Portrait of a World Champion

Max Euwe (20 May 1901 - 26 November, 1981)

Max Euwe

World Champion between 1935 and 1937. Euwe was born in Watergrafsmeer in the Netherlands. He never devoted himself totally to chess and became the only amateur to ever win the World Championship since Morphy's day. He held a doctorate in mathematics and in his peak years as a player, he often lectured in mathematics, mechanics and astronomy at the Amsterdam Lyceum.

He was taught chess by his mother at the age of four. He took part in his first tournament when he was ten. In 1920, while still attending University, he became Dutch National Champion. His early successes included second place at Gothenburg 1920 and a drawn match with Maroczy in 1921. Since he was a teacher by profession, his tournament appearances had to happen mostly during school holidays, although Euwe continued to score good results. These included a notable third at Bad Kissingen 1928 and first at Hastings 1930/1 ahead of Capablanca. In match-play, Euwe defeated Colle, Landau and Noteboom, while losing by a minimal margin to Alekhine in 1926, Bogoljubow (in 1927 and in 1928) and Capablanca in 1931.

Between 1932 and 1935, Euwe emerged as a serious contender for the World Title. He had several other successes in highly acclaimed tournaments. In 1935, he challenged Alekhine for the World Title. This duel was played in the Netherlands and, although Alekhine started as the heavy favourite, the match turned out to be very hard-fought, with Euwe eventually prevailing.

Euwe retained the title for two years before losing the return match to Alekhine in 1937.

In the 1938 AVRO tournament, Euwe could only manage 50%. His chess activities where hindered by the German occupation of the Netherlands, but he did play one important match in 1941 - defeating Bogoljubow by +5 -2 =3.

Euwe played little chess after the late 40s and in subsequent years he established himself as a leading expert in computer sciences. Between 1958 and 1964 he was the director of the Netherlands Research Centre for Information Sciences. He was also professor of Information Sciences from 1964 to 1971 at the Universities of Tilburg and Rotterdam. In September 1970 he became FIDE President.

He has written various publications on chess. His opening monographs series Theorie der Schaakopeningen has been published in Dutch and German. He edited the monthly Chess Archives up until 1967. Amongst the books he authored, one can find: Judgement and Planning in Chess, The Development of Chess Style, The Middle Game and The Road to Chess Mastery.

Euwe died in 1981, aged 80, of a heart attack. He is widely esteemed around the chess world for his many notable contributions.

Back to index