $US40,000 first prize in arguably the strongest open tournament ever held. 

Although well away from the main trouble spots, the event was held under extraordinary security, with police and army guards surrounding the tournament venue. 

Players became progressively more edgy as news arrived that the fighting had reached the capital, Skopje, and that airlines had begun suspending services to Macedonia. 

Those players who had driven to the tournament, such as Athens-based Nigel Short were expecting a crowded car for his return journey. 

However shortly before the last round, Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski announced a peace plan; a misfortune only for Van Wely who proceeded to lose his only game of the tournament and drop to fifth place. 

The eventual winners in Ohrid were Ukrainian teenager Ruslan Ponomariov and Israel's Emil Sutovsky. Sutovsky, 23, earned considerable praise for his unexpected victory but Ponomariov's win was not popular amongst his peers as in the 11th round the youngster had reneged on an (illegal) pre-game agreement to a draw. 

Ponomariov went on to win the game and tie for first, but lost the title in a final play-off match against Sutovsky. 

European Championship Ohrid, Macedonia 

Leading final scores: 1eq. Ponomariov (Ukr), Sutovsky (Isr) 9.5/13; 3eq.Polgar (Hun), Azmaiparashvili (Geo) 9. 5eq. Van Wely (Ned), Timoshenko (Ukr), Graf (Ger), Milov (Swi), Tiviakov (Ned), Anastasian (Arm) 8.5. 

Sun-Herald Winter Chess Competition Puzzle #1 

The first of four puzzles to be run over the next four weeks. From the diagram, White is to move and force a win. How? The first four correct entries opened after June 27, the closing date, will win a recent Gambit chess book. The 3 grand winners, chosen from those solving all four puzzles correctly, will win a souvenir medal from the 1972 Fischer-Spassky match. Entries to: Sun-Herald Winter Chess Competition #1, GPO Box 506, Sydney 2001 or faxed to 02-92822151. 

White to move and win