Max Euwe

Last updated
Max Euwe
Max Euwe 1963.jpg
Euwe in 1963
Full nameMachgielis Euwe
Born(1901-05-20)May 20, 1901
Amsterdam, Netherlands
DiedNovember 26, 1981(1981-11-26) (aged 80)
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Title Grandmaster (1950)
World Champion 1935–37
Peak rating 2530 (May 1974)

Machgielis "Max" Euwe (Dutch:  [ˈøːʋə] ; [1] May 20, 1901 – November 26, 1981) was a Dutch chess player, mathematician, author, and chess administrator. He was the fifth player to become World Chess Champion, a title he held from 1935 until 1937. Euwe served as President of FIDE, the World Chess Federation, from 1970 to 1978.


Early years, education and professional career

Euwe was born in the Watergraafsmeer, in Amsterdam. He studied mathematics at the University of Amsterdam under the founder of intuitionistic logic L.E.J. Brouwer (who later became his friend and for whom he held a funeral oration), and earned his doctorate in 1926 under Roland Weitzenböck. [2] He taught mathematics, first in Rotterdam, and later at a girls' Lyceum in Amsterdam. After World War II, Euwe became interested in computer programming and was appointed professor in this subject at the universities of Rotterdam and Tilburg, retiring from Tilburg University in 1971. Euwe published a mathematical analysis of the game of chess from an intuitionistic point of view, in which he showed, using the Thue–Morse sequence, that the then-official rules (in 1929) did not exclude the possibility of infinite games. [3]

Early chess career

Euwe played his first tournament at age 10, winning every game. [4] Euwe won every Dutch chess championship that he contested from 1921 until 1952, and additionally won the title in 1955 – his 12 titles are still a record. The only other winners during this period were Salo Landau in 1936, when Euwe, then world champion, did not compete, and Jan Hein Donner in 1954. [5] He became the world amateur chess champion in 1928, at The Hague, with a score of 12/15. [6]

Euwe married in 1926, started a family soon afterwards, and could only play competitive chess during school vacations, so his opportunities for international chess competition at the top level were limited. But he performed well in the few tournaments and matches for which he could find time from the early 1920s to the mid-1930s. Euwe lost a training match to Alexander Alekhine held in the Netherlands in December 1926 / January 1927, with 4½/10 (+2−3=5). [7] The match was played to help Euwe to prepare for a future encounter with José Raúl Capablanca, then world champion. [8] Euwe lost both the first and second FIDE Championship matches to Efim Bogoljubov, held in the Netherlands in 1928 and 1928‒29 respectively, scoring 4½/10 in each match ((+2−3=5) in the first match, (+1−2=7) in the second match). [9] [10] He lost a match to Capablanca held in Amsterdam in 1931 with 4/10 (+0−2=8). Euwe won a match against Spielmann held in Amsterdam in 1932, 3–1. The match was played to help Euwe prepare for his upcoming match with Flohr.

In 1932, Euwe drew a match with Flohr 8-8, [8] and came equal second with Flohr, behind Alekhine, at a major tournament in Bern. [11] According to Reuben Fine, these results established Euwe and Flohr as Alekhine's most credible challengers. [12]

At Zürich 1934, Euwe again finished equal second with Flohr, behind Alekhine, and he defeated Alekhine in their game. [13] [ better source needed ]

World Champion

Euwe (seated), 1935 Max euwe 05.jpg
Euwe (seated), 1935

In 1933, Max Euwe challenged Alekhine to a championship match. [14] Alekhine accepted the challenge for October 1935. Earlier that year, Dutch radio sports journalist Han Hollander asked Capablanca for his views on the forthcoming match. In the rare archival film footage where Capablanca and Euwe both speak, Capablanca replies: "Dr. Alekhine's game is 20% bluff. Dr. Euwe's game is clear and straightforward. Dr. Euwe's game—not so strong as Alekhine's in some respects—is more evenly balanced." Then Euwe gives his assessment in Dutch, explaining that his feelings alternated from optimism to pessimism, but in the previous ten years, their score had been evenly matched at 7–7. [15] [16]

On December 15, 1935, after 30 games played in 13 different cities around the Netherlands over a period of 80 days, Euwe defeated Alekhine by 15½–14½, becoming the fifth World Chess Champion. Alekhine quickly went three games ahead, but from game 13 onwards Euwe won twice as many games as Alekhine. [17] His title gave a huge boost to chess in the Netherlands. This was also the first world championship match in which the players had seconds to help them with analysis during adjournments. [18]

Euwe's win was regarded as a major upset – he reportedly had believed that beating Alekhine was unlikely [19]  – and is sometimes attributed to Alekhine's alcoholism. [20] But Salo Flohr, who was helping Euwe during the match, thought over-confidence was more of a problem than alcohol for Alekhine in this match, and Alekhine himself said he would win easily. [19] [14] Former World Champions Vasily Smyslov, Boris Spassky, Anatoly Karpov, and Garry Kasparov analysed the match and concluded that Euwe deserved to win and that the standard of play was worthy of a world championship. [19] Former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik has said that Euwe won the 1935 match on merit and that the result was not affected by Alekhine's drinking before or during the match. [21]

Flohr (left) and Euwe, 1969 Salo Flohr Max Euwe 1969.jpg
Flohr (left) and Euwe, 1969

Euwe's performance in the great tournament of Nottingham 1936 (equal third, half a point behind Botvinnik and Capablanca, half a point ahead of Alekhine) indicated he was a worthy champion, even if he was not as dominant as the earlier champions. Reuben Fine wrote, "In the two years before the return match, Euwe's strength increased. Although he never enjoyed the supremacy over his rivals that his predecessors had, he had no superiors in this period." [12]

Euwe lost the title to Alekhine in a rematch in 1937, also played in the Netherlands, by the lopsided margin of 15½–9½. Alekhine had given up alcohol and tobacco to prepare for the rematch, although he would start drinking again later. Alekhine got back to the sort of form he had shown from 1927–34, when he dominated chess. The match was a real contest initially, but Euwe's play collapsed near the end, and he lost four of the last five games. [21] [22] Fine, who was Euwe's second in this match, attributed the collapse to nervous tension, possibly aggravated by Euwe's attempts to maintain a calm appearance. [12]

The two world title matches against Alekhine represent the heart of Euwe's career. Altogether, the two played 86 competitive games, and Alekhine had a +28−20=38 lead, according to Many of Alekhine's wins came early in their series; he was nine years older, and had more experience during that time. The rematch was also one-sided in Alekhine's favour.

Later chess career

Euwe finished equal fourth with Alekhine and Reshevsky in the AVRO tournament of 1938 in the Netherlands, which featured the world's top eight players and was an attempt to decide who should challenge Alekhine for the world championship. Euwe also had a major organizational role in the event. [14]

He played a match with Paul Keres in the Netherlands in 1939–40, losing 6½–7½.

After Alekhine's death in 1946, Euwe was considered by some to have a moral right to the position of world champion, based at least partially on his clear second-place finish in the great tournament at Groningen in 1946, behind Mikhail Botvinnik. But Euwe consented to participate in a five-player tournament to select the new champion, the World Chess Championship 1948. [14] However, at 47, Euwe was significantly older than the other players, and well past his best. He finished last. [23] In 1950, FIDE granted Euwe the title of international grandmaster on its inaugural list. He took part in the Gijón international tournament in 1951. [24] He won ahead of Pilnik and Rossolimo with a score of (+7 =2).

Euwe's final major tournament was the double round robin Candidates' Tournament in Zürich, 1953, in which he finished next to last. He was in the top half of the field after the first half of the tournament, but tired in the second half.

Euwe played for the Netherlands in a total of seven Chess Olympiads, from 1927 to 1962, a 35-year span, always on first board. He scored 10½/15 at London 1927, 9½/13 at Stockholm 1937 for a bronze medal, 8/12 at Dubrovnik 1950, 7½/13 at Amsterdam 1954, 8½/11 at Munich 1958 for a silver medal at age 57, 6½/16 at Leipzig 1960, and finally 4/7 at Varna 1962. His aggregate was 54½/87 for 62.6 percent.

In 1957, Euwe played a short match against 14-year-old future world champion Bobby Fischer, winning one game and drawing the other. His lifetime score against Fischer was one win, one loss, and one draw.

Euwe won a total of 102 first prizes in tournaments during his career, many of these being local. [4]

Euwe became a computer science professor at Tilburg University in 1964.

FIDE President

Euwe and wife are celebrating the 40th anniversary of their marriage on 3 August 1966, surrounded by their grandchildren Max Euwe, wife, grandchildren 1966.jpg
Euwe and wife are celebrating the 40th anniversary of their marriage on 3 August 1966, surrounded by their grandchildren
Euwe and wife meet Karpov in 1976 Max Euwe, wife and Karpov 1976.jpg
Euwe and wife meet Karpov in 1976
Sculpture of Euwe in Amsterdam by artist Jose Fijnaut Max Euwebeeld.jpg
Sculpture of Euwe in Amsterdam by artist José Fijnaut

From 1970 (at age 69) until 1978, he was president of the FIDE. As president, Euwe usually did what he considered morally right rather than what was politically expedient. On several occasions this brought him into conflict with the USSR Chess Federation, which thought it had the right to dominate matters because it contributed a very large share of FIDE's budget and Soviet players dominated the world rankings – in effect they treated chess as an extension of the Cold War. These conflicts included: [19]

Euwe lost some of the battles with the Soviets. According to Sosonko, in 1973, he accepted the Soviets' demand that Bent Larsen and Robert Hübner, the two strongest non-Soviet contenders (Fischer was now champion), should play in the Leningrad Interzonal tournament rather than the weaker one in Petrópolis. Larsen and Hübner were eliminated from the competition for the World Championship because Korchnoi and Karpov took the first two places at Leningrad. [19]

Some commentators have also questioned whether Euwe did as much as he could have to prevent Fischer from forfeiting his world title in 1975. [19]

It is also notable that in 1976 Rohini Khadilkar became the first female to compete in the Indian Men's Championship; her involvement in a male competition caused a furore that necessitated a successful appeal to the High Court and caused Euwe to rule that women cannot be barred from national and international championships. [26]

Despite the turbulence of the period, most assessments of Euwe's performance as president of FIDE are sympathetic: [19]

He died in 1981, age 80, of a heart attack. Revered around the chess world for his many contributions, he had travelled extensively while FIDE President, bringing many new members into the organization.

Assessment of Euwe's chess

Euwe was noted for his logical approach and for his knowledge of openings, in which he made major contributions to chess theory. [12] Paradoxically his two title matches with Alekhine were displays of tactical ferocity from both sides. But the comments by Kmoch and Alekhine (below) may explain this: Euwe "strode confidently into some extraordinarily complex variations" if he thought logic was on his side; and he was extremely good at calculating these variations. On the other hand, he "often lacked the stamina to pull himself out of bad positions". [12]

Alekhine was allegedly more frank in his Russian-language articles than in those he wrote in English, French or German. In his Russian articles he often described Euwe as lacking in originality and in the mental toughness required of a world champion. Sosonko thought Euwe's modesty was a handicap in top-class chess (although Euwe was well aware of how much stronger he was than "ordinary" grandmasters). [19]

Vladimir Kramnik also says Euwe anticipated Botvinnik's emphasis on technical preparation, [21] and Euwe was usually in good shape physically because he was a keen sportsman.

Chess books by Euwe

Euwe wrote over 70 chess books, far more than any other World Champion; some of the best-known are The Road to Chess Mastery, Judgement and Planning in Chess, The Logical Approach to Chess, and Strategy and Tactics in Chess. [6] [14] Former Soviet grandmaster Sosonko used Euwe and den Hertog's 1927 Practische Schaaklessen as a textbook when teaching in the Leningrad House of Pioneers, and considers it "one of the best chess books ever". [19] Fischer World Champion, an account of the 1972 World Chess Championship match, co-authored by Euwe with Jan Timman, was written in 1972 but not published in English until 2002. [27] Euwe's book From My Games, 1920–1937 was originally published in 1939 by Harcourt, Brace and Company, and was republished by Dover in 1975 ( ISBN   0-486-23111-9).



Max Euweplein - Amsterdam Max Euweplein (3).jpg
Max Euweplein – Amsterdam

In Amsterdam, there is a Max Euwe Plein (square) (near the Leidseplein) with a large chess set and statue, where the 'Max Euwe Stichting' is located in a former jailhouse. It has a Max Euwe museum and a large collection of chess books.


  1. Video with Euwe's pronunciation (0:23)
  2. Machgielis Euwe at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  3. Euwe, M. (1929). "Mengentheoretische Betrachtungen über das Schachspiel". Proc. Konin. Akad. Wetenschappen. 32 (5). Amsterdam. pp. 633–642..
  4. 1 2 Denker, Arnold & Parr, Larry (1995). "The Man Who Beat Alexander Alekhine". The Bobby Fischer I Knew and Other Stories. San Francisco: Hypermodern. ISBN   0-923891-43-9.
  5. "Schaakkampioenen van Nederland". Archived from the original on 2019-01-29.
  6. 1 2 Mcfadden, Robert D. (November 28, 1981). "Max Euwe, ex-chess champion, led the game's World Federation". The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2010. Euwe's obituary
  7. "Alekhine–Euwe Training Match (1926)". Chessgames. Retrieved 2016-12-16.
  8. 1 2 "12 Euwe Matches". Max Euwe Center.
  9. "Bogoljubov–Euwe: First FIDE Championship (1928)".
  10. "Bogoljubov–Euwe: Second FIDE Championship (1928)".
  11. Bern (1932),
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 Fine, Reuben (1952). The World's Great Chess Games. London: André Deutsch. ISBN   0-679-13046-2.
  13. "Zurich (1934)".
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 Münninghoff, Alexander (2001). Max Euwe: The Biography. Translated by Piet Verhagen. New in Chess. p. 101. ISBN   9056910795. Inexplicably, one of these letters does not get an immediate reply. It is an invitation from no less a person than Alekhine: he wants to play a match against Euwe, similar to their 1927 encounter – but this time on a big passenger ship to the Dutch Indies and back, with a lot of pomp and circumstance. Five games on the way there, five during the return voyage. The stake: the world championship if need be.
  15. Han interviews Dutchman Max Euwe and Capablanca, Dutch Public Broadcasting archives, 18 May 2012 Archived 28 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  16. "Max Euwe And Capablanca(The Chess Machine) !RARE FOOTAGE!". Uploaded to Youtube by user FWCC1. Original publisher unclear, though other (unreachable) source suggests a Dutch public broadcasting agency.
  17. "Alekhine vs Euwe 1935".
  18. Winter, Edward. "5214. Ernst Klein (C.N. 5202)". Chess Notes.
  19. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Sosonko, Gennadi (2001). "Remembering Max Euwe Part 1" (PDF). . Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-02-25.
  20. Donner, J. H. (2006). The King: Chess Pieces. New in Chess. p. 91. ISBN   90-5691-171-6. Euwe defeated this giant but it was immediately clear that the chess world simply wasn't having it. General opinion internationally held it that Alekhine had once again been having a drop too much.
  21. 1 2 3 Barsky, Vladimir (2004-07-30). "Vladimir Kramnik: From Steinitz to Kasparov". Retrieved 2020-01-15.
  22. "Alekhine vs Euwe 1937".
  23. Golombek, Harry. "The World Chess Championship 1948.How Botvinnik became World Champion". British Chess Magazine. Archived from the original on 2007-10-27.
  24. Mendez, Pedro; Mendez, Luis (2019). The Gijon International Chess Tournaments. McFarland & Company. pp. 133–145. ISBN   978-1-4766-7659-3.
  25. the USSR severed the diplomatic relations with Israel after the 1967 Six Day War.
  26. "Checkmating him". The Hindu . 2001-08-03. Retrieved 2016-04-06.[ permanent dead link ]
  27. Euwe, Max; Timman, Jan (2002). Fischer World Champion!. New In Chess. ISBN   978-9056910952.

Related Research Articles

FIDE International organization that connects the various national chess federations

The International Chess Federation or World Chess Federation, commonly referred to by its French acronym FIDE, is an international organization based in Switzerland that connects the various national chess federations and acts as the governing body of international chess competition. FIDE was founded in Paris, France, on July 20, 1924. Its motto is Gens una sumus, Latin for "We are one people". In 1999, FIDE was recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). As of September 2020, there are 195 member federations of FIDE.

Alexander Alekhine Russian-French chess player

Alexander Alekhine was a Russian and French chess player and the fourth World Chess Champion, a title he held for two reigns.

World Chess Championship Played to determine the World Champion in chess

The World Chess Championship is played to determine the world champion in chess. The current world champion is Magnus Carlsen of Norway.

Mikhail Botvinnik Soviet chess player

Mikhail Moiseyevich Botvinnik was a Soviet and Russian chess player. The sixth World Chess Champion, he also worked as an electrical engineer and computer scientist and was a pioneer in computer chess.

Vasily Smyslov Soviet chess champion (1921–2010)

Vasily Vasilyevich Smyslov was a Soviet and Russian chess grandmaster, who was World Chess Champion from 1957 to 1958. He was a Candidate for the World Chess Championship on eight occasions. Smyslov twice tied for first place at the Soviet Championships, and his total of 17 Chess Olympiad medals won is an all-time record. In five European Team Championships, Smyslov won ten gold medals.

Paul Keres Estonian and Soviet chess player

Paul Keres was an Estonian, and later Soviet, chess player and chess writer. He was among the world's top players from the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s, and narrowly missed a chance at a world championship match on five occasions.

Reuben Fine American chess player

Reuben C. Fine was an American chess player, psychologist, university professor, and author of many books on both chess and psychology. He was one of the strongest chess players in the world from the mid-1930s until his retirement from chess in 1951. He was granted the title of International Grandmaster by FIDE in 1950, when titles were introduced.

Samuel Reshevsky Polish chess prodigy

Samuel Herman Reshevsky was a Polish chess prodigy and later a leading American chess grandmaster. He was a contender for the World Chess Championship from the mid 1930s to the mid 1960s: he tied for third place in the 1948 World Chess Championship tournament, and tied for second in the 1953 Candidates tournament. He was an eight-time winner of the US Chess Championship, tying him with Bobby Fischer for the all-time record.

Géza Maróczy Hungarian chess player

Géza Maróczy was a Hungarian chess player, one of the leading players in the world in his time. He was one of the inaugural recipients of the title International Grandmaster from FIDE in 1950.

This is a timeline of chess. See also: Timeline of women in chess.

Salo Flohr

Salomon Mikhailovich Flohr was a Czechoslovak and Soviet chess player and writer. He was among the first recipients of the title International Grandmaster from FIDE in 1950. Flohr dominated many tournaments of the pre-World War II years, and by the late 1930s was considered a contender for the World Championship. However, his patient, positional style was overtaken by the sharper, more tactical methods of the younger Soviet echelon after World War II.

World Chess Championship 1948

The 1948 World Chess Championship was a quintuple round-robin tournament played to determine the new World Chess Champion following the death of the previous champion Alexander Alekhine in 1946. The tournament marked the passing of control of the championship title to FIDE, the International Chess Federation which had been formed in 1924. Mikhail Botvinnik won the five-player championship tournament, beginning the era of Soviet domination of international chess that would last over twenty years without interruption.

The Nottingham 1936 chess tournament was a 15-player round robin tournament held August 10–28 at the University of Nottingham. It was one of the strongest of all time.

The Interregnum of World Chess Champions was the period between March 24, 1946 and May 17, 1948.

The Hastings International Chess Congress is an annual chess tournament which takes place in Hastings, England, around the turn of the year. The main event is the Hastings Premier tournament, which was traditionally a 10 to 16 player round-robin tournament. In 2004/05 the tournament was played in the knock out format; while in 2005/06 and 2006/07 it was played using the Swiss system. Alongside the main event there is the challengers section, which is open to all players. The winner of the challengers event earns an invitation in the following year's Premier.

Viktor Korchnoi Chess Grandmaster (1931–2016)

Viktor Lvovich Korchnoi was a Soviet and Swiss chess grandmaster and writer. He is considered one of the strongest players never to have become World Chess Champion.

Zürich 1934 was an international chess tournament held in Zürich from 14 to 29 July 1934 to commemorate the 125th anniversary of Schachgesellschaft Zürich. Alexander Alekhine won, followed by Max Euwe and Salo Flohr tied for second-third. The tournament also served as the 1934 Swiss Championship, won by Hans Johner as the highest-ranking Swiss player.


Awards and achievements
Preceded by World Chess Champion
Succeeded by
Preceded by FIDE President
Succeeded by